British Columbia

British Columbians stranded abroad feel left in the dark by government

In countries across the world, British Columbians travelling abroad are trying to follow the advice of the prime minister to come home.

Canadians in countries with closed borders might not be able to return for awhile, says Global Affairs

Many British Columbians stuck abroad say it's been difficult to connect with their local embassies. (Alex Scobie, Dan Harney, Oliver Chapman)

In countries across the world, British Columbians travelling abroad are trying to follow the advice of the prime minister to come home.

But many are finding it difficult to follow Trudeau's direction, as flight cancellations and closed borders foil their attempts to get back to Canada.

CBC News spoke with many British Columbians who are stuck abroad about the different roadblocks they're facing and the lack of support they say they're receiving.

Forced to quarantine in Cuba

Vancouver's Kendelle Elliott and her partner, Dan Harney, were celebrating their 18th anniversary together in Cuba. 

But the country's strict quarantine protocol resulted in Harney being quarantined in two different Cuban hospitals, away from Elliott, while he underwent testing for COVID-19.

Kendelle Elliot and her partner, Dan Harney, were visiting Cuba to celebrate their 18th anniversary together. (Kendelle Elliot)

Harney only ever had a cough but he was forced to go to the hospital by ambulance to be tested — a process that takes a very long time in Cuba, says Elliott.

After six days of quarantine — and missing their return flight home — Harney and Elliott were finally told he didn't have it.

"He's super frustrated. If this were Canada, he'd already be out [of the hospital,] said Elliott.

Elliott reached out to the Canadian Consulate, but the only answer she says she ever received was that they were looking into it.

Kendelle Elliot's partner, Dan Harney, was hospitalized in Cuba after he was suspected of having COVID-19. (Kendelle Elliott)

Trapped in a country with closed borders

Alex Scobie's trip from Vernon, B.C., to Siguatepeque, Honduras, was supposed to last for two months.

But once the pandemic began to worsen, he knew he had to get home.

On March 15, Honduras went into a complete shutdown, closing all borders and cancelling all flights out of the country. The Central American country also set a strict curfew of 6 p.m., says Scobie, and closed all non-essential businesses.

"It's really crazy down here," said Scobie. "I'm stuck."

Alex Scobie says he is trapped in Honduras after the government closed all the borders and cancelled all departing flights. (Alex Scobie)

Right now, Honduras has only confirmed nine cases of coronavirus, but the country's response to Covid-19 has made it impossible for Scobie to return home.

Similar to many Canadians stuck abroad, Scobie reached out, in vain, to the embassy in Honduras.

"I've heard nothing about what [the government's plan is to get people out, and I'm lost about what they can do to help me," he said.

Stuck on an island

The lack of available international flights has left many travellers stranded, but for Oliver Chapman from Coldstream, B.C., it's the cancellation of domestic flights in the Philippines that have left him stranded on the island of Panglao.

Upon arriving on the island, he was informed that every bus, ferry and flight off the island was cancelled.

He says the country is on a full lockdown until April 15, with his airline telling him he might not be able to book a flight out to Manila and then back to Vancouver until May.

"The problem is the uncertainty," said Chapman.

Oliver Chapman is stuck on an island in the Philippines after all domestic flights, buses and ferries off the island were cancelled. (CBC News)

The flight change has already cost Chapman an extra $1,000 and although his employer in B.C. has been understanding, he worries about what will happen to his employment if he is stuck in the Philippines untill May.

He says calls and correspondence to the Canadian embassy have gone unanswered and Chapman feels the government has left him in the dark about what steps he should take.

We're working as fast as possible, says Global Affairs Canada

In each of these cases, the stranded British Columbians say there has been a complete lack of communication by their local embassies.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement it's aware of the stressful situation many Canadians abroad are currently facing.

It's encouraging anyone in need of assistance to contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre at 1-613-996-8885 or to email sos@international.gc.ca. 

But it's quick to note that a response might not be immediate.

"Due to the high volume of requests, we are working as fast as possible to respond to Canadians," it said.

For those in countries with complete border lockdowns, Global Affairs Canada says its hands are tied.

"These instances could well mean that Canadians will not be able to return home for an indeterminate period of time," it said.

It's frustrating news for Alex Scobie, stuck in Honduras.

"I find it difficult to think that the Canadian government would just sort of, throw their hands in the air and yield to decisions made by foreign governments," he said.

 "The Canadian government has the power to work out how to get their citizens home. We don't." 

With files from Daybreak South

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