“A Canadian is A Canadian”: The Repatriation Mess in COVID-19

By: Laura Steiner

A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,”- Justin Trudeau, 2015

I was contacted by a woman last weekend who described herself, and her family as being stuck in New Delhi, India.  They arrived there to visit relatives in early March for one month.  As conditions worsened thanks to COVID-19, they sought earlier flights, but both were cancelled.

Initially the flights were open to all Canadians no matter the status. It was suggested the family use their Permanent Resident cards (PR cards) and  register with the Registry of Canadians Abroad (ROCA), for repatriation flights and they did so.

In late March they were informed by Global Affairs that as landed immigrants they no longer qualified.  Flights were being restricted to Canadian citizens, or permanent residents who are family of Canadian citizens.  As of this morning, Global Affairs is saying they’re unable to repatriate those who want to come home. “We will continue to providing advice and support to Canadians already abroad, and those unable to return to Canada,” they said in a statement.

This family is the tip of an iceberg.  There’s a Facebook group dedicated to “Canadians stranded in India.” After publishing an initial piece about the woman who came forward, I followed up asking about other landed immigrants for their stories.  I got a feedback on the page, and have had a few private messages from people.  There are those with  pregnant wives, someone another Milton resident whose mom is stranded.  A few full citizens who are unable to get on the flights.

An estimated 25,000 Canadians are also stranded in Punjab province.  There’s a group of six volunteers trying to get people out with little government assistance. Complicating issues is that the area is on a strict curfew, which will now be in place until May 1, 2020.

There’s an awful lot confusion, disappointment and anger being directed at the Trudeau government. Clear rules, and guidelines would have lessened it.  After all this is a country where “A Canadian, is a Canadian a Canadian,” isn’t it?