The Canadian flight crew has been held in the Dominican Republic since April in Canada

A Canadian passenger airliner detained in the Dominican Republic since April has arrived back in Canada.

The five-person crew landed in Toronto late Thursday, according to Pivot Airlines.

"While we are relieved to have the crew's long-delayed return home, we know that this incident has taken a heavy toll on their lives, and the lives of their families," the airline's CEO Eric Edmondson said in a statement. "Therefore, we ask the media and the public to respect their privacy at this time."

The ordeal began in early April this year, when five crew members on a Pivot Airlines flight from Calgary to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, found a strange bag on board and reported it to the authorities.

More bags were later found, and local police said they eventually found more than 200 kilograms of cocaine aboard the jet.

'Living the nightmare'

It's not entirely clear what happened.

Two pilots, two flight attendants and a part-time maintenance engineer were jailed, then released on bail after surrendering their passports pending further investigation.

Following the cocaine discovery, the Airline Pilots Association, Public Employees Union of Canada and Unifor said their members were arbitrarily detained, threatened and prosecuted despite following Transport Canada's protocol and international law.

In June, one of the pilots, Captain Robert Di Venanzo, told CBC News that he and another pilot, two flight attendants and a maintenance engineer, were "living a nightmare" after they did what they thought was right by reporting drugs to authorities. .

"We think we are heroes, what we find and what we report," he said at the time. "We think we're doing a great thing by not allowing these things back into Canada."

While in prison, said Di Venanzo, they were told they would be killed.

"We have been threatened with death by drug criminals, blackmailed by convicts, and have been living in inhuman and humiliating conditions," he said in a video posted online with his crew last week pleading with the Canadian government for help.

"In prison, bodies were placed outside our cells and we were told we would be next. We were living a nightmare."

In his statement Thursday, Edmondson said he was grateful to everyone who worked to get the five homes, "including CUPE, ALPA, Unifor, Senator David Wells, as well as our government partners."

He said all had been reunited with their loved ones.

"The crew displayed remarkable courage and resilience during the ordeal that led to them being wrongfully detained in the Dominican Republic for nearly eight months. Their steadfast commitment to public safety and the rule of law is a testament to the professionalism of all Canadian aircrews."

The airline has hired Navigator, a well-known PR agency and crisis management firm in Ottawa, to work on their behalf. 

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