Canada FM slams disinformation

He arranges coronavirus airlift by text

Agence France-Presse . Ottawa | Published: 23:36, Apr 03,2020


Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne after a NATO meeting on Thursday slammed coronavirus disinformation campaigns spread by state actors, of which Russia has been accused.

‘Disinformation was a big topic amongst NATO allies’ at the meeting held by videoconference, Champagne said.

‘We stand united against a common enemy which is invisible and knows no borders. And we need to also stand ready to respond to the disinformation campaigns that we’re seeing around the world,’ he said.

Champagne, although asked about it, did not specifically mention Russia in his remarks.

But a University of Calgary researcher earlier identified Russia as the main source of disinformation about the COVID-19 virus aimed at undermining faith in Western governments.

Meanwhile, Canada’s foreign minister used his thumbs to arrange an emergency airlift of weary Canadians from Peru during the pandemic, reaching out to his counterpart by text message to secure landing rights, he said Thursday.

It was part of what foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne described in an interview with AFP as ‘the largest repatriation of Canadian travelers abroad in Canada’s history.’

According to his office, some 8,000 Canadians so far have been brought home from more than 30 countries on over 40 government flights since the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic last month.

In numbers and complexity, the task he described was enormous, overcoming airport closure after airport closure, restrictions on flights and the movement of people, and in extreme cases situations where martial law had been declared.

‘You know, basically, I had to negotiate the landing slots for our planes to land in Peru, I did that by text message, to be honest,’ he said.

‘I said to my counterpart in Peru that we need to get our planes there and we started exchanging texts, so I got the dates and then I got the hours (for the flights) because now every plane that is leaving Peru has to leave from one military airport in Lima.’

‘This is by far the most challenging repatriation exercise that we have ever done.’

Champagne also said he has been reaching out weekly to a ‘subgroup of G20 countries’ to share lessons learned about the new coronavirus and how to slow its spread, ‘to advocate for airbridges that we had during the World War, to advocate for supply chains to remain open, for allowing transit and the repatriation of our citizens.’

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