Canadian identity questioned during pandemic

Photo credit: Dennis Price

The number of people infected by the COVID-19 rises across the globe daily. As of March 12, the global number of infections hit 129,000. A day before this, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic.

The cases keep climbing and information, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophia Gregoire Trudeau has tested positive for the virus and he self-isolated himself before the test results came back,

Raptor’s organization has put their travelling staff and players on two weeks self-isolation after they played a game in Utah with a player who later tested positive,

This pandemic continues to accumulate, and as it does the world is taking precautions.

Professional sports establishments have suspended all events, schools in Ontario are closed until April 5th and it is recommended gathers be limited to less than 500 attendees.

These breaking news stories do not address the first Canadians who got the virus in Wuhan, ground zero of the outbreak, in early February.

More than 300 Canadians in Wuhan requested to be repatriated but only 280 had Canadian passports.

China is a Communist country and so if Chinese natives only hold a Chinese passport, they viewed them as citizens of China and therefore were not allowed to leave.

Many people were critical of how long it took the Canadian government to negotiate passage home for their citizens.

Most Canadians returned home after China closed the city of Wuhan due to the coronavirus. Despite being desperate to get out, not all were able to board the planes due to not having valid passports and some were permanent residents still in the process of gaining citizenship.

These regulations separated families. This situation raises questions about what it truly means to be Canadian.

While most Canadian citizens and permanent residents view Canada as home, a permanent resident or landed immigrant is an individual who is not born or does not have citizenship in the country where they reside.

The reality is there are barriers immigrants face when travelling and without valid documentation; it can be one-sided.

As the virus became a health crisis, both the Canadian and Chinese governments worked together to get Canadian citizens home.

Relying on a piece of paper to prove if a person can come home is wrong and arguably, in this situation, inhumane.

Both governments came to an understanding, only those with a Canadian passport would be allowed on the flight home.

Members of families were left behind because they were in the process of getting their citizen documents or didn’t travel with their Canadian passports.

In circumstances where one spouse has Canadian citizenship and the other did not, only the Canadian citizen was allowed to board the plane.

This demonstrates insensitivity towards non-citizens.

There is also a lack of knowledge and clarity of the rules and information when rectifying these situations.

Yes, it is the law to prove your citizenship in order to travel and these laws are in place for a reason, according to the Canadian Government website. This is why many foreign visitors require a VISA to visit countries like Canada.

However, these people weren’t undocumented and attempting to come into Canada or flee China. These were Canadian citizens or residents trying to get home from a country being placed on lockdown.

If they didn’t get out, there would be no guarantee when they would be able to come home or see their loved ones again. The problems faced by those coming home from China were wrong and there needs to be rules implemented by the government to ensure safe repatriation of Canadians during times like these.

It is now more important than ever that immigrants and first-generation Canadians are not left behind due to their status.

This should not be okay for any Canadian. Being Canadian is more than just a piece of paper.

As of March 12, in Canada, there has been one death in British Columbia and almost 120 confirmed active cases nationwide. Of these, 44 are in Ontario, 46 British Columbia, eight in Quebec and 19 in Alberta. All of these cases in Canada have been directly linked to travel.

As the pandemic evolves, the conditions of getting home for travelling Canadians is still not clear.