Canada Lack of help from Ottawa riles Canadians stuck in Caribbean

07:15  11 september  2017
07:15  11 september  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

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While Americans leave St. Maarten on military and charter airplanes, Canadians are advised to visit a government website with a list of shelters.

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People trying to leave Saint-Martin gather in front of Grand-Case Esperance airport entrance on Sunday. © MARTIN BUREAU / AFP/GETTY IMAGES People trying to leave Saint-Martin gather in front of Grand-Case Esperance airport entrance on Sunday.

The federal government has “abandoned” Canadian citizens — medical students, teachers and tourists — on the hurricane-ravaged island of St. Maarten, their families say.

While Americans leave the island on military and charter airplanes, Canadians are advised to visit a government website with a list of shelters, creating a desperate situation, especially as food supplies run low and reports of looting increase, say relatives interviewed by the Star. Some families said a few Canadians were able to leave on a Sunday flight, but other tourists, students and teachers remained.

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There is spotty cellphone and internet service but the Canadian government repeatedly suggests stranded citizens get advice from its website.

“The frustration in dealing with the Canadian government is that they are not willing to help Canadians one iota,” said Robert Barnard, whose sister is a teacher on the island.

“They are not willing to send food. They are not willing to send water. They are not willing to send flights. They are not willing to send boats. They are not willing to do anything for Canadians,” Barnard said.

Global Affairs Canada issued a news release on Sunday saying “all options are being considered by the Government of Canada to assist Canadians in leaving the affected regions. “ It said diplomatic missions are liaising with local authorities, airline and tour operators.

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After making four calls on Sunday to the “very nice” people at Global Affairs Canada, Kingston’s Lacey Cranston concluded the federal government’s plans to evacuate citizens do not exist.

Her parents, Darrell and Debby Sheppy, of Windsor, were sent to the airport on Saturday by their St. Maarten resort with 148 other visitors. According to Cranston, most got flights out because their countries had requested evacuation assistance.

As her parents returned to the resort, gunshots were fired. The hotel deemed it dangerous, so on Sunday morning they were driven to the Princess Juliana Airport but still couldn’t get a flight.

“They are now spending the night in the airport parking lot,” she said.

About 70 per cent of homes on the Dutch part of St. Maarten were badly damaged or destroyed when Hurricane Irma swept through last Wednesday.

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To the southeast, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said 90 per cent of the structures and vehicles on Barbuda were destroyed. About 1,400 people live on the island and most have now been evacuated to Antigua.

Cranston said Global Affairs Canada suggested they look online for the list of shelters but the Dutch military told them shelters are dangerous.

“I can’t believe that I live in a first-world country that can’t get it’s s--t together to get its citizens home.

Mariel Chan is a medical student at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and was able to FaceTime with her sister, Global Affairs Canada texted students to say there was a flight Sunday morning, but they could not get a seat on the plane

Chan said Dutch and American officials told her “they have no word that Canada is trying to help us.

“Honestly, there’s no option for us. We are stranded here. I don’t know what to do,” she said, and began to cry.

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There is a lot of confusion about flights and what nationalities are able to leave. While on FaceTime, Chan stopped another Canadian student, a young man, who pleaded for someone to “please donate a plane to help Canadians get home.

“Trudeau, are you listening?” he asked.

Janine Fung a medical student said she got a flight out last Monday, before Irma blew in. Fung is trying to help her friends get home.

“It’s pretty ridiculous,” she said. “The Americans left. The Venezuelans were able to leave. Even the pets have been evacuated before the Canadians.”

“At first everyone was optimistic and they were running clinics with the Americans to help keep the country going. Now, they are just desperate,” Fung said.

Monique Balmforth has choice words to describe the “abandonment” of her brother, Michael Moriarty and his wife, Meryl, a civilian employee with the Toronto Police department.

“All the government does is send us links to its SOS website,” Balmforth said. “All they said was, hold tight and listen to local officials. That’s a bit hard, when there’s looting, the local hotel didn’t want them and the island doesn’t really exist any more.”

The couple spent seven hours at the airport, couldn’t get a flight but got a free “rescue mission” flight to Puerto Rico — an island that is dealing with its own struggles from Irma. They still have no idea how they’ll get home.

“I hope they’re not going from one bad to another. Honestly, if they had received any concrete information from Canada, saying we will be there to pick up Canadian citizens, they might have waited it out. I think they just felt lost and totally left to their own devices.”

Blue Jays to donate in support of Hurricane relief efforts .
Blue Jays to donate in support of Hurricane relief efforts in the U.S. & Caribbean, $1 from every ticket to Monday's game will be donated to @RedCrossCanada. pic.twitter.com/1PnOWNEfry— Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 9, 2017The states of Florida and Texas, along with various Caribbean nations have been hit hard during this hurricane season, notably by Hurricane Harvey and Irma, which is expected to land in Florida on Sunday.The money raised will be going to the Canadian Red Cross.

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