Canadians stranded abroad by Hurricane Irma say their government has let them down.
But John Aldag, Liberal MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, said the cavalry is on its way.
“It’s sounds like there’s a huge push to get Canadians out of the Caribbean today,” Aldag said Monday. “It sounds like they have been able to resolve some of the issues that happened over the weekend for having Canadians exit so Global Affairs is working very closely with various countries affected and Canadians who are in these countries, to try and get them on planes today. There will be initiatives throughout the week.”
Hundreds of Canadians at press time were still seeking rescue from Caribbean islands that were hit hard by the hurricane. Among the stranded were local residents.
Balraj Mann, a director on Surrey’s Board of Trade, is stuck in Cuba and said he hopes to return home today (Wednesday). He went there on vacation with three friends and was set to fly home Saturday morning but “Air Canada decided to not come and pick up the passengers.
“Then the hurricane hit and the power and everything is out,” Mann told the Now-Leader. Then, he was supposed to fly out Sunday. Then, a United flight on Monday got cancelled.
“They say Wednesday. It’s so frustrating. There’s nothing happening at the airport. There’s all kinds of people waiting inside and outside.”
At press time, Mann and his friends were in Havana, at Hotel Saratoga. His daughter got stuck in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on account of the Hurricane.
“She was studying dentistry there, but got evacuated.”
As for the Trudeau government’s effort to rescue the stranded Canadians, Mann said Monday, “So far I’m not too impressed. They know people are here.”
“The government needs to do something better to respond to these crises,” Mann said.
“The U.S. is doing a lot better. We didn’t get much help from our government.”
Meantime, Panorama Ridge resident Aman Takhi hoped his brother Manpreet Takhi would “maybe” be flying out of St. Maarten on Monday, with WestJet. Manpreet was studying medicine there.
“It’s his first semester,” Aman said. “He went to school for one day, and then the hurricane came and destroyed the whole country. It’s in ruins.”
“It’s been a frustrating six days. We contacted our MPs, MLAs, premier, Justin Trudeau, the defence minister and foreign affairs minister. They have directed us to Global Affairs Canada to register my brother’s name there so he’s on the list of Canadians that want to be evacuated,” Aman said. “We did that immediately without an issue. Now, we’ve been contacting Global Affairs Canada on a regular basis and all they’ve kept saying, every single day, was ‘We’re assessing the situation, we’re following the news carefully, we’re making sure our Canadians are safe.’ That was their answer every single time. There was no sign of how the Canadian government’s going to help with evacuation.”
Manpreet could not be reached for comment.
“We just feel like we’re left in the dark right now,” Aman said. “On Saturday morning the U.S. military came in and took every U.S. student, who has a valid U.S. passport, and evacuated them from the building. All the Canadians and other nationalities were left behind, waiting for their governments to do something.”
As for the U.S. beating Canada to the punch, Aldag said, “In reality, there’s the geography. The Americans are closer, and frankly, they’re everywhere. It does take countries such as ours a bit of time to mobilize. There have been efforts reaching out. It takes time and we’re working as quickly as we can.”
Aldag advises any Canadians with family members in the Caribbean to register with Global Affairs for help by calling collect 1-613-996-8885.