New requirement catches some travellers to Canada by surprise

An Electronic Travel Authorization is now required for some travellers flying into Canada. The federal government says the measure is meant to screen people before they arrive in Canada.

Robin Ince misses gig after failing to apply for Canada's new electronic authorization

Robin Ince missed a gig with Chris Hadfield after failing to get a new eTA. (Facebook)

Robin Ince tells jokes for a living, so when he was stopped at Heathrow Airport on his way to a gig scheduled for last Saturday night in Toronto hosted by former astronaut Chris Hadfield, he thought someone was pulling a fast one.

Not so.

Staff at the Air Canada check-in counter asked him for his Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

"That's when it all went wrong," Ince said in a phone interview Tuesday with CBC Toronto from backstage at a show in Cardiff, Wales. He ended up missing his flight.

"It's the first time I've let down an astronaut," he joked.

An eTA is now required for some travellers flying into Canada. The federal government says the measure is meant to screen people before they arrive in the country.

The federal government has introduced a new requirement for some travellers flying into Canada. (Mike Hillman/CBC News)

American citizens are exempted and so are people from countries that require a visa.

But air passengers from Australia, France, England and more than 50 other countries will now need an eTA.

The government has posted a full list here.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC Toronto in an email that an eTA is "not a new concept," adding other countries, including the U.S., have enforced similar requirements.

"It improves the safety of Canadians by helping us identify and prevent those who are inadmissible from travelling to Canada," wrote Sonia Lesage.

In a video, the federal government says the application costs $7 and takes minutes to process.

Ince unfortunately was left waiting much longer.

"I was unlucky and it didn't go through for 11 hours," he said.

Ince says he wasn't the only one on his flight who came without an eTA.

"I think it's a good idea for all travel agents and any airline to have something in big bold [lettering] that just says 'new regulations.'"  

Feds need to do more to warn travellers, Air Canada says

Air Canada says it's been working to get the word out about the government's change through its social media and website.

"We have been encouraging the government to do more to publicize its eTA requirement," said Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Air Canada.

"We believe the government needs to take immediate steps to further communicate their new policy."

WestJet also told CBC Toronto that it sends out special email alerts to travellers 72 hours before their flights.

The new requirement came into effect in March. There was a grace period that ended at the beginning of this month.

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.