Monday 6 April, 2020

96-y-o Canadian denied flight home from Jamaica over passport issue

File photo

File photo

Despite being a dual Canadian-British citizen, a 96-year-old man who flew to Jamaica to attend a funeral was not allowed to board a flight home to Canada - because he did not have a valid passport belonging to that country.

As a consequence, the senior citizen and his daughter, who had accompanied him to Jamaica, were forced to use their ingenuity and take a flight to Buffalo in the United States, then drive across the Canadian border to their home in Toronto.

The situation has left the daughter, Karen Johnson, upset as her father, Charles Smith, was running out of his medication, and he was also worried that he might be arrested in Jamaica for being present in the country without a Canadian passport.

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Johnson, a permanent resident of Canada, told CTV News Toronto that they had booked two round-trip Business Class tickets with Air Canada to Jamaica in late January, to attend the funeral of a family member. They both flew to Jamaica without issue using their valid British passports.

However, on February 11, Johnson and Smith were told that there was a problem that would affect them returning home to Toronto as smoothly as they came to Jamaica.

"When we went to check in, the agent said my father couldn't fly because his documents aren't in order," Johnson told CTV News Toronto on Friday.

"Johnson was told by an Air Canada agent that because her father is a dual Canadian citizen, he needs a valid Canadian passport to re-enter the country," CTV News Toronto reported.

According to the Government of Canada's website, starting in November 2016, dual Canadian citizens can no longer travel to, or transit through, Canada by air with a non-Canadian passport. The major exception to this rule is for American-Canadian dual citizens, who can travel with either passport, the online news entity further reported.

Underscoring that her father had flown into Canada on several occasions prior to 2016 without a Canadian passport, Johnson said they were both unaware of the rule change.

The father and daughter missed their flight, as the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica subsequently agreed with the position of the Air Canada agent that the senior citizen required a Canadian passport to fly home. Processing the document would take up to seven working days, Embassy officials reportedly told the pair.

Further recounting her plight on the Caribbean island to CTV News Toronto, Johnson said because her father’s supply of medication was running out, she needed to find a quicker option home.

Then came the solution, albeit at some significantly extra cost.

"It was suggested by someone that we could fly through America and then drive across the Canadian border... The following day we went back to the airport and booked a flight to Buffalo," Johnson shared with the Canadian news outlet.

Nearly 24 hours after they were originally scheduled to depart Jamaica, the pair flew to Buffalo, New York, a city next to Niagara Falls, Ontario. They rented a car and drove across the border without issue, and arrived home safely, CTV News Toronto reported.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Smith said they are yet to be reimbursed for their Canadian $1,500 fight back to Toronto, which they were not allowed to take up.

She also said she wished Air Canada had warned them about the passport issue before they left Canada, noting that they had departed the country to Jamaica with no issue being raised about their travel documents.

Johnson has filed a formal complaint with the airline, and is awaiting a response, according to CTV News Toronto.

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