Ottawa’s anti-terrorism laws hinder efforts to evacuate Afghans loyal to Canada out of Afghanistan

By Janice Dickson – The Globe and Mail, June 15, 2022 Humanitarian and veterans’ groups trying to evacuate people who worked for Canada’s military and diplomatic mission in Afghanistan face major hurdles because Ottawa is strictly enforcing anti-terrorism law.

Photo: EBRAHIM NOROOZI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Humanitarian and veterans’ groups trying to evacuate people who worked for Canada’s military and diplomatic mission in Afghanistan face major hurdles because Ottawa is strictly enforcing anti-terrorism law.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) say because the federal government is considering Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban a terrorist group, laws prohibiting financing of terrorism prevent them from making basic purchases in Afghanistan to get people out of the country.

Since the Taliban seized power last year, NGO rescue teams have had to carry canisters of gasoline in their jeeps when they enter Afghanistan because it would be illegal to pay gas taxes to the country’s government under the anti-terrorism law. Humanitarian and veterans’ groups say they also can no longer rent hotel rooms the day before their evacuation operations because room taxes would benefit the Taliban rulers.

The groups say their pick-up sorties for evacuees are now done on busy streets in Kabul or other Afghan cities, increasing the danger.

The Anti-terrorism Act, an amendment to the Criminal Code, makes it illegal for Canadian funds to end up in the hands of terrorists. The Taliban is on Canada’s terrorist watch list and outlawed by Ottawa, even though it now runs Afghanistan.

Tim Laidler, president of the board of the Veterans Transition Network, which is helping bring Afghans to third countries, said federal officials cited the anti-terrorism legislation among the reasons for rejecting a request his organization sent last August for funds to help with its evacuation efforts.

“The last thing any of us want is to be funding terrorists as veterans,” he said. “However, we’re more concerned about getting people who served with us safely out of the country.”

He added that “the benefit of saving people’s lives who stood up for us overseas” is greater than the concern that a small amount of money will end up with the Taliban.

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