I know that everyone wants the pandemic to end and all the entry rules and tests that go along with it, to end. I’m one of them. However, after flying into Canada for the first time in just over three years, I think the Canucks have gotten one thing right … random testing.

If you recall, on April 1, Canada dropped the entry rule requiring all travelers to show proof of a negative Covid test taken within the past 24 hours. However, they kept the mandatory ArriveCan form and the random Covid testing.

I hope they drop the ArriveCan form as there are some things that are confusing and it takes time to fill out. But I do like that they randomly test passengers on arrivals for a couple of reasons, which I will get to shortly.

First, my wife, two kids and I flew from New York’s LaGuardia Airport (BTW Terminal B at LGA is my new favorite U.S. terminal) to Toronto Pearson, and we got lucky in so many ways … from our Blacklane driver showing up early (they always do) to the weather. FYI: Use code JOHNNY15JUNE22 to save 15% off your first Blacklane ride when booked in June for future rides. Here’s more about Blacklane, a service that offers luxury ground transportation with professional drivers

We took American Airlines’ first flight out of LGA to Toronto at 8:31am on a Wednesday morning so we beat traffic to the airport and there was no line at check-in, security and most importantly, at immigration.

We were most worried about the line at immigration because we’ve heard and read horror stories about flying into (and out of) Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ) because of their long queues. In fact, the news about it was so bad that I wrote a tip suggesting travelers might want to avoid YYZ altogether and fly in/out of YTZ or drive across the border.

But fortunately, everything worked out perfectly for us yesterday. We breezed through immigration and there were no long lines anywhere. Things continued to go smoothly, even when Natalie got a pink sticker placed on the front of her passport. I had no idea the immigration officer had placed stickers on our passports until we exited customs and immigration in YYZ’s Terminal 3. At the end of the walkway, there was an agent asking to see everyone’s passports. It was then that I saw my wife had a pink sticker on hers while my kids and I all had green ones. I quickly realized it wasn’t because she’s Canadian and we’re American; it was because she got randomly selected for Covid testing.

Instead of taking a left towards the exit like the majority of arriving passengers, she was directed to take a right to go get tested. The kids and I couldn’t go with her to the testing area which, pre-pandemic, was T3’s welcome area. These days, it’s filled with Covid testing and personnel.

At first, I was really bummed because I thought the process would take forever and we would be stuck there for a long time. But the whole thing ended up only being eight minutes. I’m guessing it was so quick because it was mid-morning on a Wednesday. But here’s Natalie’s experience in her own words:

“I was surprised to see that my passport had a pink sticker on it and even more surprised to realize that I was being pulled aside for random Covid testing. I had no problem with it, though. Throughout the process, everyone was extremely helpful and friendly.

First, I was directed to a woman, who led me to a team of two, waiting at a computer. They confirmed my identity and my arrival flight information. From there, I was escorted to another person who walked me to the makeshift testing area. The tester, dressed in full PPE, confirmed my identity again, then swabbed the inside of my mouth and my nose. That was it, all done, much quicker than I had expected. I was told that I would be notified of my test results, which I was, via email.”

There are two reasons I think random testing is a good thing: 1. It gives the government an idea how many people are entering the country with the virus and from where; 2. It’s a quick, easy way for travelers to get a free PCR test and have peace of mind if you test negative or know to take the necessary precautions if you test positive.

We’re visiting Natalie’s mother so we worried about possibly exposing her to Covid and some doctors say the free rapid tests that the U.S. government provide aren’t always reliable unless you show symptoms. So the only real way to tell is to get a PCR test, which isn’t cheap.

As Natalie said above, she was emailed the results and they came in less than 24 hours after the test. I’m happy to report she tested negative so we’re feeling relieved that we’re not unknowingly spreading the virus. Yeah! Let’s hope that continues.

Have you’ve been randomly selected at YYZ for Covid testing? How was your experience and how long did it take? Please leave a comment below.

14 Comments On "My Wife Got Randomly Selected For Covid Testing on Arrival at Toronto Pearson – And That’s Not a Bad Thing"
  1. Anonymous|

    How long was she on mandatory quarantine?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      She is fully vaccinated so not required to quarantine. Here’s more information: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/isolation

  2. SteveC|

    As a Canadian I’m glad that folks (including our own citizens traveling) are bring randomly tested with the highly accurate PCR testing. I’m also glad to read above that its a painless quick process. I believe this is a great balance between safety and ease of travel. Thanks for the great blog post about it. Thank you as well for the plethora of information you provide Johnny! I’m glad I found you through the Tech Guy podcast!

  3. A. M.|

    According to your own description, she was selected for testing without being properly notified about that. Arriving travellers that are selected for testing should be notified verbally by the CBSA officer and given an information page explaining the process and their obligations, as part of that process. For example, your wife will get a phone call from a specific number that she must answer, and then confirm her test results in that call (and hear a bunch of automated messages containing threats, and treating her like a potential criminal) . I guess she hadn’t yet received these calls. She also must update the PHAC with her whereabouts, since she could have been required to quarantine.

