Hundreds of travellers were “herded like cattle” leaving many “traumatized” upon landing in Toronto’s Pearson Airpor last weekend, said traveller Lloyd Ypma.
Ypma told the Western Standard he was travelling back from a fishing trip in Cuba with 20 others last Saturday when the incident occurred. Upon arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport at 11:30 p.m., Ypma said hundreds of travellers were “herded” into a small COVID-19 testing room for “random PCR testing.”
“They say it’s random, but there was nothing random about it,” said Ypma.
“Everyone in my group was picked along with hundreds of others,” said Ypma estimating there were “three to four hundred people crammed in this small room.
“They herded us like cattle, pushing us right tight against each other. ‘Keep going, keep going. Move ahead, move ahead,’ they kept yelling at us while pushed and pushed people. It was just disgusting.”
Ypma said he was not provided with an explanation as to why they had been singled out for additional testing even though he said he asked a couple of times.
“We did everything they asked us to do in order to travel back into Canada. We had everything in order and did our test before leaving Cuba,” said Ypma.
“Some of the guys in my group are American and they said they had never seen anything like this before in their life. I’ve never been more disgusted to be a Canadian.
“Old people were crying because no one was helping them with this app they wanted us to use, families, husbands, wives were split up. People were being traumatized. It was just so disgusting how they were treating people.”
Ypma said he is not “one of those people who complains much, but this went too far.
“They say we’re supposed to stay six feet apart, but here they were pushing people together so everyone was touching — that’s how tight they had us.”
Ypma said the ordeal lasted for the better part of an hour and overheard people had missed flights while being delayed for the random testing.
“We’re sorry to hear about the experience of the travellers that you spoke to,” said a Toronto Pearson spokesperson in an e-mail to the Western Standard.
“The Federal Government is leading Canada’s COVID-19 response, including randomized testing upon arrival.”
The spokesperson said it is the airport’s policy to instruct travellers to “maintain a safe distance from other passengers where possible,” adding it recognized in some areas of the airport, “physical distancing of two metres may not be possible.”
“In these cases, the Government suggests a layered approach with multiple protective measures — including mask-wearing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and ventilation systems.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked very closely with government agencies, airlines and other airport partners to keep passengers and employees safe and protected. To learn more, check out torontopearson.com/healthyairport.”
The airport spokesperson directed the Western Standard to contact the Public Health Agency of Canada which oversees Canada’s response to COVID-19 including “randomized testing upon arrival” at Canadian airports.
A spokesperson from the agency has promised a response. We will update this story when it comes.
More to come…
Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard