The five crew members have still not been charged and the federal government is trying to secure an expedited investigation and their early return home if no charges are brought.
On April 5, Dominican authorities arrested two pilots, two flight attendants and a maintenance technician after they said they found a bag hidden on a Pivot Airlines plane.
Dominican drug control officers later uploaded a video claiming to have found eight black gym bags containing more than 200 kilograms of cocaine on board the plane.
The Prime Minister of Canada and the Secretary of State raised the issue with their counterparts at last week’s Summit of the Americas. They were then assured that the case would be dealt with under the rule of law.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told CBC News the government is continuing to put pressure on Dominican authorities.
” We will do everything we can to find a way, firstly, to ensure they have due process and their rights are protected, and secondly, to ensure that they return home safely. »
One of the pilots, Captain Robert Di Venanzo, told CBC News he was grateful for the government support but expected more to be done.
We thought we were heroes
Mr Di Venanzo says he and his colleagues lived a nightmare for six weeks because they did the right thing.
We thought we were heroes, saw what we found and what we reportedMr Di Venanzo said in a Zoom call from an undisclosed location in the country.
” We thought we had done something extraordinary by not allowing these products to return to Canada. »
Mr Di Venanzo said events happened quickly. The five crew members were handcuffed before Dominican authorities took them to a local detention center.
During the first nine days in prison, inmates repeatedly told them they would be killed if they didn’t call home to ask their families for money, Di Venanzo added.
We have faced death threats from drug criminals, extortion from inmates, and lived in inhuman and degrading conditionsRobert Di Venanzo said in a video uploaded with his team last week, asking the Canadian government to come to their aid.
” In prison, a body was placed in front of our cell and we were told we would be next. We’re living a nightmare. »
The occupant and Pivot Airlines version
According to the company, which specializes in regional air transport, the ordeal began when the crew flew to Punta Cana on another commercial airline on the evening of April 4.
The crew’s job was to fly a 50-seat pivot jet chartered from an Alberta real estate investment firm back to Toronto. The plane landed in Punta Cana on March 31 and was parked in a safe place guarded by an American company for five days. The original Pivot crew flew back to Canada.
On April 5, a mechanical engineer was repairing a problem on the plane before takeoff for Toronto when he discovered a black bag filled with computers, cables, and fans in a compartment under the front of the plane.
The crew immediately called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Dominican Police, Di Venanzo said.
We didn’t know at the time whether it was an explosive device or a contraband product.he specified.
A few hours later, Dominican authorities pulled the crew out. They had spread out all the duffel bags of drugs on the tarmac, which they said were recovered from the plane.
The crew were then taken into custody and crammed into a cell with 26 other inmates, according to Mr Di Venanzo. They were not given anything to eat for three days and were forced to sleep or stand up on the floor.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement to CBC News
Consular officers assist and liaise with the families of Canadian citizens.
The parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Secretary is also directly involved in this file, Ms Joly’s office said.
This is a priority. For data protection reasons, we cannot discuss any further details.
Call to put Canadians back in jail
Since their release in April, the crew members have yet to be questioned by investigators and have not been charged, Mr Di Venanzo said.
However, Dominican authorities informed the crew that they could not leave the country until the end of the investigation, which could take another 10 months.
On July 21, the Dominican Republic’s attorney general will appeal the decision to allow the Canadians to be released on bail.
Flight attendant Christina Carello spoke directly to the prime minister in a video, asking Canadian authorities to come to her aid.
” Prime Minister, if we go back to prison here, we may never return home. »
The airline said it now houses its employees in undisclosed locations with private security. Mr. Di Venanzo described the bail conditions for crew members as a
house arrestadding that they had no access to their passports or their own phones and were constantly monitored by security guards.
Eric Edmondson, CEO of Pivot Airlines, says himself
very grateful the previous help of the Federal Minister, but wishes the return of the crew.
These people need to be protectedsaid Mr Edmondson, who wants the crew to return to the country quickly.
They released information about drug criminals, it’s public, and they’re in danger now.
It is also calling on international aviation authorities to help them obtain surveillance footage.
The US company hired to monitor the plane for the five days is not cooperating with airline investigators, Edmondson said.
The Embassy of the Dominican Republic told CBC News it needed more time to answer certain questions, but generally said the country was a
Social and democratic constitutional state, where the rule of law prevails.
Nobody is above the law. In this sense, these guarantees are given to all citizens in all circumstances.wrote the embassy in a statement.
According to data fromAshley Burke (New window) and from Richard Raycraft (New window)from CBC News