Government not at fault
Rescued tourists shouldn’t be griping
The federal government has not apologized for its efforts in bringing Canadian tourists home from hurricane-ravaged Caribbean resorts, nor should it.
The discomfort and inconvenience of travellers who knowingly and willingly chose to vacation in a hurricane zone at the height of the storm season should not have been a government priority.
That doesn’t mean the government should ignore the plight of Canadians who are at risk of death or serious injury. And it’s comforting to know that embassies and consulates have staff who watch out for the welfare of Canadian citizens in foreign countries in times of emergency. We expect that kind of support from our government.
The federal government came under criticism from travellers and the opposition when Canadians were stranded at resorts after hurricane Irma lashed the Caribbean last weekend.
Tourists were forced to stay in their hotel rooms or wait at airports until flights could be arranged to bring them home. There were complaints about how long the arrangements took, the discomfort of being confined in rooms without air conditioning and about poor communications with officials during the crisis.
Meanwhile, thousands of people who lived in the Caribbean have lost their homes and are trying to cope without water, electricity and food. They need help, and the Canadian government has been calculating what to do, including loading a C-17 Globemaster with humanitarian supplies to send to the region. The plan was to use the massive plane to bring home any Canadians who still wanted to be evacuated.
Foreign affairs and International Trade Canada has a mandate to provide, on behalf of the Canadian government, assistance to all Canadian citizens abroad. But how far should that mandate go? There is no single answer — it varies with each situation, and the response in any emergency should be in proportion to the crisis.
By Tuesday, nearly 700 Canadians had been flown out of the hurricane region, and the feds said the majority of those who were stranded had been able to return home. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government is reviewing the experience to see how it can better handle such situations in the future, but the government response appears to have been appropriate.
People should not complain when assistance does not come as quickly and as conveniently as they like. Instead, they should be grateful for whatever assistance was rendered. And if public money was used for that assistance, they should make every effort to pay it back.
The foreign affairs department provides plenty of advice and information for travellers, often issuing warnings about countries where the risk is high. That does not absolve people of the responsibility to look after themselves. They should not go knowingly into a risky situation with the idea that the government will rescue them if things go sour.