A man was denied boarding his return flight with his niece for lack of a certified consent letter
It’s not uncommon for parents to invite their child’s best friend or closest cousin to join them on a family trip.
With that in mind, Dex Clarke and his sister Simone Pratt knew what it meant to include S’naia, Clarke’s eight-year-old niece, in his plans to visit family in Toronto with her young son and daughter.
“My daughter could leave now and spend a week and everyone would come back together. It was the girls’ dream to travel together,” Pratt told CityNews in an interview from Jamaica where the family lives.
She knew from her daughter’s previous trips to the United States that her brother might be asked for a letter of consent from parents or guardians for a designated adult or group to supervise a child while traveling to the United States. abroad by Canadian border officials.
« So I wrote the letter. I wrote the letter by hand. I put in my contact information, my email address, my phone number and I signed the letter, » said Pratt, who is S’naia’s legal guardian, anticipating that she might be contacted by a border or airline agent.
Clarke tells CityNews that when the four of them arrived at Pearson Airport from Montego Bay, he delivered the letter to a Canadian immigration officer.
“So they took her away. I backed up and the officer asked him a few questions. They asked where was she going? Who was I to her? And she just let us through. And so everything was fine.
But a week later, when the family was about to fly home, they ran into a situation at the Air Canada check-in counter that left S’naia behind.
« I started giving him the same letter I used at the entrance. Before he even read it, he looked at it and said ‘no, this has to be certified,’ explains Clarke, ‘I say why? You know, this is how we used to enter the country, so why can’t we leave now? »
According to Clarke, the Air Canada employee kept repeating that S’naia could not board the plane with him unless she had a certified letter from her parent or guardian, pointing out that it was a travel requirement.
But according to immigration attorney Colleen E. Coleman Wright, no such requirement exists for Jamaican minors returning home.
“Jamaica’s constitution guarantees that all Jamaican nationals holding a passport, holder of a passport, have an automatic right of return. So I am not aware of any policy, regulation, law requiring a letter of permission to be notarized and as such to deny a minor the right to board a flight,” Wright told CityNews.
Although she says there is no stated requirement that the letter be notarized or certified, she advises taking that extra step in hopes of preventing these types of scenarios.
“The issue with the letter is how does it relate to coming to Canada because it is a requirement of Canada. Jamaica does not require a letter for a minor to re-enter Jamaica.
CityNews contacted the Jamaican Consulate General and the Jamaica Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency to confirm, but did not hear back in time for publication.
The letter does not need to be certified, but is highly recommended
Canada’s immigration and citizenship page outlines the requirement if a minor child is traveling with someone other than their parents or legal guardian, stating that « the letter does not need to be certified » to enter. in Canada
Similar information is written on the CTA website, “There is no Canadian requirement for the consent letter to be witnessed by a notary public. However, we strongly recommend that you do so, as border officials will be less likely to question the authenticity of the letter.
CityNews has contacted Air Canada to inquire about the rules for returning a Jamaican minor with an uncertified consent letter.
Although Air Canada declined to comment on this specific case, they noted that the customer has an obligation to ensure that they have the correct documents, that each situation is unique and that only customers are in a position to know their particular situation, with reference to travel documents for children. tab on their website.
- A parental consent letter or affidavit authorizing travel (if the child is traveling with one parent, the letter must be signed and dated by the other parent; if the child is traveling without their parents, the letter must be signed and dated by both parents.)
« You should also be aware that airlines that carry people who do not have the correct travel documents may be subject to fines. »
But what confused Clarke was that the Air Canada agent did not ask for a signed certified consent letter for his two children, as he was the only adult traveling with the minors.
« Nothing came. There was no doubt about it. There was no question. No investigation, » he said. « I don’t know, again because the names are the same. Maybe they just watched it.
Clarke called her sister in Toronto to return to the airport to pick up S’naia, an already stressful situation made more difficult as airline staff allegedly rushed her to make a flight that her niece of eight years could not board.
“The option was, there really wasn’t an option. Are you leaving now? You have to decide now because the plane is ready to board. That was basically it. It wasn’t like getting something at a later date. It was just like, decide now.
Pratt was on the phone with his brother from Jamaica who had called from Toronto’s Pearson airport while this was all unfolding.
« It happens, at no point did the supervisor say, ok, let’s put them on a later flight and see if we can get the letter or something. I offered to send the electronic copy and they said they couldn’t take it over the phone,” she explained, adding that an Air Canada representative confirmed to her by phone later that day that an electronic copy would have been acceptable.
S’naia had to stay in Toronto and returned to Jamaica a week later after arrangements were made for her to fly as an unaccompanied minor, which cost Pratt an additional $175 Canadian change fee included.
Clarke adds that he understands the need for the letter saying, « We wouldn’t want a security breach to cause anything or anyone to be trafficked. »
But this consideration should have been taken into account that it was the same letter used to enter Canada, with the same family and that she was returning home with a Jamaican passport in hand.
« I think it was a bit traumatic for S’naia to be left alone. I mean we were still with the family. But we were all looking forward to traveling together.