Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Canadian families separated by India, Pakistan flight suspensions worry about loved ones

All commercial and private passenger flights arriving in Canada from the two countries were suspended effective Thursday evening

Pankaj Kumar’s wife, who is five-and-a-half months pregnant, was booked on a flight to Canada from India on Sunday.

Now Kumar said his wife, Rupakshi Sharma, will be stuck in Punjab due to the federal government’s suspension of passenger flights from India and Pakistan.

“Her father was diagnosed with cancer and he’s undergoing chemotherapy,” he said in an interview from their home in Brampton, Ont. “She just wanted to spend some time with her father.”

The couple is now worried that if the ban is extended beyond 30 days Sharma won’t be able to come back because of her pregnancy.

Kumar said he feels helpless.

“As of now I don’t have any plan. It’s a mess,” he said. “If she wasn’t pregnant I would have said ‘just stay there’.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said suspending the flights must be done to keep Canadians safe.

Trudeau said it was necessary because there has been a surge of COVID-19 cases and the emergence of more variants of concern in certain parts of the world.

“A determination was made that there needed to be further steps taken,” he said Friday.

Testing at border entries has shown that half the people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after arriving in Canada by plane have come from India, federal officials said. There has also been a disproportionate number of positive cases from travellers arriving from Pakistan.

All commercial and private passenger flights arriving in Canada from the two countries were suspended effective 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

The new travel measures were announced following pressure from provincial leaders, who said not enough was being done to keep infectious variants out of the country.

The B. 1.617 variant that appears to be fuelling widespread infections in India has been detected in several provinces.

Kumar said he understands the need for a travel suspension but added that the government should have given people more notice.

“You should notify people at least a week earlier. You can’t say at 5 p.m. that flights are suspended.”

The travel measures require people coming from India and Pakistan through indirect flights to get a negative COVID-19 test in the last place they landed before arriving in Canada.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Canada already had significant requirements for returning travellers that have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Haiqa Cheema’s 77-year-old grandmother, Bibi Bashiran, was looking forward to returning to Pakistan to celebrate Eid.

Cheema said Bashiran was “a bit sad” when she was told by her granddaughter that all flights from Pakistan and India had been suspended.

Bashiran, who visits her son’s family in Edmonton every year, was booked on a flight to Pakistan on May 14.

The family had to scramble to get a visa extension for her.

“Her visa expires on May 15 or 16,” Cheema said in an interview. “We don’t want to overextend her visa stay because that creates complications in the future.”

Flights can go from Canada to Pakistan, she said. But because there are no incoming flights, the airline that she was supposed to fly with cancelled all its outgoing travel too.

Cheema and her dad had a chat with Bashiran about the suspension, including the possibility of it being extended.

“I think she’s waiting and watching,” she said.

“She lives in an open house in Pakistan. But here because it’s so cold, she’s inside and she was really looking forward to going back. Technically, she’s safer here but the mental health component is huge.”

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada, Raza Bashir Tarar, has asked the federal government to reconsider. Tarar said in a letter to Transport Minister Omar Alghabra that the decision to suspend passenger flights from Pakistan betrayed a lack of understanding about South Asia.

“It ignores the fact that both trains and flights are not operational between the two countries (India and Pakistan),” he wrote.

“So the ban on flights from Pakistan because a new variant has developed in another country whose population has no possibility of contact with Pakistan, defies logic.”

He also noted that Pakistan had fewer cases than India and no variants of concern have been detected.

More than a year ago, Canada banned all non-essential travel by land and air from abroad and the border with the United States was closed.

People returning to Canada are required to present a pre-board negative COVID-19 test, get another test upon arrival and quarantine for two weeks.

There are some exceptions for essential workers.

Blair said the further restrictions were added based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“We will always do what’s necessary to keep communities safe from COVID.”

Arati Sood’s husband wanted to visit his father who was diagnosed with cancer.

Debasish Chakraborty went to Assam, India, on March 30. On Thursday, Chakraborty’s father died of a heart attack.

“Luckily, he was able to see his dad and help him,” Sood said from her home in Mississauga, Ont. “But things happen.”

Chakraborty was to return to Canada on April 28.

She is disappointed with the sudden suspension of flights from India. Sood said the government could have increased the quarantine period, asked people to pay for the stay in hotels or even given more notice before suspending flights.

“This last week, we’ve been struggling with one or another thing. And now, this suspension,” she said.

“I just want him to come back home.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Oceanside RCMP on the hunt for reported Rathtrevor flasher

Two separate incidents noted at provincial park on April 30 and May 14

A fledgling white raven was spotted near the end of Winchester Road in Coombs. (Mike Yip photo)
Legend continues as iconic white raven spotted once again in Coombs

Sightings rare everywhere in world except for central Vancouver Island location

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. (Collin C photo)
UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies from injuries sustained in highway collision near Hilliers

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

Checking through social media feeds can be an interesting exercise. (Black Press Media file photo)
WOLF: Mr. Rogers would be proud of this friendly day in the neighbourhood

COLUMN: Residents quick to offer assistance for person coming off surgery

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

More “strings of lights” were seen on May 15, 2021, in night sky over Vancouver Island. (File photo)
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Nathan Zuk had left his mother’s residence in Whaletown on Cortes Island in mid-December 2020 in a 14’ skiff rowboat and headed to an unknown location near the Pryce Channel, Deer passage, or Toba Inlet. Photo courtesy RCMP
RCMP need help finding man who set off from Cortes Island in 14-foot rowboat

Nathan Zuk left in December, may have been last seen in Toba Inlet approximately three weeks ago

Discarded construction materials make up nearly 40 per cent of all materials sent to the landfill from sources in the city of Victoria. (Zero Waste Victoria)
Victoria looks to curb waste by turning demolitions into deconstructions

Community drafting bylaw forcing developers to be better at salvage and recycling

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Most Read