Canadian flight crew could be sent back to jail in Dominican Republic: airline

Click to play video: 'Canadian flight crew could be sent back to Dominic Republic, airline says'
Canadian flight crew could be sent back to Dominic Republic, airline says
WATCH: Canadian flight crew could be sent back to Dominican Republic – May 4, 2022

A Canadian flight crew could be sent back to jail in the Dominican Republic as soon as Tuesday amid an ongoing case involving packages of presumed cocaine found onboard an aircraft they were operating, the airline says.

In a letter sent to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmondson appealed to the government to do more to intervene.

“We are reaching out to you to request your urgent assistance in ensuring the safe return of the Canadian aircrew being wrongfully held in the Dominican Republic,” Edmondson wrote.

“For more than 24 days, our crew has been subject to threats against their lives, inhumane treatment, and arbitrary detention, for dutifully reporting a crime and averting a potential aviation disaster. We are deeply concerned for their safety and are pleading with you to intervene so they may return home to their families.”

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Edmondson said that on April 5 while conducting a commercial charter, the crew discovered suspected contraband in a maintenance compartment and “immediately reported” it.

“Despite following Transport Canada approved policies and international laws, the crew were immediately detained by local authorities,” the letter said.

The aircraft was set to fly from Punta Cana to Toronto, Dominican officials said.

In an April 6 press release, the National Directorate for Drug Control said nine Canadians, one person from India and another from the Dominican Republic were “being questioned to determine their possible involvement.”

Click to play video: 'Authorities in the Dominican Republic inspect cocaine allegedly seized aboard Toronto-bound aircraft'
Authorities in the Dominican Republic inspect cocaine allegedly seized aboard Toronto-bound aircraft

The flight crew was detained but later released on bail, which Edmondson said the prosecutor is appealing.

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“In a shocking decision, the prosecutor is now appealing the court’s decision to grant our crew bail, despite the fact that there is no evidence tying them to a crime,” the letter said.

“If successful, this will mean our entire crew will be readmitted to unsafe Dominican detention facilities. It is now well known that our crew reported the contraband; placing them back in prison alongside alleged narcotics criminals will put them at a severe risk of serious harm or worse.”

The exact timing of the appeal is not clear, but it could reportedly happen as soon as Tuesday.

Adrien Blanchard, a spokesperson for Joly, told Global News that Parliamentary Secretary Maninder Sidhu recently travelled to the Dominican Republic and met with local government officials.

“He raised the incident involving Pivot Airlines and stated that the Government of Canada’s first priority is always ensuring the safety and security of Canadians,” Blanchard said.

“To this end, Global Affairs Canada consular officials continue to engage with local authorities and provide consular assistance.”

Edmondson said the flight crew continues to receive death threats.

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He said the airline has taken “every possible precaution” to ensure they’re safe, including getting roughly $100,000 for bail, hiring security and relocating them to new housing.

“This has been an incredibly stressful time for the crew and their families in Canada, and we are concerned there is no amount of protection we can provide to fully guarantee their safety in the Dominican Republic, in addition to the severe mental harm they are sustaining due to this ongoing incident,” the letter said.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support the Government of Canada have provided to date, and for Parliamentary Secretary Sidhu’s engagement directly with the Dominican Republic Government. While we appreciate these efforts have likely helped improve the safety of their crew, it has regrettably not been enough.”

Edmondson said it’s “entirely unacceptable” that Canadians could be “arbitrarily detained for dutifully reporting criminal activity” and suggested that the government should consider issuing a travel advisory.

He said he wants to see the crew brought back to Canada where they would remain “available” to the Dominican justice system if needed.

— With files from Global News’ Isaac Callan and Hannah Jackson

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