Separated by India flight ban, Ottawa family desperate to reunite

Like many Ottawans, Ravideep Kaur is struggling against the loneliness of isolation during the current stay-at-home order. Making matters worse is the fact that her husband and seven-year-old son are 11,000 kilometres away in India, stranded there by Canada's flight ban.

Ravideep Kaur isolated at home while husband, son stranded in India

Ravideep Kaur reads a story to her son Avikam, 7, who's stranded 11,000 kilometres away in Chandigarh, India, with Kaur's husband. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Ravideep Kaur's day isn't complete until she's read a bedtime story to her seven-year-old son.

What's odd about her situation is that she does this at 9 a.m., before leaving for her job as an assistant at a Kanata dental clinic. Kaur's husband Atul Nagar and their son Avikam are stuck in India, unable to get back home because of a flight ban.

On April 22, the federal government announced a ban on flights from India and Pakistan due to a spike in cases in both countries.

We are Canadians stuck outside. Canada is our home. We didn't travel for leisure.​​​​​​- Atul Nagar

India is particularly hard-hit with 379,257 new cases recorded on Thursday, the highest single-day spike anywhere in the world.

Kaur, Nagar and their son moved to Canada in September 2017 and became permanent residents. Kaur is now alone at their family home in Riverside South.

"I feel devastated, I feel depressed and I feel emotionally weak. I don't know when I'll get to see them again," she said.

Kaur said reading stories to her son virtually gives her some relief, but the physical distance between them is taking a toll on her.

"I just want to hug him."

Kaur and Avikam in happier times. 'I just want to hug him,' the Ottawa mother says now. (Ravideep Kaur)

Quick trip becomes 'long haul'

In January, Nagar had to leave for Chandigarh, India, to settle a family financial matter. Unlike Kaur, Nagar had the option to work remotely. The couple decided their son would travel with him to India, where Avikam has been attending virtual school while his dad juggles work and parenting alone. 

"What was supposed to be a brief trip has turned into a very long haul," said Nagar.

The two were scheduled to return in April, but Nagar tested positive for COVID-19. By the time he recovered and made plans to travel in early May, the Canadian government announced the travel ban. 

"I've been exploring ways to get back to Canada via a third country, maybe in Europe or the Middle East or the United States. But I will need a negative COVID report, so any airport I fly by will need to have that facility," he said. 

Nagar has been scrolling through forums, looking to find others in a similar situation.

"There are no concrete answers," he said.

Ottawa resident separated from husband, son by India travel ban

CBC News Ottawa

8 days ago
Ravideep Kaur lives in Ottawa — but her husband and son are in India, with a travel ban now separating the family. She says reading a bedtime story to her seven-year-old son over the phone has been a source of comfort for them both. 1:00

Travel ban temporary but necessary: IRCC

Nagar said he's reaching the end of his rope as he struggles to raise a child alone while also working remotely, all while recovering from post-COVID-19 fatigue.

"It has been a challenge. With the time difference, our work hours are odd. I have to manage that and help him with his homework. He also misses his mom. He wants to talk to her every chance he gets."

Nagar said he expects the Canadian government to look out for permanent residents. "We are Canadians stuck outside. Canada is our home. We didn't travel for leisure."

In an email, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Nancy Caron told CBC: "These rules are temporary and are necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the variants of the virus, the Government of Canada continues to actively monitor the situation and will not hesitate to take further measures as required."

Atul Nagar and Kaur with their son Avikam. (Atul Nagar)

While Nagar has his hands full with a seven-year-old in Chandigarh, Kaur struggles with isolation in Ottawa.

With a stay-at-home directive in Ontario, she can't even go out to meet her friends.

"I used to go to parks with my family, we used to go biking together. I miss all of that. I miss coming from home to have dinner with them, talking about our day [at] the dinner table. Now I ride my bike alone."