I’ve done quite a bit of international traveling, having visited Jamaica, The Bahamas, the USA, Puerto Rico, and recently, experienced the Customs and Passport Control of several countries including the UK, Germany & Greece.
This has afforded me the experience of knowing what it is like to pass through the borders of other countries as a traveler on a Canadian passport as well as observing how others are treated while traveling on different passports as well.
Returning to Canada is generally pretty simple, relatively quick and without hassle. However, on January 21st, 2018, I got to experience first hand how someone from a foreign nation is treated by Canada’s Border Services at Pearson’s Terminal 1. And quite frankly, I am astonished at the rudeness, lack of civility, and complete lack of empathy for weary travelers and those who have difficulty with the English language.
At no time while traveling to other countries did I see the same arrogance displayed as that by Canadian Border Services agents. And the way the entire system is done, it was easy to observe that ALL the Border Service Agents display a similar rude demeanor. While there are big signs that say “Welcome To Canada,” the attitude by the Canadians that visitors first meet in this country is nothing short of being very unwelcoming.
I realize it is probably a difficult job at times to be a Canadian Border Services agent. However, just like other law enforcement occupations, it is quite likely that many of the agents make it difficult for themselves because of their haughty arrogant attitudes.
The reason I had this experience is that I was traveling to Canada in the company of my lady friend, who is Greek. I had gone to Greece two weeks earlier and my friend returned with me for a visit to Canada. I could have gone through the lineup for those carrying Canadian passports which probably would have been quicker and easier, but I did not want to leave my friend alone.
Her English is very very good, but nervousness and tiredness can cause issues in understanding when the language is not your first. Did the CBS agent take this into consideration? It did not seem so, when my friend got confused when asked if she “had a return ticket” to Greece. In her mind, a boarding pass was a “ticket” and so the question confused her as obviously you cannot check in to your flight and get a boarding pass until less than 24 hours before your flight. The CBS agent barked at her, “Well, you better have a return flight or I might not let you in,” or something to that effect. Then he asked, “Has permanent residence status been applied for?” to which my friend confused this, in the moment of travel fatigue (we had not slept other than a few moments of shuteye on the flights from time to time, for over 24 hours), with the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) that Canada requires of all non-Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents.
I was pretty disgusted and embarrassed by the lack of courtesy afforded to foreigners at the Border Services area. In addition, the lineup was horrendous compared to my experiences in other countries.
In contrast to how I have been treated by the police and passport control agents in other countries, Canada has a lot of work to do to make foreigners truly feel welcome. I have never encountered such rudeness and the egotistical attitude displayed the Canadian agents, anywhere I’ve traveled. I have always received a smile and the conversation has been friendly. Sure, I’ve been asked questions, but not in the same manner as Canada’s CBS agents ask. In addition, the lineups move much more quickly in the other countries that I’ve been in.
If you’re a Canadian Border Services Agent, stop being a jerk. Just because you can be a jerk doesn’t mean you should be. Perhaps the training is all screwed up – I do know that in my own background, I encountered training in my law enforcement role that I totally disagreed with and my own experience was that I could actually accomplish more by being civil and friendly, instead of aggressive and acting like an a**hole.
If you’re planning on visiting Canada as a foreigner, don’t expect a “welcoming feeling” at the border. And on behalf of other Canadians who would not be happy with this sort of treatment, my apologies to you for what you might have to go through.