British Columbians stranded abroad feel left in the dark by government
Canadians in countries with closed borders might not be able to return for awhile, says Global Affairs
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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