Does the Canadian government owe an apology to Irma evacuees?

Does the Canadian government owe an apology to Irma evacuees?
From CBC - September 13, 2017

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's use of the word "sorry" over the past couple of daysas in, "I am very sorry for your ordeal" left room for different interpretations.

Was she apologizing for some deficiency in her government's response to Canadians trapped in the Caribbean in the wake of Hurricane Irma, or was she just expressing sympathy for a difficult and frightening experience?

"I feel deserted by my government because they sent the flight in after the hurricane, not before," said one Canadian traveller arriving home Monday from Turks and Caicos aboard a commercial airliner. "We were relatively safe, but [the fact] that we were put in that harm's way is appalling."

But one former Canadian diplomat sees things differently.

"I personally do not think the government of Canada has to apologize really for anything," saidMark Entwistle, who formerly served as Canada's ambassador to Cuba, the Caribbean nation with the highest confirmed loss of life from Irma.

Canada has airlifted 1,652 citizens out of the Caribbean since Saturday, according to the latest figures from Global Affairs. Entwistle sees the evacuation as a logistical feat, and said evacuees can thankthe flight crews who pulled them out through airports that are barely functioning, and the taxpayers who, so far, are footing the bill for co-ordinating the effort.

"I believe that these kinds of services should be on a cost-recovery basis. There are thousands and thousands of Canadians who get themselves in all kinds of trouble around the world, mostly of course not of their own fault, although from time to time they just make dumb decisions."

Warnings ignored?

Many of the Canadians caught by Hurricane Irma were already in the region when the storm formed: permanent or seasonal residents of the islands;people who operate businesses there;medical students studying there; or people on longer vacations.

Others travelled to the region after it became clear there was a danger.

Global Affairs began issuing travel advisories and warnings about Irma on Sept. 3. The French and Dutch sides of the island of Saint Martin, as well as St. Barts, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, and other Antillean islands that were among the most devastated by the hurricane, were included in those first warnings to Canadians to "avoid all non-essential travel."

Warnings followed shortly after for the Turks and Caicos and other islands farther along the path of Irma's Caribbean rampage, including warnings to "avoid all travel," the highest level of advisory.

Hurricane Irma: avoid all travel to Sint Maarten, Saba and Saint Eustatius


Some travellers clearly chose to ignore them. CBC News spoke to the brother of one man seeking assistance in the province of Matanzas, Cuba. He had flown into his resort on Sept. 8 on one of the last available flights before Irma struck, three days after Global Affairs warned Canadians to "avoid non-essential travel to eastern and central Cuba, Matanzas province eastward to Guantanamo."

"The debate is a bit around where the line lies between personal responsibility when you decide to travel overseas and leave your home base," said Entwistle. "Going into the Caribbean in hurricane season has risks to it."

Other governments criticized

Many Canadians caught by Irma showed both fortitude and gratitude, but some complained their evacuation flights took longer to arrive than those sent by other nations.

Brenda Bot, who owns property in St. Maarten and travels there frequently, had harsh words for the government's handling of the situation.

"I have always travelled with the thought that our Canadian government would look after me if something like this would happen. This chills me to the bone," said Bot, who spoke to CBC News from her home in Orangeville, Ont.

Lack of forward thinking

Limits of the possible


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