TORONTO - Al Jazeera English has arrived in Canada.

The English-language arm of the Middle East-based news channel debuted Tuesday with programming that included a discussion on Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

Future programming is set to include a look at what Canada's departure from Afghanistan in 2011 will mean for NATO, in-depth features on Alberta's oil sands and a report from Winnipeg on how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings will impact aboriginal people.

Tony Burman, managing director of Al Jazeera English operations, says local coverage will expand with the June opening of a Canadian bureau in Toronto.

But, aside from that, he says the 24-hour news channel provides a much-needed perspective little seen in Canada.

"There are news stories from 18 countries on Al Jazeera English today and many of these countries are never mentioned on Canadian television," said Burman, a former senior editor at CBC News.

"To many Canadians who are really are involved in the world, I think they're going to learn that this is a real opportunity to connect with international news at a time when others are cutting back."

AJE received federal approval in November, following a 30-day consultation period. The channel says roughly 2,800 letters and emails were submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, nearly all supportive.

Al Jazeera English is distinct from Al Jazeera Arabic, which failed in its bid to earn a Canadian broadcast licence in 2003 due to strong opposition over of a perceived anti-Israeli bias.

"I really think the problems that have occurred before will just vanish in the air," Burman said of the network's rocky history in Canada.

Al Jazeera English was started in 2006 and now has more than 70 news bureaus around the world.

As of Tuesday, it can be seen in Canada on Bell TV on channel 516, Rogers in Ontario on channel 176 and Videotron's illico Digital TV on channel 173. Burman says negotiations are continuing with additional providers, including Shaw.

Canadian-born journalist Imtiaz Tyab, most recently a London-based reporter for BBC World television and previously a CBC News reporter in Vancouver, will be AJE's Canadian correspondent.

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