Local MPs may work on all sorts of problems their constituents bring in – but right now, Langley’s are international affairs specialists.
Cloverdale-Langley City MP Tamara Jansen says her office has been working to try to help multiple Canadians or whole families who have found themselves stuck overseas as airlines ground flights and borders are clamped shut due to the COVID-19 crisis.
With Parliament largely shut down and only a few MPs returning for key votes, Jansen is here in her constituency.
“That’s where I can help the most,” she said.
One of her key jobs lately has been to help those stuck overseas.
In late March, as the pandemic spread, more than 1 million Canadians and permanent residents returned home, following warnings from the federal government.
In February, Jansen was one of those raising the alarm about the case of Tom and Lauren Williams, a British-Canadian couple who were living in Wuhan, China at what was then the centre of the virus’s outbreak.
Lauren, a Canadian from Langley, was eight months pregnant at the time.
The couple got out of China in early February aboard a British evacuation flight and went into isolation in Liverpool. Lauren’s baby was born on Feb. 24, and weighed eight pounds, 11 ounces, reported Jansen.
But with one family headed for somewhere to call home, there were many others that still needed help.
Over the last few weeks, Jansen’s office has fielded calls from Peru, Guatemala, and the Bahamas.
Her staff are currently trying to help some Canadians who are in India, which launched a very strict nationwide lockdown only recently.
“We want to make sure that we don’t lose anybody, that we don’t drop anybody,” said Jansen.
Langley-Aldergrove MP Tako van Popta is in the same boat.
“We’ve had a lot of people contact our office,” he said.
The main thing local constituency offices can do is make sure Canadians abroad are connecting to the right resources, starting with registering with Global Affairs Canada.
That allows the government to know where they are, if they have any special needs while stranded, van Popta said.
Once the federal government knows how many people are stuck somewhere, they can more effectively move people to the airports, get them on planes, and negotiate for exit with countries that may have travel restrictions and several local lockdowns.
“It has slowed down, but we are still getting some calls,” van Popta said.
MPs are also working with people who are having trouble accessing government programs. For example, those who desperately need to access EI amid a large number of current claims are being referred to have their claims ramped up, Jansen said.