They are permanent residents of Canada and live in Coquitlam. But Daniela Luo and her nine-year-old daughter Dominica, who went to Wuhan, China to visit family before the coronavirus outbreak shut the city down, have learned they can’t leave on an evacuation flight being arranged by the Canadian government.
"It's actually the Chinese government that’s not allowing people who are permanent residents of Canada to leave China," said Luo’s husband and Dominica’s father, Monte Gisbourne.
The mother and daughter, who were both born in Wuhan, had originally planned to stay there until Feb. 15. When coronavirus began to spread, they moved up their return flight to Jan. 28. But a few days before their departure, the travel ban was put in place, keeping visitors from leaving the city. While the Canadian government is arranging to evacuate Canadian citizens from Wuhan, permanent residents who travelled there on a Chinese passport are not allowed to leave.
"The only statement I've heard from the Canadian government that gives me some hope is it's policy to keep families together. I presume that was in the context of my family being permanent residents and me being a Canadians citizen and all of us living here in Canada," said Gisbourne. "I would hope that would mean they would do their best to convince the Chinese authorities to release my wife and daughter. I don’t know what good they are to China being over there. I can’t imagine why the government would want to keep them."
Nanaimo insurance manager Wayne Tremblay and his wife are stuck in Wuhan city, and while he qualifies to leave on the Canadian evacuation flight, his wife, who is a permanent resident of Canada, does not.
"I'm most likely going to have to leave my wife here," said Tremblay on a Skype video call from Wuhan city. "If I don’t leave now, I don’t know when I’d be leaving. But as of now, the news that we have is that my wife wouldn't be able to go."
Tremblay is concerned about leaving his wife behind in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, but they’ve decided he has to go back to B.C. as soon as he gets the chance.
"For us, it's more important we start the process now so I can get to Canada, get out of quarantine and get back to providing for my family," said Tremblay.
An eight months pregnant woman originally from Langley who’s lived in Wuhan for nearly five years has successfully made it out. Lauren Williams, her husband Tom, and their two-year-old son were on an evacuation flight that arrived in the U.K. on Friday morning. The family was allowed on the plane because Tom has British citizenship. They’ll now be quarantined for two weeks near Liverpool.
Monte Gisbourne knows his wife and daughter will likely be quarantined when they get back to B.C. He just hopes it can happen sooner rather than later.
"There is a great amount of love between us. It has to be electronic and long distance for now. And I'm remaining hopeful there will be an answer to this, and they're going to allow them out," he said.