By Felicia Persaud
News Americas, TORONTO, Canada, Fri. July 26, 2013: So after some 17 plus years of living in New York City, I finally ventured over the border to Toronto, Canada.
To be honest, Canada has never held any appeal for me – not even talk of a perfectly clean city or cheap medical drugs and health care that puts Obama care to shame – could entice me to the country of the maple leaf.
To me Canada was always a cold place, much colder than New York and not some place I had on my top ten list of to dos. I’d much rather go aross the Mexican border than Canada. That is until a friend of mine decided she wanted to venture into the tough institution called marriage and the celebration would be in Toronto, her homeland and I must be there.
So on Wednesday, July 24th I cautiously boarded a plane for Toronto. The first indication of “trouble” was when the American Airlines flight air conditioning unit gave out and we were forced to endure an hour delay on a hot plane on the tarmac of La Guardia Airport.
Landing an hour or so later at Toronto Pearson’s Airport, I was ready to hit the ground running and embrace the experiences that this new city held, especially since a huge billboard showcasing costumed Caribbean revellers jumped out at me on the escalator ride down.
That is until Customs and Immigration a la Canada.
After hiking a mile plus – up escalators, down halls and down escalators again – to the immigration, I was at least happy to see few lines and no crowds. I soon found out why as I made my way up to the immigration officer working the visitor’s section.
Handing him my passport and form, I waited for the customary Welcome to Canada but none came. Instead he looked at me and asked the purpose of my visit.
And so began my grilling. Why was I in Toronto?, Did I have a ticket back? Did I pay for my own ticket in? When did I buy the ticket? How long did I know my friend? Where did we meet? Did I realy have an invitation to the wedding? and was I brininging any gifts?
And then he threw in another series of by the way questions that made you wonder what manual these immigration officers study. “So do you work in New York? What do you do? Is it full-time or part-time and oh by the way, when are you planning on leaving Toronto?”
“Really MF! I just got here and do you think I would leave New York to live illegally in Canada?” I wanted to scream! But the rational part of my brain kicked in and I smiled and answered all his questions as succinctly and as cooly as I could muster, and then asked if he wanted to see the invitation to my friend’s wedding. “It’s really lovely,” I say, sarcasm intended.
But it was not over. I moved from guy number one who looked like he was from the Caribbean to another around the corner who looked like he owned the border – and the questions started all over again.
Almost the same play by play version of the first encounter. And no – there was no Welcome to Canada either. Sad to say Canadian Tourism Commission! I’ll remember this the next time I see your glossy ‘Come Visit Canada’ ad.
As I finally got my luggage and exited the airport I could not help but think of how really good this crew made Caribbean immigration officers, who get a bad rap, look. Whoever said they are bad must never have ventured to the city where it seems its winter all year round,beginning at immigration.
And if the chill of immigration was not enough to turn you off, try getting hit in the face by what felt like a chilly 60 plus degree blast as you exit. Who said this city has summers?, I grumble as I grab for a jacket.
Another touch down for the Caribbean! Who would have thought?
About The Writer: Felicia Persaud was last seen bundled up, scarf and all, in the supposed summer of Toronto.