According to the Trudeau government, there are about three million Canadians working and living abroad, many of them stranded as borders close, airlines ground planes and European countries go into lockdown.
“I think it’s just realistic to know that there are some of them that will not be coming home in the coming weeks, but we will make measures available through Global Affairs Canada,” Trudeau said outside his home in Ottawa.
“We’re working with airlines to try and make sure as many Canadians as possible, as many Canadians as want to can come home. This is something that all Canadians are expecting of their government and we’re doing it.”
The federal government has made loans available to those abroad totalling $5,000 per person and can be used for flights and accommodations while the country tries to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19.
“I am scared right now because things are shutting down, and if things shut down, then what?” said Susan Simon, a Canadian stuck in Morocco with her best friend Lillian Pajic.
The pair took a once-in-a-lifetime trip together to explore the country and immerse themselves in the culture.
“We cry every 10 to 15 minutes,” added Simon, who is concerned about the country going into lockdown, which could include hotels and restaurants.
“We get some false hope and then it shuts down again. I just, I just can’t keep up. I’m like an emotional roller-coaster and it’s just too hard. I don’t know how many more days or weeks I can do this.”
“He’s (Trudeau) not giving us any idea about how do we get home,” explained Pajic while face-timing from the pair’s hotel room.
“Help us. Air France has come here with empty planes, empty planes to pick up their people and take them home. Belgium has done the same thing.”
Family members back home have been left scrambling, trying to help in any way possible.
“Canadians should be able to rely on our government to come forward for us,” said Maria Shephard, a relative of Simon’s.
“We’ve known about this for three months — there should have been far earlier warnings and deterrents from travel and not just a few days ago.”
The prime minister announced a relief fund to help Canadians abroad earlier this week but hasn’t announced any plans to repatriate anyone, similar to what was done in Wuhan, China, and onboard the Diamond Princess.
Lina Thompson’s dream backpacking vacation in Peru has quickly turned into a nightmare. The nurse from Barrie says she first found out about the call to return home while on a four-day backpacking trip to Manchu Picchu.
“The only thing we’ve gotten from the government are automated messages, and I feel like we’re stranded and I feel like we’re not getting the assistance we need,” Thompson said.
“We all feel it in our stomachs. It’s almost hard to comprehend what is happening.”
Thompson, who is a nurse at Royal Victoria Hospital, began the backpacking trip at the beginning of January.
“We think that we’re going to be out of here in 15 days but we actually have no idea and when you read articles that say like that they’re expecting coronavirus to go into June, July, August, it’s terrifying.”