Several Indian Canadians have called the continued suspension of flights from India discriminatory ahead of polls.
As Canada goes to polls on Monday, 20 September, some Indian Canadians are finding themselves in a fix. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the North American nation has had a continued suspension of flights from India, affecting those Indians who wanted to travel back to Canada to cast their votes.
The flight ban was initiated after the destruction caused by the second wave in India, bringing international travel to a halt. However, once things began easing up, most countries lifted the ban. But unlike the US, Canada extended the suspension of flights, which was originally supposed to end on 21 August, for another month.
The ban implies that persons travelling to the North American country have to first travel to a third country where they have to get a COVID test done. If it is found negative, they can then board the flight to Canada.
Travelling via other countries and staying there to obtain a negative PCR report increases costs of travel and also causes stress.
Although cases in India have been declining, the ban has continued and is presently in effect till 21 September. This extension of the ban has “caused concern and anxiety” among the nationals of the two countries seeking to travel between them, India’s high commission in Ottawa noted in a communication sent to Global Affairs Canada. Nearly 2,00,000 students are now inconvenienced as they plan to start their higher education in the North American country.
While Canadian authorities said that the continuation of the ban was a precaution against the spread of the Delta variant, many people termed this a politically motivated discriminatory move.
Satish Thakkar, chairperson of the Canada-India Foundation, told news agency IANS:
Some Indian Canadian academics believe Canada is adopting “double standards” on COVID-19 testing for those stuck in India, reported Hindustan Times. “Mitu Sengupta, a professor in the department of politics and public administration at Ryerson University in Toronto, who is currently in Delhi, is particularly upset with the Canadian government rejecting COVID-19 RT-PCR tests conducted in India and instead mandating such molecular tests at the final point of departure for Canada for connecting flights,” the daily reported.
Meanwhile, Hemant Shah, an Indian Canadian aviation expert told IANS, “Why only India? When you talk about human rights, why this discrimination against India when Indo-Canadians are a major part of Canada’s workforce and Indian students pump billions into Canada’s economy.”
The logistics of voting do not change much for a Canadian citizen in India, they can still vote, but via mail. CIC News, an immigration news website in Canada, explains that voters outside Canada need to register to vote by mail, after which, Canada will mail them a voting kit. However, if their vote reaches Canada after 20 September, it would not be counted.
As many candidates contesting the elections are of Indian origin, it will be interesting to see whom the Indian Canadians vote for amidst the controversy over the flight ban. While the Liberals were reported to be stronger at the announcement of the elections, because of the incumbent government’s good handling of the COVID crisis, the flight ban order coming from the PM Justin Trudeau-led government might not help his case with Indian Canadians.
According to The Economic Times, Indian Canadians are active voters and thus their votes are very crucial in the largest and most populated provinces in Canada – British Columbia and Ontario – and also in Alberta and Manitoba. Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party (NDP) holds firm ground in the former two.
Mira Vazaphilly, a 21-year-old Canadian citizen of Indian origin is all set to cast her vote on Monday. While she expects the new government to continue “to support the growing diversity”, she calls the flight ban “unfortunate”. However, she told The Quint that she believes that Indian Canadians around her hold the opinion that health of both Indians and Canadians should be prioritised, and so this would not influence voting. Vazaphilly is a resident of Mississauga and a student at McMaster University.
The minority government of the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau announced snap elections last month. Elections are scheduled for 20 September.
(With inputs from IANS, Hindustan Times, and The Economic Times)
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