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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Paul Chung is working as an early childhood educator at Cornerstone Children’s Centre in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Immigration pilot targets hard-to-fill jobs in West Kootenay

Program helps newcomers get permanent residency status in rural areas

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar doctor answers common vaccine questions Part 2

Family physician Megan Taylor answers common vaccine questions

Castlegar Parks and Trails Society is asking dirt bike and ATV operators to stay off hiking trails. Photo: Submitted
Dirt bikes and ATVs damaging West Kootenay hiking trails

Trails society asks operators to obey the signs and keep off the trails

A screen shot from the resource road safety video.
Safety video urges caution on resource roads

Travelling on resource roads can pose various risks

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The postponement of the event was put in place to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s latest COVID-19 restrictions cost thousands of service jobs

Part-time workers set back again by spike in virus spread

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Leaked report shows detailed B.C. COVID-19 data not being released to public

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Abbotsford school board trustee Phil Anderson has stepped down after sharing an offensive image on Facebook. (File photo)
Abbotsford trustee temporarily steps down after sharing post relating COVID masks to slavery

Phil Anderson to receive training to better understand provincial mask mandate after posting picture

Most Read