COVID-19 crisis strands Mount Forest residents in Morocco

WELLINGTON NORTH – The federal government was working earlier this week to help area residents, including two from Mount Forest, who are among a large number of Canadians stuck in Morocco.

The local residents left for a vacation prior to the announcement of international travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Stacey Bell and Lara Riehl of Mount Forest, as well as Catherine Schwass of Priceville and Emily Golem of Hanover, left March  12  on a personalized tour of Morocco through UK-based Exodus Travel. The group was to attend a yoga and wellness retreat in Agadir, organized through the Hanover-based Yoga Barn.

They had registered with the Canadian embassy on arrival and the following day the embassy issued a warning about the possible suspension of flights.

The women contacted their travel agent, who cobbled together a route home with flights through Tunisia, Istanbul and Amsterdam.

However, after arriving at Casablanca Airport in Morocco, they learned their flight had been cancelled and, after waiting all day for another flight, were advised their carrier, Tunisair, would be focussing on flying Tunisian nationals home.

Tim Sparks, executive assistant to Perth-Wellington MPP John Nater, said in a March 17 telephone interview he has been in direct contact with members of the local group, “just so they know they have a person they can speak to in Canada.”

Sparks noted families of the travellers have been “quite involved as well. They’re concerned. Arrangements are being made,” said Sparks. “Global Affairs (Canada) has been keeping us current as to their efforts on the ground. I do know that the minister (Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne) has spoken with his counterpart in Morroco to look at the options that are best to get them home.”

Sparks noted the four women are part of “a large contingent of Canadians” from various parts of the country trying to leave Morocco.

“It has got attention,” he pointed out. “It’s in motion.”

With the federal government urging Canadians around the globe to return home while commercial travel is still possible, Sparks notes the situation in Morocco is not unique.

“There’s 200 other countries in the world and we seem to have Canadians everywhere trying to get home. It’s profound.”

Do you know someone stranded by the COVID-19 crisis? Contact us at 519-843-5410 or