The Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and Unifor have launched a public campaign calling on Ottawa to secure the safe return of five Canadians who have been arbitrarily imprisoned in the Dominican Republic after reporting a crime “they were not involved in.”
Five crew members with Ontario-based Pivot Airlines discovered and reported 200 packages of cocaine on an aircraft bound for Toronto while grounded at the Punta Cana airport on April 5.
The Dominican Republic’s National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD) said that approximately 200kgs of cocaine was found in the aircraft’s control compartments and, as such, crew were detained and have now been incarcerated in the DR for more than 40 days.
The crew is Canadian and includes two CUPE members, one ALPA member, and one Unifor member, unions said on Monday (May 16).
They “have been arbitrarily detained, threatened, and prosecuted after discovering and reporting 200kg of narcotics to the police,” the unions said in a statement.
"It is entirely unacceptable that our members have been thrown in jail for doing their jobs, and dutifully reporting a crime," said Capt. Tim Perry, president of ALPA Canada. "We are urging the Canadian government to take serious action and help bring our crew home."
Together, the three unions represent more than 90,000 airline workers. Collectively, the unions are cautioning all travellers and employees of the risks of travel to the Dominican Republic.
"The Canadian government needs to do all in its power to bring the Pivot Airlines crew safely back home," said Scott Doherty, the executive assistant to Unifor's National President. "Our member is a part-time worker, who had the misfortune of becoming entangled in a dangerous situation, after finding and reporting illegal drugs onboard. Our union joins his family and friends in their concern for his safety. We need the federal government to intervene immediately."
Even though there is no evidence tying them to a crime, the Dominican Republic prosecutor is currently seeking to hold the five Canadians in jail for upwards of twelve months, the unions said.
"We are gravely concerned about our members and the entire crew, who have been held captive under tremendously challenging conditions," said Wesley Lesosky, president of CUPE's airline division. "The fact is Canadian lives are at risk in the Dominican Republic. We need our government to act."
ALPA, CUPE, and Unifor are inviting members to join the call by writing to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and urging her to call for the crew's safe and immediate release.