Coronavirus: B.C. families voice frustration as Ottawa pledges to bring Canadians home from India

Ottawa promises action to help bring Canadians home from India
WATCH: Following a Global News story Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau is now promising action to bring home some of the estimated 20,000 Canadian citizens under lockdown in India.

Several British Columbia families say they are deeply frustrated by efforts to bring home relatives who are stranded in India amid the coronavirus crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the federal government is working on repatriation flights for Canadians stuck in India, which has been on lockdown since March 25.

“This is complicated and challenging because of the restrictions which are in place in India around the coronavirus,” Freeland said Wednesday.

Canadians still stranded in India with possibility of no international flights until June
Canadians still stranded in India with possibility of no international flights until June

Since India shut its borders, Ottawa has arranged 10 commercial flights for Canadian citizens. A federal government source tells Global News some private charters had been scheduled but were disallowed by the Indian government.

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Gina Takhar says she and other members of B.C.’s South Asian community arranged eight chartered flights from Amritsar, India to Toronto and Vancouver, but their permit was abruptly halted.

READ MORE: These Canadians living abroad didn’t come home when coronavirus started — and still won’t

Conservative MP Tim Uppal says he was told by the high commissioner for Canada to India that they did not have enough staff to support both the government and privately chartered flights, which was a key stipulation by the Indian government.

Tens of thousands of Canadians stranded in India
Tens of thousands of Canadians stranded in India

“And so that’s when he said that they removed themselves from that process, and that’s when the Indian government apparently said that they would not allow the charter process to go through,” he said.

There are thousands of Canadians in India anxious to return home. The government says it’s finalizing eight more flights from India to Canada.

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“There are particularly high demands in some parts of the world, including India, that we are working very, very hard, day and night to try and resolve,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

Tash Rai and her family have been struggling for weeks to get their eight relatives back to B.C.

She says the system set up by the government to decide who receives a ticket is a big part of the problem.

READ MORE: B.C. woman fears father stuck in India following coronavirus nationwide lockdown

“They wanted you to book online on your own with a username and password that the government had provided. That email was also sent to [6,000] people. The system is a complete flop,” Rai said.

Rai is urging the government to prioritize ticket sales, putting families with small children and the elderly at the front of the queue.

Officials say they are trying to do this, adding that the system is not perfect.