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Background Note: Canada

News4u-Travel Desk- These facts and figures have been forwarded by The U S Department of States for general information…

Geography
Area: 9.9 million sq. km. (3.8 million sq. mi.); second-largest country in the world.
Cities: Capital-Ottawa (pop. 1.1 million). Other major cities-Toronto (5.1 million), Montreal (3.6 million), Vancouver (2.1 million), Calgary (1.1 million), Edmonton (1.0 million), Quebec City (0.7 million), Winnipeg (0.7 million), Hamilton (0.7 million).
Terrain: Mostly plains with mountains in the west and lowlands in the southeast.
Climate: Temperate to arctic.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective-Canadian(s).
Population (2009 est.): 33.7 million.
Ethnic groups: British/Irish 28%, French 23%, other European 15%, Asian/Arab/African 6%, indigenous Amerindian 2%, mixed background 26%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 43.6%, Protestant 29.2%, other Christian 4.3%, Muslim 2.0%, Jewish 1.1%, Buddhist 1.0%, Hindu 1.0% other 1.3%, none 16.5%.
Languages: English (official) 57.8%, French (official) 22.1%, other 20.1% (including Chinese and aboriginal languages).
Education: Literacy-99% of population aged 15 and over has at least a ninth-grade education.
Health: Infant mortality rate-5.4/1,000. Life expectancy-77.7 yrs. male, 82.5 yrs. female.
Work force (2009, 18.4 million): Goods-producing sector-25%, of which: manufacturing 15%; construction 6%; agriculture 2%; natural resources 2%; utilities 1%. Service-producing sector-75%, of which: trade 16%; health care and social assistance 11%; educational services 7%, accommodation and food services 7%; professional, scientific, and technical services 7%; finance 6%; public administration 5%; transportation and warehousing 5%; information, culture, and recreation 5%; other services 4%.

Government
Type: Federation, parliamentary democracy, and constitutional monarchy.
Confederation: July 1, 1867.
Constitution: The British North America Act of 1867 patriated to Canada on April 17, 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and unwritten custom and convention. The Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are collectively referred to as the Constitution Act.
Branches: Executive-Queen Elizabeth II (head of state represented by a governor general), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative-bicameral Parliament (308-member House of Commons; 105-seat Senate). Judicial-Supreme Court.
Federal-level political parties: Conservative Party of Canada (government), New Democratic Party (official opposition), Liberal Party of Canada, Bloc Quebecois, Green Party of Canada.
Subdivisions: 10 provinces, 3 territories.

Economy
GDP (2008): $1.2 trillion.
Real GDP growth rate (2008): 2.7%.
Per capita GDP (2008): $47,131 (nominal); $37,722 (PPP).
Natural resources: Petroleum and natural gas, hydroelectric power, metals and minerals, fish, forests, wildlife, abundant fresh water.
Agriculture: Products-wheat, livestock and meat, feed grains, oil seeds, dairy products, tobacco, fruits, vegetables.
Industry: Types-motor vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, aircraft and components, other diversified manufacturing, fish and forest products, processed and unprocessed minerals.
Trade: U.S. merchandise exports to Canada (2008)-$264.2 billion: motor vehicles and spare parts, industrial and electrical machinery, plastics, computers, chemicals, petroleum products and natural gas, and agricultural products. In 2008, 63% of Canada’s imports came from the United States. U.S. merchandise imports from Canada (2008)-$347.9 billion: motor vehicles and spare parts, crude petroleum and natural gas, forest products, agricultural products, metals, industrial machinery, and aircraft. In 2008, 75% of Canada’s exports went to the United States.

UNITED STATES-CANADA RELATIONS
The relationship between the United States and Canada is among the closest and most extensive in the world. It is reflected in the staggering volume of bilateral trade-the equivalent of $1.6 billion a day in goods-as well as in people-to-people contact. About 300,000 people cross the border every day.

U.S. defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense, established in 1940, provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters and the United States and Canada share NATO mutual security commitments. In addition, U.S. and Canadian military forces have cooperated since 1958 on continental air defense within the framework of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The military response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States both tested and strengthened military cooperation between the United States and Canada. The new NORAD Agreement that entered into force on May 12, 2006 added a maritime domain awareness component and is of indefinite duration, subject to periodic review. Since 2002, Canada has participated in diplomatic, foreign assistance, and joint military actions in Afghanistan. Canadian Forces personnel are presently deployed in southern Afghanistan under a battle group based at Kandahar and as members of the Canadian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar.

While bilateral law enforcement cooperation and coordination were excellent prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, they have since become even closer through such mechanisms as the Cross Border Crime Forum. Canada, like the United States, has strengthened its laws and realigned resources to fight terrorism. Canadian and U.S. federal and local law enforcement personnel fight cross-border crime through cooperation on joint Integrated Border Enforcement Teams. Companies on both sides of the border have joined governments in highly successful partnerships and made significant investments to secure their own facilities and internal supply chains. Crossing the border is now both more secure and faster than in 2001.

In fields ranging from law enforcement to environmental protection to free trade, the two countries work closely on multiple levels from federal to local. In addition to their close bilateral ties, Canada and the United States cooperate in multilateral fora. Canada-a charter signatory to the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and a member of the G8 and G20-takes an active role in the United Nations, including peacekeeping operations, and participates in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Canada is active in international efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering. Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990. Canada seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).

The United States and Canada also work closely to resolve trans-boundary environmental and water issues, an area of increasing importance in the bilateral relationship. A principal instrument of this cooperation is the International Joint Commission (IJC), established as part of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to resolve differences and promote international cooperation on boundary waters; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon celebrated the treaty’s centenary in June 2009. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978 (as amended in 1987) is another historic example of joint cooperation in controlling trans-boundary water pollution. President Barack Obama’s administration has committed itself, along with Canada, to update the agreement. The two governments also consult regularly on trans-boundary air pollution.

Canada ratified the Kyoto Accord in 2002. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government announced in 2006, however, that Canada would not be able to meet its original Kyoto Protocol commitments. In April 2007, the Canadian Government announced a new regulatory framework for greenhouse gas emissions that was to be implemented beginning in 2010; however, progress on that framework has been somewhat slower than anticipated and the implementation date has slipped to 2012. Moreover, since late 2008 Canada has emphasized that it would prefer to see a harmonized cap and trade regime and coordinated greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan for both Canada and the United States. In February 2009 President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the bilateral Clean Energy Dialogue (CED), which is charged with expanding clean energy research and development; developing and deploying clean energy technology; and building a more efficient electricity grid based on clean and renewable energy in order to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change in both countries. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Canadian Minister of Environment Jim Prentice serve as the lead government officials for moving the Clean Energy Dialogue forward.

Canada also participates in the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the world’s 17 largest economies as well as the UN; the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which joins it with the United States, Japan, Australia, South Korea, China, and India in a broad effort to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in major industrial sectors; and the International Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, which researches effective ways to capture and store carbon dioxide.

Canada is a large foreign aid donor and targets its annual assistance of C$4.4 billion toward priority sectors such as good governance; health (including HIV/AIDS); basic education; private-sector development; and environmental sustainability. Canada is a major aid donor to Iraq, Haiti, and Afghanistan.

Trade and Investment
The United States and Canada share the world’s largest and most comprehensive trading relationship, which supports millions of jobs in each country. Canada is the leading export market for 35 of the 50 U.S. states and is a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 countries of the European Union. The United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which went into effect in 1989, was superseded by the North American Free Trade Agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico (NAFTA) in 1994. NAFTA, which embraces more than 450 million people of the three North American countries, expanded upon FTA commitments to move toward reducing trade barriers and establishing agreed upon trade rules. It has also resolved long-standing bilateral irritants and liberalized rules in several areas, including agriculture, services, energy, financial services, investment, and government procurement. Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, total two-way merchandise trade between the United States and Canada has grown by more than 265%.

U.S. immigration and customs inspectors provide preclearance services at eight airports in Canada, allowing air travelers direct connections in the United States. During the 12 months ending in June 2007, nearly 21.9 million passengers flew between the United States and Canada on scheduled flights.

Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of energy to the United States-providing 20% of U.S. oil imports and 18% of U.S. natural gas imports. Recognition of the commercial viability of Canada’s oil sands in Alberta has raised Canada’s proven petroleum reserves to 170 billion barrels, making it the world’s second-largest holder of reserves after Saudi Arabia. Canada and the United States operate an integrated electricity grid which meets jointly developed reliability standards and provide all of each other’s electricity imports. Canada is a major supplier of electricity (mostly clean and renewable hydroelectric power) to New England, New York, the Upper Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and California. Canadian uranium helps fuel U.S. nuclear power plants.

Bilateral trade disputes are managed through bilateral consultative forums or referral to World Trade Organization (WTO) or NAFTA dispute resolution procedures. For example, in response to WTO challenges by the United States, the two governments negotiated an agreement on magazines providing increased access for the U.S. publishing industry to the Canadian market, and Canada amended its patent laws to extend patent protection to 20 years. Canada has challenged U.S. trade remedy law in NAFTA and WTO dispute settlement mechanisms. The two countries negotiated the application to Canadian goods of “Buy America” provisions for state and local procurement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The United States has encouraged Canada to strengthen its intellectual property laws and enforcement. The United States and Canada also have resolved several major issues involving fisheries. By common agreement, the two countries submitted a Gulf of Maine boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice in 1981; both accepted the Court’s October 12, 1984 ruling that delineated much of the boundary between the two countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones.

The United States and Canada signed a Pacific Salmon Agreement in June 1999 that settled differences over implementation of the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty. In 2001, the two countries reached agreement on Yukon River salmon, implementing a new abundance-based resource management regime and effectively realizing coordinated management over all West Coast salmon fisheries. The United States and Canada reached agreement on sharing another trans-boundary marine resource, Pacific hake. The two countries also have a treaty on the joint management of albacore tuna in the Pacific, and closely cooperate on a range of bilateral fisheries issues and international high seas governance initiatives.

Canada and the United States have one of the world’s largest investment relationships. The United States is Canada’s largest foreign investor. Statistics Canada reports that at the end of 2007, the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Canada was $289 billion, or about 59% of total foreign direct investment in Canada. U.S. investment is primarily in Canada’s mining and smelting industries, petroleum, chemicals, the manufacture of machinery and transportation equipment, and finance.

Canada is the fifth-largest foreign investor in the United States. At the end of 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department estimated that Canadian investment in the United States was $159 billion at historical cost basis. Canadian investment in the United States is concentrated in finance and insurance, manufacturing, banking, information and retail trade, and other services.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador-David Jacobson
Deputy Chief of Mission-James D. Nealon
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs-Sam Brock
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs-Susan Saarnio
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs-Susan Crystal
Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs-Richard Steffens
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs-Sylvia Johnson
Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs-Robin Tilsworth
Counselor for Environment, Science, Technology, and Health-Marja D. Verloop
Defense Attache-Col. Joseph P. Breen
Consul General Vancouver-Phillip Chicola
Consul General Calgary-Laura Lochman
Consul General Toronto-Kevin Johnson
Consul General Montreal-Lee McClenny
Consul General Quebec-Peter O’Donohue
Consul General Halifax-Anton Smith
Consul Winnipeg-Michelle Jones

The U.S. Embassy in Canada is located at 490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario. The mailing address is P.O. Box 866, Station B, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5T1 (tel. 613-238-5335).

GOVERNMENT
Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal system, a parliamentary government, and a democratic tradition dating from the late 18th century. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982, guarantees basic individual and group rights. Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, is the head of state. She appoints the governor general, who serves as her representative in Canada, on the advice of the prime minister, usually for a 5-year term. The prime minister is the leader of the political party in power and is the head of the cabinet. The governing party remains in office as long as it retains majority support (“confidence”) in the House of Commons.

Canada’s Parliament consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Legislative power rests with the 308-member Commons. According to Canadian law, elections are held every fourth October, but it is possible for the governor general to dissolve Parliament early if the cabinet loses the confidence of the House of Commons. The next election is scheduled for October 19, 2015. Vacancies in the 105-member Senate, whose members serve until the age of 75, are filled by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister.

Criminal law, based largely on British law, is uniform throughout the nation and is under federal jurisdiction. Civil law is also based on the common law of England, except in Quebec, which has retained its own civil code patterned after that of France. Justice is administered by federal, provincial, and municipal courts.

Each province is governed by a premier and a single, elected legislative chamber. A lieutenant-governor, appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, represents the Queen, who is the legal head of state of each province.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State-Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General-David L. Johnston
Prime Minister-Stephen Harper
Minister of Foreign Affairs-John Baird
Ambassador to the United States-Gary Doer
Ambassador to the United Nations-John McNee

Canada maintains an embassy in the United States at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202-682-1740).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, was sworn in as Canada’s twenty-second Prime Minister on February 6, 2006, succeeding Paul Martin of the Liberal Party. Harper rose from the ranks of Progressive Conservative political party staffers, and was a member of Parliament for the defunct Reform Party and Canadian Alliance. He was elected the first leader of the Conservative Party of Canada when it was created in 2003 through the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party. The January 23, 2006 election victory by the Conservative Party ended 12 years of Liberal Party rule under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. In the most recent federal election on May 2, 2011, the Conservatives formed a majority government with 166 seats in the House of Commons and 39.6% of the vote. The social-democratic New Democratic Party won 30.6% of the vote and 103 seats in the House of Commons. As the party with the second-largest number of seats, the New Democrats form the “official opposition.” The Liberal Party, which governed Canada for most of the 20th century, holds 34 seats. The Bloc Quebecois, a party advocating Quebec sovereignty, holds 4 seats. The Green Party holds one seat.

Policy priorities of the Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper have remained fairly consistent since 2006: lower federal taxes, especially on consumption; reducing crime; increasing defense spending; asserting sovereignty in the Arctic; and raising the profile of Canada’s role abroad, through its combat mission in Afghanistan, contributions to earthquake relief in Haiti, and renewed engagement in the Americas.

Quebec, which represents 23% of the national population and has 75 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, seeks to preserve its distinctive French-speaking nature, and is perceived by the western provinces as wielding undue influence on the federal government. At least until the January 2006 election of Albertan Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, the western provinces had often expressed concern that Ottawa did not attend to their interests. Based upon a pledge of what it called “open federalism,” the Harper government ceded some power in the cultural and social domains while seeking to strengthen the federal role in economic areas such as inter-provincial trade and the regulation of securities.

National Unity
Popular support for sovereignty has declined in Quebec over the past decade. However, pride in that province’s unique cultural and linguistic identity remains very strong and continues to be one of the central issues in the province’s politics. While most Quebec voters still aspire to constitutional reform recognizing Quebec’s distinctiveness, they generally appreciate the economic benefits of “Confederation” and aim to advance their francophone identity within the federal system. In the December 2008 provincial election, the ruling provincial Liberals garnered 42% of the vote, and Premier Jean Charest heads a narrow majority government with 65 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. The opposition Parti Quebecois holds 52 seats, and the third party, Action democratique du Quebec, holds 4 seats.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department’s travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State’s single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. The CDC publication “Health Information for International Travel” can be found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentYellowBook.aspx.

CANADA

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Canada bars veiled women from taking citizenship oath

News4u-News Desk-TORONTO: Women aspiring for Canadian citizenship have been barred from wearing burqa or Islamic hijab when they take oath of citizenship, immigration minister Jason Kenneysaid.

The move was announced by the minister on Monday who said it was necessary as women with face coverings could not be fully identified at ceremonies to swear-in new citizens, theMontreal Gazette reported.

The ban has triggered widespread concerns among the Islamic community as they fear that it could lead to similar ban in other settings.

Canada has now joined countries like France,Belgium, Australia and Netherlands who have banned women from covering their face in public. In Australia, the ban has been imposed in only two states.

The immigration minister said that there were misgivings about covering of faces by women. He said the feelings were that new citizens should take oath in full view of other fellow citizens.

Kenny said he had received complaints from lawmakers and judges who said that they found it difficult to know whether individuals who masked their faces were actually reciting the oath or not.PTI

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Canada extends sanctions against Syria

News4u - News Desk : TORONTO: Canada has broadened economic sanctions imposed against Syria over its continuing violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, Canada’s foreign affairs minister has said.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said yesterday that Canada is strengthening the measures imposed in May by barring additional members of President Bashar Assad’s government from traveling to Canada and freezing assets of more entities linked to the regime.

Syrian activists say at least 1,700 civilians have been killed in the government crackdown on protesters in the past five months.

The violence has generated increased pressure on the Assad regime to end the violence, Baird said.

“There’s been significant movement in the Arab world in condemnations from a number of not just Arab leaders but others in the Arab world so the chorus is getting louder,” he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently called for the international community to cut links with the Assad regime. She also urged a global trade embargo on oil and gas from Syria.

Baird admits the current measures imposed by Canada, the US and other countries haven’t worked, but said Canada and its allies are prepared to ramp up the pressure. “We’re very committed to this and we’ll continue to work with our allies and reach out to others to take more significant action,” he said.

Ottawa’s measures are largely symbolic because Canada exports only about USD 60.73 million annually to Syria, and receives less than a tenth of that in imports.

Baird didn’t hint on what additional steps Canada would consider or when further steps might be taken. He said Canada has no immediate plans to recall its ambassador to Damascus, saying the government thinks it’s useful to maintain a presence in Syria.

“I think we’ll leave our ambassador in Damascus as long as we think there’s a value to doing that,” he said. AP

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Canada arrests suspected Pakistani war criminal

News4u - News Desk : MONTREAL — Canada said Saturday it had arrested a suspected Pakistani war criminal, the second such arrest made since the government listed 30 foreigners actively sought on Canadian soil.

Arshad Muhammad, 42, was arrested thanks to public tips, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.

The Toronto Sun said that Muhammad, who also goes by Certosa Aranci, was arrested after he was recognized in a store in Mississauga, just west of Toronto.

On Friday, authorities said they had arrested former Honduran soldier Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez, who had served in a special army unit in Honduras where he allegedly committed war crimes as a soldier.

Ottawa indicated that Muhammad was also “suspected of complicity in a war crime or a crime against humanity,” without providing further details.

“The help that Canadians are providing to Canada Border Services is proving to be beyond what we had expected,” said Toews. “Those who have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity will find no haven on our shores; they will be located, and they will face the consequences.”

Muhammad’s arrest came after the government published a list of 30 men accused of crimes against humanity this week — including their photos and birth dates — suspected of hiding on Canadian soil.

Canada adopted a federal law of universal jurisdiction in 2000 for crimes against humanity. Under the law, a Rwandan was sent to prison for life in 2009 for participating in the 1994 genocide there. AFP

 

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Canada heads for Afghan exit after 9 years at war

News4u - News Desk : After nine years, 157 troop deaths and more than $11 billion spent, Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan finally comes to an end this week.

With popular support for the war sapped at home, some of the nearly 3,000 Canadian troops, based mainly in the dangerous battleground of Kandahar, have already started returning from Afghanistan, and the rest will follow soon.

In recent days and weeks, they have been completing their final patrols, packing up dusty outposts and gathering at the giantKandahar airfield military base to debrief before starting to catch their flights home.

The official end of Canada’s hard-fought mission, which began in early 2002 a few months after the US-led invasion of the country, comes Thursday, and as other countries also announce partial troop withdrawals from the Afghan theatre as Western voters tire of nearly a decade of war.

Last month US President Barack Obama announced that he would withdraw 33,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, while France, Belgium and Britain have also said they will soon bring some troops home.

All foreign combat forces are due to hand security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

While many Canadian troops say they feel elated to be going home to their families, commanders insist they will stay focused on the job right up until the end.

“It’s not finished until it’s finished. The image that we are using is a relay race. When you pass the baton on a relay race, you’re not slowing down,” deputy taskforce commander Colonel Richard Giguere said.

“That’s what the Canadians are doing right now.”

Canada will hand its battleground over to US control, and the military insists it has made worthwhile progress during its time in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and one of the fiercest fighting hotspots of the war.

Giguere cited major steps forward on both security and governance in the districts of Panjwayi and Dand where the Canadians have been in charge.

“There?s a lot of pride in what the Canadians achieved,” he said. “We’re there to provide the security space that will permit the district governors to go ahead with their governance and development business.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper first pledged in 2008 that troops would leave this year amid trenchant political debate.

