Let’s start this with something pretty…
There we go. Now that we’ve set the mood, I promised that I would fill you in on what happened with Canada. So here goes…
For starters the flight from La Guardia to Toronto was rerouted to Buffalo because of some heavy storms at the airport. Then we were herded on to a bus to drive us there because Toronto wasn’t that far away. No big deal.
Then we get to customs and I’m singled out of 30 people so I can be questioned/inspected/whatever’d. I’m asked what I do for a living, why I’m coming to Canada, where I’m staying, who I’m staying with, what I’m there for, who I’m visiting, what I ate for breakfast, my third dog’s left toe color, and what constellations are visible from China in May…
Ok so maybe not the last three, but still a lot of questions. All of which I answered honestly, quickly and kindly. If you have ever met me you know that’s just how I am, all day every day. I’m going to summarize all of this because I don’t really care to relive it.
The problem started when I got the immigrations officer from hell. More specifically the problems started when I had my cameras with me. “Why would you bring your cameras here if you weren’t planning on taking jobs from Canadians?”
“Because I’m a tourist that’s also a photographer…why wouldn’t I bring a camera?”
We had to have gone over that specific point at least a dozen times. Then I had to sit, alone and completely clueless for nearly 3 hours while they apparently researched everything they could possibly find out about me. All the while nobody would tell me what was going on. Then they call me into an interrogation room where I’m asked the same questions again, and again, and again.
Finally the immigration lady (badge 140378 if I remember right) says that she doesn’t believe anything I’ve said and that I’m not allowed into Canada. I’m told I’ll be dropped off on the bridge at the American border and will have to find my own way home. No paperwork, no information and no help whatsoever. I’m put in the back of a police car and driven across the border where I have to call a cab to the airport and book another flight back.
I’m not going to beat on Canada here, I have no problem with the place…I would have liked to be able to visit it. I do have a problem with being treated like a criminal and not being allowed to prove the truth of the answers to the questions I’m asked. I have a problem with ignorant, bull-headed people in positions of power. I have a problem with the fact that one person having a bad day can cost me $800 and a vacation that I’ve been looking forward to for months. I have a problem with the fact that I know plenty of other photographers who flew in just like I did, that weren’t accosted the way I was.
Finally, I have a problem with the fact that there is nothing I can do about it.
File a complaint? That’s a waste of my time, it’s not like I can be sent back in time to see my friends compete in a world championship event. What will they do? Give the lady a warning? Please, I have better things to do.
What I would like is a written apology from the Canadian Immigration Office and a check for my expenses as a result of this ordeal. But I know it won’t happen…so why waste the energy? I sit in a room next to people reeking of weed who get to go on in…and I’m not allowed to because of a professional camera and some business cards. Tell me how that makes sense…
Oh, and immigration lady, just in case you happen to be reading this (since you gushed about how much you love my work). Despite what I’d like to say to you…let me thank you for a wonderful first experience with your country. I hope your night improved from whatever caused you to behave in such an unprofessional manner while I was there.
And now you know the gist of the story.
See you tomorrow,