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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Quesnel Junior School flagged as latest COVID-19 exposure in School District 28

The Quesnel School District has detected eight exposures in the 2020/2021 school year

BCHydro Power Pioneers provincial director Rae Daggitt gets creative to deliver Matthew Hender his cheque. He presented Hender the award for community service alongside Roger North, the president of the North Cariboo Branch. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel student gets boost from local power pioneers

Matthew Hender received a $500 scholarship from the BCHydro Power Pioneers

A Cariboo Regional District director and School District 27 trustee, Angie Delainey is also a fourth generation business owner in downtown Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Angie Delainey appointed Cariboo Regional District representative on regional board

Delainey and Steve Forseth represent the CRD at the North Central Local Government Association

From October 2020 to April 2021 more than 540 centimeters of snow fell at Barkerville. (Lindsay Chung - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Not so average April snowfall in Barkerville

59 centimeters of white stuff fell last month

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Most Read