Many les­sons to learn: Of­fi­cials

Re­sponse to cri­sis could’ve been bet­ter, min­is­ter says

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Canada -

The fed­eral govern­ment wants to learn les­sons from its ef­forts to evac­u­ate Cana­di­ans from the hur­ri­cane-rav­aged Caribbean but stopped short Tues­day of apol­o­giz­ing to com­plain­ing trav­ellers over how it han­dled the dis­as­ter.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said she per­son­ally greeted a flight of re­turn­ing Cana­dian pas­sen­gers at Toronto’s Pear­son Air­port on Mon­day night, and spoke with sev­eral pas­sen­gers there and by phone. She gave them a let­ter so­lic­it­ing feed­back on how the govern­ment han­dled the emer­gency.

“I said in the note — I think my words were — I was very sorry for their or­deal, which I am. It was a very, very dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence for peo­ple,” Free­land said Tues­day at the cab­i­net re­treat in St. John’s, N.L., with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

She also noted: “as the prime min­is­ter likes to say: bet­ter is al­ways pos­si­ble.”

In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Marie-Claude Bibeau said 691 Cana­di­ans had been flown out of the re­gion, and that the ma­jor­ity of those stranded have now been able to re­turn home.

Free­land said Mon­day night’s Cana­dian flights had ex­tra seats that would have gone un­filled so they were of­fered to 53 trav­ellers from other coun­tries, in­clud­ing 40 Amer­i­cans. No Cana­dian was de­nied a seat, she added.

Bibeau ac­knowl­edged that the fed­eral govern­ment could have been more ef­fi­cient at com­mu­ni­cat­ing with those af­fected and their fam­i­lies, but she sug­gested they could have been more help­ful with no­ti­fy­ing the govern­ment of their own where­abouts.

“We were in con­tact with the fam­i­lies, those who con­tacted us. Be­cause once again, as trav­ellers — and I in­clude my­self in that — we for­get to con­sult the web­site of the govern­ment to get the ad­vice con­cern­ing the coun­tries where we are go­ing.”

Bibeau said as far as she knows, all Cana­di­ans who wanted off the is­lands of Turks and Caicos and St. Maarten “have had the pos­si­bil­ity” to get home as of Mon­day night. She urged any other Cana­di­ans who still need help, or their fam­i­lies, to con­tact fed­eral of­fi­cials.

“We should al­ways reg­is­ter for the govern­ment to know where we are in case of emer­gency. If we don’t do that and we don’t do that enough, well, then we have to wait for Cana­di­ans to in­form us where they are.”

Bibeau said fed­eral of­fi­cials are now on the ground in the Caribbean as­sess­ing how Canada might help with hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and re­build­ing af­ter wide­spread de­struc­tion from hur­ri­cane Irma.

Getty ImaGes

a woman walks on a street in marigot, on mon­day on the French caribbean is­land of Saint-martin af­ter it was hit by Hur­ri­cane irma.

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