And public opposition earlier this year seemed to be growing, with an opinion poll by Vision Critical/Angus Reid indicating that 63 percent of Canadians opposed the war, compared to 47 percent in 2010.

After the US killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, Harper visited troops in Afghanistan and said he believed the war-torn country was “no longer a source of global terrorism.”

The Canadians are the first major foreign troop contributor in Afghanistan to start sending forces home this year, although Dutch forces ended their combat mission last year.

A separate Canadian training mission involving 950 troops will work in Kabul with Afghan security forces as they take an increasing role in protecting their own country, despite lingering questions about their capabilities.

Canada will also continue to give aid to Afghanistan, and its overall involvement between now and the end of 2014, the deadline for all foreign combat troops to withdraw, is expected to cost around $700 million a year.

Meanwhile, question marks remain over controversial claims that Canada transferred Afghan prisoners to Afghan custody knowing they could face torture.

The Canadian government insists that top secret files released last month show the allegations are not credible. AFP

 

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‘Closer economic ties with India will create jobs and opportunities for Canadians’

News4u-News Desk- TORONTO: The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today participated in a round table on business prospects betweenCanada and India, where he underscored the Harper government’s aim to complete free trade negotiations with India in 2013. The round table was the opening session at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Day of Overseas Indians) conference being held for the first time in Canada.

“The Government of Canada is committed to creating economic prosperity for Canadians by strengthening and increasing trade and investment with India,” said Minister Fast. “This Day of Overseas Indians conference provides a unique opportunity for the Indian diaspora to come together and discuss how to work to create the jobs and opportunities Canadians and Indians are looking for in the years to come.” TOI

 

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Canada announces a new visa regime for Indians

News4u - News Desk :

Giving a fillip to Indo-Canada trade relations, Toronto has announced a new visa regime that will allow Indians 10 years multiple entry visa to the country.

 

The announcement was made by Canadian Minister of International Trade Edward Fast at a meeting with delegates of the Indian government and business community at the two-day mini Parvasi Bharatiya Divas Canada 2011 convention that began in Toronto on Friday.

Fast said the new visa process would be available to Indians who travelled to Canada frequently.

“After an initial visa screening, applicants can get a visa that allow them to visit Canada often as long as their passports are valid up to ten years,” Fast said.

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur who is leading the Indian delegation said both countries were committed to strengthen their bilateral trade relations.

“The Indo-Canadian community is a microcosm of the people of Indian origin living abroad,” she said.

“India and Canada will soon sign the Social Security Agreement, conclude a bilateral Investment Protection Agreement, negotiate a revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and complete an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement,” she said, adding both nations aim at a bilateral trade target of USD 15 billion in next five years.

Both countries were in talks for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that would yield significant economic benefit and lower tariff on a large number of products for both the countries.

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Nissan recalls 271,000 SUVs in America, Canada

News4u-News Desk- Chicago, (AFP) Japanese automaker Nissan has recalled nearly 271,000 sport utility vehicles in the United States and Canada to fix a defective steering column which can crack when exposed to road salt, officials have said.

An assembly hole can allow road salt and snow to collect in the steering assembly and cause corrosion, Nissan said in a filing with US safety regulators.

“The strut housing may crack and pull away from the inner hood ledge assembly,” Nissan said.

“This may lead to grinding noises, increased steering effort, and possibly the steering column to break, resulting in the loss of steering control, which could result in a crash.”

The recall affects model years 1997 through 2003 of the Infiniti QX4 and model years 1996 through 2004 of the Nissan Pathfinder.

Nearly 163,000 Pathfinders were recalled in the United States and 63,000 were recalled in Canada, a Nissan spokeswoman said.

Nissan recalls 271,000 SUVs in America, Canada.

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Harper govt falls in Canada, snap polls expected in May

News4u-News Desk- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government was toppled by opposition after Parliament passed a no-confidence vote and the country appeared headed for elections in May-the fourth in seven years.

The snap polls was forced following the passage of the no-confidence vote against the minority government engineered by the opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, on the heels of a historic contempt of Parliament charge.

