691 Canadians who wanted out of hurricane-struck Caribbean are home: minister

The federal government wants to learn lessons from its efforts to evacuate Canadians from the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean but stopped short Tuesday of apologizing to complaining travellers over how it handled the disaster.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she personally greeted a flight of returning Canadian passengers at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Monday night, and spoke with several passengers there and by phone. She gave them a letter soliciting feedback on how the government handled the emergency.

“I said in the note — I think my words were — I was very sorry for their ordeal, which I am. It was a very, very difficult experience for people,” Freeland said Tuesday at the cabinet retreat in St. John’s, N.L., with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She also noted: “as the prime minister likes to say: better is always possible.”

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said 691 Canadians had been flown out of region, and that the majority of those stranded have now been able to return home.

Freeland said Monday night’s Canadian flights had extra seats that would have gone unfilled so they were offered to 53 travellers from other countries, including 40 Americans. No Canadian was denied a seat, she added.

Bibeau acknowledged that the federal government could have been more efficient at communicating with those affected and their families, but she suggested they could have been more helpful with notifying the government of their own whereabouts.

“We were in contact with the families, those who contacted us. Because once again, as travellers — and I include myself in that — we forget to consult the website of the government to get the advice concerning the countries where we are going.”

Bibeau said as far as she knows, all Canadians who wanted off the islands of Turks and Caicos and St. Maarten “have had the possibility” to get home as of Monday night.

She urged any other Canadians who still need help, or their families, to contact federal officials.

“We should always register for the government to know where we are in case of emergency. If we don’t do that and we don’t do that enough, well, then we have to wait for Canadians to inform us where they are.

“So this is why I insist: Please, if you know someone or if you are in a country affected, send an email to sos@international.gc.ca to make sure we know where you are and if you have special needs.”

Bibeau said federal officials are now on the ground in the Caribbean assessing how Canada might help with humanitarian aid and rebuilding after widespread destruction from hurricane Irma.

The military’s massive C-17 Globemaster will also touch down in the region soon loaded with supplies. It may be used to transport any remaining stranded Canadians back home if they have no other means getting out, said Freeland.

Stranded travellers and opposition critics have lambasted an evacuation effort that many said was slower and less organized than American operations.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he understands the frustration, but said Ottawa responded to a complex, difficult situation as quickly as it could.

“We mobilized right away at the beginning to deal with this situation and one of the challenges, which I spoke about was the challenge of being able to either land or take off from … the Turks and Caicos and St. Maarten.”

Freeland said she spoke with her British counterpart Boris Johnson as well as the British High Commissioner to help speed up the departure of flights from Turks and Caicos.

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer teacher engages students with “cool” science experiments

On Thursday, he made fire dance to the beat of the music

Province purchases land for new Red Deer courthouse

Construction to begin in the fall of 2019

Parking costs in Red Deer are going up — so are parking tickets

City council raises parking rates by 25 per cent starting July 1

WATCH: Alberta Party leadership candidates in Red Deer

Three people vying to be the leader of the Alberta Party were… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month