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Government urged to intervene in detention of Ontario airline crew in Dominican Republic after massive drug seizure

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Pivot Airlines is discouraging Canadians from travelling to the Dominican Republic as three airline unions call on Ottawa to help bring home crew members detained for alerting authorities to cocaine found on their plane.

The Canadian airline, along with Unifor, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), penned a letter to Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday in advance of his planned visit to the Dominican Republic.

The groups are urging the federal government to intervene in the nearly three week detention of 11 people, including five crew members from Ontario, who the airline says have recently been released on bail.

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Five Pivot Airlines crew members discovered and reported 200 packages of cocaine on an aircraft bound for Toronto while grounded at the Punta Cana airport on April 5.

After an in-depth search, the Dominican Republic’s National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD) said that approximately 200kgs of cocaine was located in the aircraft’s control compartments.

“Despite reporting the suspected contraband to authorities, the five Pivot crew members were immediately detained in the Dominican Republic, where they have been subject to unsafe and inhumane treatment within Dominican detention facilities,” the letter stated.

“While we have recently been able to secure the crew’s release on bail, a condition of their release was they must remain in the Dominican Republic until the matter is resolved,” the letter goes on to say.

Pivot Airlines told CTV News Toronto the detained crew members are facing threats both inside and outside of jail. As a result, they are suggesting that travellers refrain from visiting the Dominican Republic at this time.

“We believe this incident should cause all travellers to consider making alternative travel plans,” a spokesperson for Pivot Airlines said.

“We are doing everything we can to support our crew and their families during this difficult time. This includes continuing to work with local legal counsel we have retained on their behalf, the three international unions representing our crew, the Canadian embassy and local authorities to ensure their safety, and bring them home as soon as possible.”

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