The largest repatriation effort in Canadian history amid the growing COVID-19 global pandemic will end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
As of recently, there were 388,072 Canadians registered worldwide. 28,364 Canadians were registered in India with the federal government’s Canadians Abroad Service. There are flights being planned from different cities in India to ‘rescue’ stranded Canadians.
It is not that this COVID-19 crisis caught everyone off-guard and neither did it happen over a 24-hour period. PM Justin Trudeau had been strongly urging all Canadians to come home before it was too late, thousands either could not come for whatever reason while others probably thought they could wait it out, not realizing the wait would be longer than expected.
Now Canada is expected not only to send chartered planes to bring these Canadians back, but also to foot the bill for many who are crying poverty. Already there are loud complaints from angry “Canadians” stuck in India about the cost of a one-way ticket-$2,900. There are calls online for the Canadian government to also consider bringing back permanent residents and even international students stuck in India. Why not add sending in planes to bring in wannabe refugees as well?
Usually when Canadians were stranded in a third-world country that suddenly erupted in a crisis, they used to be mostly vulnerable white tourists or volunteers. But these days Canadians who find themselves ‘stranded’ in countries such as India, Pakistan or Lebanon are invariably former citizens of those very countries who visit those countries frequently for extended periods of time.
A case in point being Lebanon. Back in 2006, war broke out there leaving an astounding 50,000 Canadians trapped. Initially naïve Canadians believed these were real tourists. Many of these Canadians lived there almost permanently and visited, I repeat, visited Canada in the summer months to see their families and of course pay their family doctor an obligatory visit and also schedule any surgeries if required.
There were strident calls for the Canadian government to bring them back. In July 2006 seven chartered passenger ships began transporting thousands of Canadians at a huge cost to the country.
Imagine the cost to taxpayers if ever there is major trouble in Hong Kong where over 300,000 “Canadians” live permanently. These “Canadians” like many others around the world have Canadian passports that they treat as an insurance policy in case things take a turn for the worse in the countries in which they live.
I guess Canada is obligated to help every Canadian stranded abroad in a crisis. In the future there could be thousands of “Canadians” trapped in places like Nigeria and I am sure Canadian chartered planes will be dispatched to bring them home.
I am sure that many “Canadians” who have and will be stranded in countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Lebanon may probably be former refugees who ‘fled’ once before from those very countries. No one will ask them why they chose to visit and spend months in a dangerous country. No one will question if they own property and houses in those very places and no one will check their bank balances and assets here in Canada before they are offered free passage to Canada on demand.
But then again, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian!