Ottawa has little help in store for stranded Canadian travellers

“It seems a lot of people are managing this on their own”

A news release from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), to which Maclean’s was granted advanced access, suggests Canadians stranded in Europe by the volcanic ash cloud shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for government help. While DFAIT vows it is “working flat-out to assist Canadians in this situation,” so far, the department’s response has been modest.

DFAIT recommends, “that travelers work with their airline or travel agent to discuss alternative travel arrangements.” In addition, it advises Canadians to consult the department’s website to learn more about available consular services. (As of 5 p.m on Tuesday evening, the site warned Canadians to expect furthers delays, and asked they continue to checking back for “regular updates.”)

So far, about 500 Canadians have made contact with embassies and high commissions in Europe to ask for help, and over 240 calls have been fielded by DFAIT’s operations centre in Ottawa. “It’s really not a lot,” a DFAIT official told Maclean’s on Tuesday. “It seems a lot of people are managing this on their own.”

They may have little choice in the matter. DFAIT’s response thus far has been limited. It has “extended consular hours” at its European embassies. It is also “providing local information, facilitating with transfer of funds, assisting with communications, [and] helping to ensure that Canadians have access to medical care or assistance when required.” But there is no sign that an evacuation plan is being considered.

“Does the government have any contingency plan whatsoever to assist these Canadians in difficult times, or are they just supposed to, as it were, fend for themselves?” Liberal MP Dan McTeague wondered during Tuesday’s Question Period. The government response’s, delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, was that “Canadian officials are closely monitoring the ash cloud.”

Some speculated that the Canadian government might be moved to act after it was announced that Britain was using Navy ships to evacuate its stranded soldiers and civilians. European travel has been at a standstill since Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted last Wednesday, spewing clouds of ash and chunks of ice the size of houses—and leaving an estimated 750,000 stranded across Europe.

However Cannon offered little more than condolences on Tuesday. “Clearly we sympathize with all the travelers who have been inconvenienced by this volcanic eruption,” he said. “As you know, it is a natural phenomenon that nobody could have been predicted.”




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Ottawa has little help in store for stranded Canadian travellers

  1. Waaaaaahh! Help!! Mommy Maple Leaf! Come kiss the bobo better!

    Here's a thought. You're away on business and weather strands you away from home? Deal with it, keep your receipts, chill.

    Here's a thought. You're away on vacation, and weather strands you away from home? Try to find a half ounce of personal resources and initiative to make do: splurge on a hotel room, meet up with new friends and share expenses, or wander aimlessly. Your choice.

    The Canadian taxpayer does not owe you clean sheets, pub grub and a toothbrush just because you're stuck with a three-day-old boarding pass. DEAL WITH IT.

    And if you are thoroughly incapable of basically taking care of yourself if there is a surprising change in plans, which irresponsible caregiver let you out of the country in the first place?

    “It seems a lot of people are managing this on their own.” Well, duh.

    • Precisement, Monsieu.

      Nanny-state policies breed adult babies. Adult babies then vote for more nanny-state policies. Vicious circle ensues. Result: 2010 Canada, in which people expect the government to manage everything from child-care to flight-delays.

      Terrific.

      • I do feel bad for people stock with no money but phone a friend or family.

        • Oops, stuck….

      • I don't know if I'd blame the "nanny-state" for something like this.
        It's normal for people to want help from the government in situations like these, however those same people should also realize that there is very little the government can do for them. What is the government supposed to do? Change wind patterns?

        • Normal? In what universe? If I'm encountering a flight delay the last thing crossing my mind is "gee, I wish the government would get involved here". In fact I spend a significant amount of time wishing the government would butt out.

          Only children (or adults who act like children) expect others to solve their problems for them.

          • Let's be fair, we're not talking about a regular flight delay this was a major occurance.
            If there's a revolution or an earthquake in another country we expect, as we should, that the government try to do something to help it's citizens in said country, there's nothing inherently wrong with that.
            What's wrong is people expecting the government to do things it cannot do.

          • If life and limb is at stake then perhaps. Itinerary disruption? Not so much.

      • A phone call to expedite grounded people who might be being 'held' by authorities because they suddenly have expired visas would not be out of line, nor too much to ask. They're not asking for hand holding. They simply want to go home. This kind of thing is one of the reasons why we have foreign embassies. It's also why we pay the big bucks to elected officials and their employees; to see to this kind of thing for stranded Canadian citizens who are languishing far past their exit date without clarified explanation.

    • Given your positive ratings on this point, I think even those of us who occasionally vote Liberal agree with you!

      • Possible reply #1: Well, that's ok, because I occasionally vote Liberal myself.
        Possible reply #2: That's fine, I used to support the Liberals quite strongly when I was young and– well, why don't we leave it at young.
        Possible reply #3: Occasional Liberal voters are welcome to agree with me early and often.

        All possible replies are actually true.

  2. They are in Europe for christ sakes! Take a train to Paris, see the hookers in Amsterdam, visit Vimy Ridge. The Canadian government didn't force you to go to Europe.
    Babies.

  3. Well, the Harper government better check again then. I am in contact with a man in the UK who's sister and neice is being detained in a Moscow hotel under armed guard and w/o access to their bags — ie: no meds and they were rerouted and then detained to this hotel for "not having visas". He said his sister has said that their are Canadians being held as well. Why is the Canadian government doing nothing or at the very least informing the public about this RIGHT NOW?

    Here is the story in the UK press:http://www.comparecarhire.co.uk/news/stranded-bri

    I have contact with the man and he is tweeting on twitter – i am @org9

    If anyone can UP! the volume on this so our goverment can respond IMMEDIATELY i know that this man in the UK would appreciate it, not to mention our Canadian citizens who are alledgedly not being treated well by Russian authorities would as well.

    • The Russian Government has always been though on visas, you have to leave with no exception, when it expires, I feel bad for those people stranded there. I doubt any government can do anything about it than to make sure they are safe.

    • You expect anything different from the Russian Government?

  4. is revenue Canada going to provide a grace period for those who may file late as a consequence of this 'act of god'?
    why are so many Canadians here and on the G&M site lacking sympathy for people stranded? Has Canada become a country of haters who know no sense of community and neighbor-compassion?

    I'm not asking to be saved by gov't, but I do expect better behaviour from co-citizens so as to not S#&T on our situation.

    • It is over the top for people on vacation not in a war zone to call upon the government to come bail them out. The exception would be the stories I am seeing about the Russians. There consular assistance is warranted, and protests should be filed.

      to fed up, you are indeed living in a new world because too many people in Canada have demonstrably gobbled things out of Government coffers that we find criminal and unwarranted, and the rest of us are trapped behind the wire, permitted to leave here for only 6 months, with CCRA nattering away with their audits (only of honest tax filers I might add – they can't find the dishonest ones…) So yeah, unless I can find a way to get my piece of the pie like Jaffer and Geurgis and the rest I pretty much feel it sucks to be you. sorry.

    • It would be pretty unreasonable of Revenue Canada to not provide a grace period for those stranded.

      As for why people are unsympathetic, it's because this is a concsious choice to travel – to a first world nation. There is no immediate danger (ie, Katrina for example). I'm sure if you were stuck in a hurricane ravaged area or war zone, the reaction of most Canadians would be extremely different. So really, your troubles are merely inconvenience and financial hardship. But this is a risk with any vacation.

      I'm kind of surprised this is even an issue – I personally think the media is taking this and decided to try to run this as an angle but having miscalcuated the response of the general public. I'm a frequent traveller and have been stranded MANY times (mostly due to snowstorms). I've even been stranded due to snowstorm in a connecting city with my luggage lost somewhere else. At no point did I ever expect the Canadian government to rescue me and I'd be pretty mad if European travellers got special treatment due to high publicity. It's a waste of tax money.

      • Actually, Revenue Canada DOES offer "fairness" options available to folks in extenuating circumstances, that might waive penalties, for example. And that's fine, for anything from I-was-in-a-coma-for-two-months to my-house-burned-down to volcano-kept-me-away.
        http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/frnss/prv_2-eng.htm

        What would be wrong would be to grant a grace period ONLY to folks wandering around Heathrow for a week, just because it was on the news.

  5. Come on Guys…as said by Gaunilon..Canadaian-Adulte-Babies need grow up and a little faster. When in Europe on business trip and you make a big profit$$$ Noooobody !here about you ééé? and when you encounter a little delay due to volcano smoke,then Joe-Tax_Payer has to come to the rescue? aoooutch! Héé buddy just roll your shirt, take a TGV (high speed train) to Paris or else in south europe….just enjoy your extra stay come on!…make you brain do the work. You know… when your budget don't balance,,..change the calculator!!!!

  6. I haven't seen any heartwarming stories where weary and perhaps financially challenged travellers have been taken in by generous and empathetic residents of host cities. If Canada could do it after 9/11, why can't anyone else? If people helped each other out (instead of just looking after themselves) as a matter of course, it could have minimized the clustermuck, and solid friendships could have been made. The Americans and Canadians from 9/11 are permanent friends now, and have even had a reunion.

  7. Welcome to Canada, where if the government does nothing, it's news. Regardless of what happens, the first question we ask is, "Why isn't the government helping??" If we forget to ask, then surely the media will ask it for us.

    The comment by Oliver above is instructive. He says it's "normal" for people to expect help from the government for something like this. And he's right. It is normal for Canadians to expect government help every time they encounter adversity. It's as natural to us as breathing. If it's on the 6 'o clock news, then we want to know what the government is doing about it. And what a shame that is.

  8. Indeed. The Canadian government is not interested in you if you're in country. Why would anyone expect them to be interested in a Canadian on foreign soil. They are too busy looking after people in Haiti and Africa and anywhere else. AND don't get too excited about the Canadian embassy staff in most foreign countries to help either. They're busy being ambassadors. Very busy. You have family and friends, get on it!

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