Canadian permanent resident turned away from 'rescue flight,' daughter says

Blessing Jayakumar's mother is 70, a resident of Cambridge, and was all set to board an Air France flight from Bangalore to Toronto via Paris when employees turned her away, she says.

'Landed permanent residents without symptoms of COVID-19 can travel to Canada,' says government website

The flight Blessing Jayakumar's mother was turned away from departed Bangalore, India at 1:40 a.m. on August 31. (Christophe Leroux / Air France)

A Cambridge resident has been left frustrated and confused after her mother, a Canadian permanent resident, was turned away from a flight that would have brought her back to Canada. 

Blessing Jayakumar's mother is 70, and was all set to board an Air France flight from Bangalore to Toronto via Paris when, Jayakumar says, employees turned her away.

"The airlines don't seem to know who they can bring in and who they cannot," she said.

She isn't sure if this was an Air France issue, or just a miscommunication among specific crew members, but "they simply told my mom 'you are not a Canadian citizen, so we cannot take you. We are strictly asked to bring only Canadian citizens.'" 

They told her mother "this is a rescue flight, whoever booked it, booked it wrong," she said. Jayakumar contends that there was no information anywhere that indicated this was a rescue flight, or that permanent residents would not be allowed. 

Representatives of Air France did not respond to a request for comment.

Boarding rules 'subject to the airline'

Jayakumar and her husband have been living in Canada for over 15 years. Her mother joined them later and received her permanent residency in March of 2019, she said. 

Her mother went to India in November to visit family and escape the Canadian winter and was expected to return in April. 

"Because of COVID, the flight got rescheduled so many times," she said, "and then finally, when I kept calling, they said there is a flight from Bangalore to Paris to Toronto on August 31."

Sensing there could be COVID-related difficulties, Jayakumar ensured her mother had an abundance of paperwork in hand on the day she was to travel. 

Along with her Indian passport and Canadian permanent residency card her mother arrived at the airport with an international COVID declaration form and a similar Canadian form Jayakumar found online.

"I thought they might require that, so I asked her to fill it out."

"Then I sent her information from [a] Canadian website that said that Canadian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to come back into the country," she said. 

A government of Canada website regarding this issue states "Landed permanent residents without symptoms of COVID-19 can travel to Canada."

Global Affairs Canada reaffirmed that position in an email to CBC, adding that a number of relief flights continue to be run by international airlines and "in these cases, boarding rules, eligibility requirements, costs, flight schedules and other details are all subject to the airline and local authorities — not the Government of Canada."

Jayakumar's mother showed them all the paperwork, she says, but they told her she would have to rebook her ticket and sent her away. 

"If India was safe, I would not be worried," Jayakumar said.

India recently reached 3.8 million total coronavirus cases and is on track to replace Brazil as the country in the world with the second-most cases.