By Mickey Djuric in New Delhi
The Canadian Armed Forces has sent a plane to pick up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is stranded in India after the plane he took to the G20 leaders’ summit was grounded due to technical issues.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the Canadian delegation is working to leave New Delhi by Tuesday afternoon, local time, at the earliest. Press secretary Mohammad Hussain said the situation remains fluid.
A CC-150 Polaris plane left CFB Trenton, Ont., on Sunday evening. It and another plane, a CC-144 Challenger, are now in London.
Senior government sources said a technician is headed to India with the part needed to fix the mechanical issue on the original plane, and that the replacement plane will take the Canadian delegation home if the technician is not able to fix the issue.
The sources were granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
“The problem involves a component that will have to be replaced,” said Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations for the Department of National Defence.
He said the issue was discovered during a pre-flight check.
“The discovery of this issue is evidence that these protocols are effective,” he said.
The fleet of CC-150 Polaris planes, which is the Royal Canadian Air Force designation for the Airbus planes that include those used to transport the prime minister, governor general and other high-ranking officials, has been in use since the early 1990s.
There is no Wi-Fi on the VIP plane, and power cords run along the floors to allow passengers to charge phones and other technology that didn’t exist when the plane was built. There is a small cabin in the front for the prime minister or governor general, while the rest of the Polaris is configured more like a typical commercial plane.
It is not fuel efficient and has a very limited range, requiring most overseas trips to have multiple stops for refuelling.
The lockdown that had barricaded the part of New Delhi around the site of the G20 summit site and closed businesses in the area ended at midnight after the international meeting was over.
The Canadian delegation was at the airport waiting to board the plane when they were alerted about the issue. Trudeau and his son Xavier, who accompanied him, had not yet arrived at the airport.
As planes carrying delegations from South Korea and Russia took to the skies, members of the Canadian delegation were told to return to the hotel. Trudeau has remained there, while holding private meetings.
As of mid-morning on Monday, the PMO had yet to release an official itinerary for the day.
The PMO has also not yet said whether Trudeau will be able to make it to the three-day Liberal caucus retreat scheduled to start Tuesday in London, Ont., although they said the prime minister wants to attend.
In July, then-defence minister Anita Anand announced the federal government had purchased nine new Airbus planes to replace the aging CC-150 Polaris fleet, which is nearing the end of its service life.
Designated as the CC-330 Husky, the fleet of new and used aircraft will include one for transporting high-level officials such as the prime minister. One of the aircraft was delivered to Ottawa last month, but is not yet ready to use.
When Trudeau took off from Ottawa on Sept. 3 to tour the Indo-Pacific region, with stops in Jakarta and Singapore before arriving in New Delhi, the new plane was on the tarmac at the Ottawa International Airport.
Le Bouthillier said the aircrew will need training along with more flight tests before that plane can be used.
While in New Delhi this weekend, Trudeau and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for about 15 minutes in a private room on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Trudeau said the topics of foreign interference and the Khalistan separatist movement both came up.
Trudeau’s national security adviser Jody Thomas said earlier this year that India was among the top sources of foreign interference in Canada.
New Delhi has previously argued that elements in Canada have been behind interference in domestic affairs in India, including in relation to the Khalistani separatist movement, which advocates for part of the Indian state of Punjab to become an independent country.
The Indian government perceives this as an extremist movement that endangers national security and has long accused Canada of harbouring extremists. The Canadian government has maintained freedom of speech means groups can voice political opinions so long as they are not violent.
The prime minister had been slated to leave India on Sunday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2023.
Banner image via The Canadian Press