Pearson Customs/Immigration -soured my excellent trip
just wanted to vent my frustration and at the same time perhaps give some useful advice to travellers passing through Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
To give some quick background information, this is my third trip to Toronto in just over one year, as I absolutely love this city and Canada as a whole. I am currently single so I travel alone right now.
Basically, this is a word of warning about Canadian Customs/Immigration -heaven forbid you should visit their country twice in the same year, as you will likely get treated like a criminal/smuggler/illegal immigrant at the airport. I don’t know if it was the frequency of my visits coupled with the fact that I travel alone, but they treated me really bad on my arrival -and I am 99.9% certain that they searched my baggage prior to receiving it at reclaim.
Now, don’t get me wrong -I know we live in a world where there is a serious terror threat, and I am also aware that Toronto is very much a haven for foreign immigrants both legal and illegal. As such, I appreciate that security should be tight and that immigration control should be strict.
However, I was treated incredibly rudely on arrival at Pearson, and was questions by 3 different officers as well as being subjected to a bag search that seemed beyond ‘routine’ to me. I honestly thought at one point I was going to be refused entry -even though I showed them that I work in a Government job in the UK that I need to return to, and that I had a legitimate hotel booking and return flight reservation in my possession.
Know something though? Even though they made me feel so uncomfortable and unwanted in Canada, a simple ‘welcome to Canada’ or ‘sorry to delay you’ at the end of it all would have compensated for everything, but they said nothing. The whole incident spoiled my trip and left me questioning why I should ever return to Canada again to spend my hard-earned money (by the way, I still love Canada and Canadians very much!).
I am taking a career break in 2006, and was considering gaining some work experience in my field in Canada, as I love it there so much -but now I am thinking this isn’t such a good idea…that’s if i’m not already blacklisted on the immigration computer system after this incident.
I understand they have to be on the lookout. I am not asking them to kick their feet up on the desk and wave people on through. But being rude is not professional. If anything, I expected to get alot of slack from Canadian customs coming from Chicago and staying in Detroit. Chicago is a huge stopover point for drugs coming up from Mexico and Detroit is the crack-cocaine mecca. But… Canadian customs just asked me the simple questions, smiled, and said “Have a good day.” As in my opinion, I was a bigger threat to Canada coming from the U.S. than I was going into the U.S. from Canada. I just hope that Canadian tourists don’t get hastled and talked to like a terrorist suspect like I did by the Ambassador Bridge U.S. customs agents.
I visited Vancouver and Calgary this year, six months apart. Both times I was directed to the second stage interview at the immigration department. Before this year I had never experienced canadian custom agent’s rudeness first hand, but I had observed from a distance how they treated other fellow travelers: I was shocked to say the least.
Both times the agent was a white female with an obvious attitude and made me felt their power!
Needless to say, I will spend my leisure money somewhere else from now on. Goodbye Canada.
Sorry to hear.
I have to say, the worst treatment I’ve experienced has been at U.S. Customs at Terminal 3 in Toronto, and in (of all places) Miami.
And don’t even go there with my Indo-Canadian and Iranian-Canadian friends.
Sorry you had a bad experience. As a lone female traveller, I have to say that I must have been very lucky on my trips to Canada. I have been impressed at the friendliness and courtesy of the officials I have encountered over the last 6 years that I have been there.
I have found some of the officials in my own country a bit offhand, but to be honest, American Customs and Immigration win hands down in the rudeness and sometimes downright intimidating, departments for me! And I have been visiting the U.S. since ’91.
Don’t let it put you off; better luck next time.
Unfortunately this seems to be the norm in this day and age. My co-worker just came back from his 11th trip to Europe and was fully hasseled by Canada customs on his return and he lives here! He was saying that they were asking him how he paid for his ticket and everything. I hope this isn’t a trend. Surprisingly, I had no issues whatsoever going through the U.S. in recent memory.
I can honestly say that Toronto Pearson is a very unfriendly airport. Customs is only ONE area that forgets to smile or say hello as you arrive. Have you ever noticed all of the wooden people that don’t nod or smile as you head to customs/immigration? I am always very embarrassed about this- wondering if visitors to my city think we are cold and unwecoming. Having recently travelled from Glasgow to Toronto (where, although having recently experienced terrorism in their airport) staff still manage a smile, a welcome and a helping hand if needed.
I’ve never had any problem with Canadian Immigration/Customs but I think an important thing to remember generally is that the most important qualification required for this line of work anywhere in the world is that you must have been mercilessly bullied as a child and therefore harbour a deep and abiding hatred of the human race.
I don’t get what the big deal is regarding attitute and I fly out of Pearson A LOT. I have a flag or something on my passport because I always get sent to The Other Line, or to “random” searching. Probably because I’ve travelled to Central America as a young solo female many many times.
When has anyone ever been pulled over by a nice, smiling friendly police officer, even when you weren’t doing anything wrong? These guys are trying to filter criminals! And not only the people trying to bring in illegal cigars or extra alcohol, but like serious criminals, like the kind that will blow stuff up and make us not be alive. So what if they ask you how you paid for your ticket or other random questions? If that’s the kind of question that catches you off guard, think of a person that has to make up a lie right on the spot.
Actually, I have been pulled over by a ‘nice’ police officer, and I still got the message. I appreciated his nice tone and conduct. The difference was that I responded better to him and to the deserved ticket. When people are treated rudely by law enforcement they get their guard up and confrontations arise. Professional and serious about your work should not mean you need to be rude.
Wow, you’re lucky (I know I sound sarcastic but i’m really not)! All the police officers I’ve come across come off as tough guys. And to be honest, I think they need to portray that image, like the border guys do. I’ve been to places that were so easy to cross through with smiles and waves and happy lala international security that didn’t ask me anything and just stamped my passport. I’m relieved because it means I don’t get the nervous sweats I do when coming back to Canada but in all honesty, not the kind of people I want protecting my country.
Yeah it sucks but the trade off is that there hasn’t been a major terrorist attack on Canada, which is at least partially attributed to our border officers.