Travellers Demand Compensation as Canada’s eTA System Failure Strands Passengers

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In a recent turn of events, numerous travellers affected by errors at Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) are demanding compensation for financial losses and missed opportunities. The government’s Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system experienced a critical outage from June 8 to June 10, causing inconvenience and distress for many passengers who had made travel arrangements and had their documents in order. Even those transiting through Canada en route to other destinations found themselves unable to board their flights.

The eTA system, which costs $7, is a mandatory requirement for international travellers from visa-waiver countries, including Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and several countries in the European Union. These countries’ residents are exempt from obtaining visas to visit Canada. Unfortunately, IRCC’s failure to adequately prepare for the surge in eTA applications following the expansion of the system to include 13 new countries led to the system crash. The expanded eTA system now covers a population of over a quarter of a billion people.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser acknowledged the government’s anticipation of increased demand but admitted that it surpassed their expectations. According to Fraser, IRCC received up to 25,000 eTA applications per day after the system expansion, with a significant portion coming from the Philippines. This failure to foresee the surge in demand is reminiscent of IRCC’s previous oversight when travel restrictions were lifted and there was a subsequent surge in passport applications.

While the eTA portal has now been fixed and Minister Fraser expresses confidence in its ability to handle future demand, the fix came too late for many travellers who experienced substantial financial losses. One such case involves Ana and Gloria Garcia Mendoza, two sisters from Mexico who missed their first-ever trip outside their country. They had planned to attend their niece’s graduation ceremony in Vancouver, but the system failure prevented them from boarding their flight. The sisters, who run their own small flower shop, had already spent over $3,000 on non-refundable tickets and accommodation. Their niece, Patricia Gomez Barajas, expressed disappointment in the lack of effective communication and support from IRCC, stating that her family feels abandoned and unheard.

Another affected traveller, Dorothy Barry from Ireland, had hoped to reunite with her brother in Calgary after eight years apart. However, the eTA system failure caused her significant trouble. Despite numerous attempts to complete the process, she was unable to finalize her eTA successfully. Consequently, she lost her non-refundable flight and had to pay for an alternative ticket at a considerable cost. Barry expressed her dissatisfaction with the system failure, the absence of a backup plan, and the refusal to waive the requirement for an unattainable document. She emphasized the need for a backup solution in case electronic systems fail.

Minister Fraser has not ruled out the possibility of compensating affected travellers, and the IRCC is currently collecting information to assess the impact and identify potential solutions. He acknowledged the need to differentiate between cases where the government is responsible for missed opportunities and cases where travellers applied at the last minute. Patricia Gomez Barajas, hopeful for a resolution, has received an email indicating that IRCC is reviewing her case. Dorothy Barry plans to seek reimbursement from travel insurance but believes that ultimately it is the responsibility of the Canadian government to compensate her for the financial loss.

As travellers affected by the eTA system failure await a resolution, the government faces mounting pressure to address their financial losses and the missed opportunities caused by this unfortunate incident. The demand for compensation grows louder, urging authorities to take responsibility and ensure that such system failures do not happen again in the future.

CBC News

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