I'm a Canadian citizen, traveling from Canada to the US. I have a 5-hour layover in Toronto where I will continue to Minneapolis. Will I need to claim my baggage to take it through customs at YYZ? If so, will I need to claim it as soon as I arrive? Not looking to carry around my bags for 5 hours if I can avoid it, and I can't find a clear answer online. I'm transferring from WestJet to Delta at Toronto, and the whole itinerary was booked through WestJet. I called them and they just told me the ticket agent would tell me what to do.
In my experience, and I've only done this two times, it is not necessary to claim your bags and recheck them when connecting to a precleared flight to the US from Canada. Apparently, if US customs officers want to search your checked bags they will put them and you together in a room for that purpose, but otherwise you will not see your checked bags until you get to your final destination in the US.
The reason you were told so because they are not up to date. The situation has very recently improved (last month, if I am not mistaken) and your bags now through check. Even if they don't you won't hug them for five hours, the traditional flow is deplane - collect bags -- go through US customs -- drop them off at the belts just after. But, again, I believe this is now past and your bags travel all the way. Air Canada was the first but now I think WS-DL is doing it too.