Dear Canada: why are your border agents so mean?

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01. Introduction: Let’s see if Canada will let me in…
02. WestJet 737-700 main cabin SAN-YYC
03. Dear Canada: why are your border agents so mean?
04. Courtyard Calgary Airport
05. Calgary Marriott In-Airport Hotel
06. WestJet 737-700 main cabin YYC-SAN

Before you bash me for hating Canada and all Canadians, let me just say that I find the citizens of Canada to be the friendliest of any country I’ve ever been to. You Canadians are downright proud of your country (as you should be) and every time I go I feel like you are bending over backwards to make me feel comfortable and right at home in your beautiful land. I like it up there. I want to spend more time exploring your open parries and mountain west. I like nearly everything about your country, right down to the way you say “eh” at the end of every sentence. But there is one thing that really irritates me: your border agents. Your border agents are total ********. There. I said it.

passport control

*GULP* pleaseletmeinpleaseletmeinpleaseletmein…

Canada, your border agents are some of the grittiest and downright rudest individuals I have ever come across, and I’ve heard similar complaints from other travelers who have flown into Canada from other countries – so I’m not alone in this. It almost seems as if they have been told to assume everyone entering the country is a criminal, and it is their job to send back as many annoying and trouble-making tourists as they can.

business traveler us passport

Having a US passport does not guarantee an easy entry into Canada.

My latest experience entering Canada was just as difficult as the other two times I’ve done it (once to Toronto, and the other time to Vancouver). I knew I was in for a battle as soon as my friendly “hello” was met with stone-cold silence from the agent. She took my passport and asked me why I was traveling to Canada today. “Quick vacation – I’m going to do some sightseeing up at Banff tomorrow”, I replied. She wanted to know where I was staying, and then once it was revealed that I was going back to San Diego just two days later, she gave me an extra-evil glare for a few seconds, looking right through me (seemingly waiting for me to crack) saying nothing at all. Then she got really nosey – asking why I would come here alone, and why I would only stay for two days. I started answering her questions, and even before I finished, she tossed my passport up on the ledge in front of me, waved me past, and barked “NEXT” to summon the next pour soul in line. I didn’t even get a “thank you” or a “welcome to Canada” from her, and once again, I had entered Canada feeling angry and irritated. Why does it have to be this way? Are tourist dollars not that important to this country?

It’s ok to be tough, but being human is important too

I’ve been traveling all over the world for 20 years now, and Canada has been hands-down the most consistently-difficult country for me to enter. What are they afraid of? Who exactly are they trying to keep out? Most importantly, why do they treat visitors so harshly? Most every other first-world country I’ve traveled to has the right idea: the border agents are cold and firm at first, but once they scan your passport and fingerprints and ask a few questions to verify you’re not a bad guy, they usually soften up a bit and at least welcome you to their country as they wave you past. But not Canada. I have never once had a pleasant experience entering Canada.

I get the necessity for agents to convey an aura of authority at international border crossings. I get the fact that border agents aren’t there to serve your first friendly greeting into the country. I get it. I really do. But to assume that *everyone* trying to enter is a criminal until proven innocent is not the first impression you want to give if you want tourists (and their money) to keep coming back.

lake louise

Lake Louise. One of the reasons that tourists like me travel to Canada in the first place. This is an amazingly beautiful country!

Thankfully it’s not that hard to find friendly people once inside, so I didn’t hold a grudge for very long. Hey Canada: I admit that I’m hesitant to book future trips to your fine land, thanks in no part to the people you have manning the gates. Lighten up a little, will ya? I would definitely make more trips to visit if it wasn’t such a mental chore to get in every time.

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