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A Canadian traveler is frustrated and demoralized by his experiences with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at Pearson Airport.
Famil Garayev, 38, lives in Calgary and has worked for Chevron Canada in Kazakhstan since last summer. He was seen as a critical worker in the supply chain group, helping the company manage the COVID-19 crisis.
Every few months, he returns to Canada to see his wife and three children; after about three weeks he returned to work in Kazakhstan.
On Sunday, he landed at Pearson en route to Calgary and was told he would have to stay in a quarantine hotel in Toronto for three days until his COVID test results come back.
Despite his negative COVID test before leaving Kazakhstan – necessary to fly home – and despite essential papers from workers who had seen him pass through Toronto customs in the past, Garayev was told that he had to stop here.
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A friend from Calgary who was also returning from Kazakhstan via Toronto and who had exactly the same essential papers from the same company, was sent to Pearson for his flight home.
“We have the same accreditation. I showed these documents to the Canadian border services officer, ”Garayev said by telephone on Monday.
“She didn’t look at them. They judged me on my face, it seems. She put a little sticker in my passport and sent me down the hall for an explanation.
Garayev reportedly pleaded his case, but was told he could not do so once he left the CBSA area. He was upset.
He has little time to spend with his family in Calgary, “and I didn’t want to spend three of those days in Toronto.”
He missed his connecting flight to Calgary. Garayev took a COVID test in Toronto, waited at the airport at 7 p.m., and left on a flight to Calgary before dawn Monday.
“They’re threatening to fine you. The problem is, this is a subjective decision made by CBSA officers. The agent’s attitude was: “Your fate is in my hands and I can make any decisions I want.”
“I don’t travel for fun – I need this job! The economic situation in Calgary is so bad. I had not seen my family for two months. It’s a lot of extra stress.
“The government must support us, not create these obstacles.”
Describing himself as looking from the Middle East, Garayev said: “The agent never looked at my documents. How did she make her decision? How would she know if I am an essential worker or not? My colleague went through the same process, so based on what decision did she make? ”