It is for the first time a Canadian government would be held in contempt.

Harper (52) prepared to meet Governor General David Johnston to recommend dissolving the 40th Parliament and following that, an election will be held after a minimum 36 days of campaigning.

The election is expected to take place on May 2 and the Conservatives are thought likely to retain power.

Having led two minority governments, Harper is hoping this time his party will win a majority at the ballot box.

The opposition parties yesterday voted 156-145 in favour of a Liberal motion, a move that stemmed from a ruling on Monday that the minority government was in contempt of parliament.

The Conservative Party holds 145 seats in the dissolving parliament, short by 10 seats in the 308-member House.

The contempt charge marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth.

“The vote obviously disappoints me and will,I suspect, disappoint most Canadians,” Harper said, after the separatist Bloc Quebecois and leftist New Democrats voted with the Liberals to oust his government.

Harper said he and Conservative MPs would remain focussed on nurturing Canada’s economic recovery.

“Our priority will remain to ensure stability and security for Canadians, in what remain extremely challenging global circumstances,” he added.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff(63) said, “with this motion, we ask the House … to find the government in contempt, and to withdraw the confidence of the House.”

He accused the government of having “stonewalled” Parliament for four months on details of its core spending priorities, as well as breaking election laws, and a former senior Tory staff of influence peddling.

The Liberals also accused a minister of forging documents and misleading Parliament.

“Canadians have had enough. This House has had enough,” Ignatieff said, listing gripes, “Abuse of power… the largest deficit in Canadian history… and, finally, the first government in Canadian history to face a vote of contempt in the Canadian Parliament, a government out of touch and out of control.”

“It is time for a change,” said Ignatieff, a historian, writer and political commentator.

 

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Watson, Haddin help Australia demolish Canada

News4u-Sports Desk- A record 183-run opening partnership between Shane Watson and Brad Haddin propelled Australia to a comfortable seven-wicket win over Canada in a Group A match of the World Cup in Bangalore on Wednesday.

 

Chasing 212 for victory after Canada skipper Ashish Bagai elected to bat first, Australia rode on Watson and Haddin’s huge partnership to reach the target in 34.5 overs and extend their winning run in World Cups to 34 matches.

This was Australia’s best opening stand in World Cups and also the best for the first wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The previous record for the opening wicket at this venue was held by India’s Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, who put on 169 runs against New Zealand in 1997.

Watson smashed 94 off 90 balls with the help of nine boundaries and four sixes, while Haddin’s 88 came off 84 deliveries and contained 11 hits to the fence and two over it.

It wasn’t, however, a stroll in park for the Aussies before Watson and Haddin decided to break free, as they were made to work hard for runs. Had Canada not messed up in the field, things could have got a bit tougher for Ricky Ponting and his men.

Rizwan Cheema gave Watson an early life when he dropped a skier at midon off Harvir Baidwan in the second over of the innings. And then, Nitish Kumar, running in from long-on towards deep midwicket, spilled one off leg-spinner Balaji Rao. The benificiery again, was Watson.

Baidwan and his partner Henry Osinde bowled to a decent line and length in their opening spells, but luck, probably, was not on their side.

Both Watson and Haddin didn’t look flamboyant but were effective enough to deny the North Americans a breakthrough in the early part of the innings.

But as the innings progressed, their partnership flourished, with both finding the ropes at regular intervals. And then, at will.

Haddin raised the tempo by lofting Rao over long-on for a six, and two over later, found the ropes twice off Osinde.
Haddin then picked Cheema for three boundaries in the 24th over. The first one was cheeky as it went off the edge, but the second boundary Haddin hit was an example of how make use of the batting powerplay.

With the field inside the circle, Haddin slapped Cheema on the up over covers and then flicked one backward square leg to take Australia closer to their target.

Watson, before that, pulled Cheema behind square and, after watching his partner dealing in boundaries for a while, launched into Rao for two massive sixes.

The burly allrounder pulled a short one over deep midwicket and three deliveries later, slog-sweeped the leggie over wide long on for the second biggest six of the tournament.

The mincement was not over as John Davison was sent packing over the long on, and then, Watson meted out the same treatment to Hiral Patel’s dibbly dobblers.

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