    Anyways, the more important point here is the purpose of the random testing (i.e. how does it help public health). They only select 5% of arrivals, so it’s not actually preventing most Covid positive people from entering Canada. So it’s only done for statistical sampling, to determine if a lot of infected people are coming in, and if they carry new variants (I guess). There is a valid question if this testing at the airport is the best way to get that statistics. Also, the size of the sample, which is only 5%, but it still ends up being thousands of people every day, which causes huge delays and inconvenience, as well as actual anxiety to a lot of travellers, even though you could get the same statistics by doing just a fraction of the of test (e.g. 0.1% or less).

    I’m sorry your family had to go thru that as it’s completely redundant and doesn’t advance “public health” even one bit. I’m also sorry you actually think that was a good thing.

  4. Anon|

    My wife received an email saying someone she had travelled with 3 days after entry had been selected for random testing…that was me. As I had been given a green sticker on my passport I thought this was a scam. The next day I got a call purportedly from Govt of Canada following up on e mail. After calling the number they provided I realized that e mail was real. I explained that I was never notified at the airport of this testing requirement. The Govt representative then checked with someone else and he came back to insist that I get a test. This requirement meant a phone call to LifeLabs . After waiting on the line for an age I got a LifeLabs representative who patiently took me through a very involved process on line to order a kit. He said the kit should arrive in about 4 business days. I have now been home for a week and no kit yet. When it arrives I have to do a video administered test. I have no idea what the value of this test is in respect to my travels as if it turns out to be positive I could have been infected anywhere.

  5. Gail|

    This is all becoming a ridiculous overkill. A person gets a green sticker put on their passport..
    they continue down the hallway, hearing a person say…’those with a green sticker stay to your left, & those with a pink sticker(or whatever other colour) stay to the right. When I had a green sticker,
    it meant I was clear..free to go. For a person to get a phone call from the Govt of Canada about a testing, especially since they were free to leave the airport, this to me is very very wrong.
    One thing about these coloured stickers…the Border Service Officer who put the sticker on the passport, never stamped the passport, nor did he say anything. How could it be proven that someone was selected for a random test if they removed the sticker?
    Anon..had I been in your situation, I most certainly would have challenged the requirement of
    your random testing. What grounds did the Got rep state that you are required to have the test?
    Something isn’t right with this.

  6. Leah|

    I arrived June 7 2022, never knew I was randomly selected since I was never told. I had no luggage so after border control I walked straight out of airport with no one asking to look at my passport or direct me anywhere. Only today I relieve a robocall saying I was selected. I reside outside of Canada and am leaving Monday June 13. I have no idea if I will be stopped leaving the country. Anyone have any suggestions.

  7. Mathew Jones|

    My wife just got a call saying she was selected for a random test and did not take one. She also got a green sticker and was not told she was selected. She has been on the phone all morning at the cost of missing work and has been on hold with Lifelabs for two hours.

    She was selected for a random test the last time she came in. Not that random!

    Either do the testing properly and inform people at the airport or do not do it at all.

  8. Vaxed x4|

    Absolutely unnecessary. I am flying to Canada next month, and ridiculous random testing (and threat of 10-day quarantine) like this makes me (fully vaccinated and twice boosted) consider dumping those plans and taking my money to a different country that has moved beyond this lunacy!

  9. RAL|

    Agree with AM’s post. “It’s completely redundant and doesn’t advance “public health” even one bit. I’m also sorry you actually think that was a good thing.”

  10. Janet|

    I got selected for random testing via email (after I was already more than halfway to my hotel) when flying into Vancouver YVR. I am only staying for 4 days and my phone internet is slow so it’s been really hard to get the right info. I was on the phone with ArriveCAN and they said to call Lifelabs and said to call them back “if I can’t get the test done within 4 days”. After being on hold with Lifelabs for over half an hour and really hungry, I decided to try again tomorrow. I have a Lifelabs appointment booked for tomorrow and also some sort of arrival registration number? All this to say that this whole outsourced thing is a big hassle. I wish they just stopped me at the airport to take a test so that I don’t have to go back to the airport tomorrow on my already super short trip to see if I could possibly get this ArriveCAN stuff sorted out.

  11. Lynn|

    As a health care professional I understand the need for this testing to assist in controlling this virus. I enjoyed my trip to Canada last week.

  12. Amanda|

    We arrive in YYZ Friday evening and are leaving by land Tuesday morning. I read it can take 4 days to receive your results if chosen for random testing. My question is what if you don’t get your results back before your departure? Do they prevent you from leaving the country (or entering the United States)?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Amanda

      They didn’t a few months ago so I wouldn’t worry about it

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