Ontario woman petitioning feds to help relatives stuck in India amid COVID-19 lockdown
Published Friday, March 27, 2020 3:41PM EDT
TORONTO -- An Ontario woman’s petition has garnered over ten thousand signatures within three days of it being launched. Petitioner Ritu Sihota is hoping that her fight to bring her family members back to Canada from India will find strength in numbers.
The Mississauga resident says her father and three grandparents are stuck in Punjab, a province in northern India. With all four relatives facing health concerns and her father’s medication quickly running out, Sihota is calling on the Canadian government to bring them home.
This week, the Indian government announced that it would seal its borders and enforce a 21-day lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19. With the last direct flight to Canada having left Delhi on March 22, the decision has left many Canadian citizens with no way home.
“It’s been very hard,” says Sihota in an interview on CTV News Channel. “I’ve been emailing MPs and MPPs, and anyone I can get a hold of. I just was getting the same answers over and over again.”
Canadian repatriation flights have been retrieving stranded travellers from destinations around the world. Chartered flights have brought travellers from Peru, Morocco, Honduras, Spain, Ecuador, El salvador and Guatemala over the past week.
The federal government also announced a loan program to help fund the extended travel of citizens working toward returning to Canada, valued at up to five thousand dollars per person.
Sihota thinks more still needs to be done for citizens in India. With thousands of signatures on her petition, she is hoping to “get the attention of our elected MP’s, and get them to take some action and put some pressure on Ottawa to get our loved ones home.”
Other countries have sent flights to India to repatriate their citizens. On Wednesday, Germany sent a special flight from Delhi to Frankfurt. With 15 thousand Canadians registered in India- and many more unregistered- Sihota says Canada should too.
“It’s not that India is not allowing countries to rescue their citizens,” Sihota said. “It’s that Canada is not putting enough pressure on the Indian government or trying hard enough to get our citizens home,” she said.
With a goal of 15 thousand signatures, Sihota hopes that her petition might make its way to Ottawa, and that a Canadian chartered flight might make its way to India.