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I have recently been to Canada. On my return flight to Europe, just outside airplane's door, I was questioned by the officer. I was asked where I was going to, how much money I have on me (and he was interested both in the amount of Canadian dollars I have as well as the currency of my destination country) and what is my occupation. In fact other passangers were questioned as well. As far as I can tell the answers were not recorded.

I am very curious as to what was the purpose of this questioning? While I understand that those kind of questions might have been asked when I was entering Canada, I don't really see the point of them being asked just before my return flight. In fact those questions were much more detailed than those I was asked when entering Canada.

EDIT: Thanks for claryfying the money question. But why I was asked for my occupation as well? I hope that if they found out I had skills that are in demand in Canada they would still let me out? :)

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Canada, like the US (and the EU for that matter), requires reporting of cash exports over the amount of 10,000 (CAD, USD, or EUR, depending on the jurisdiction). This is almost certainly why he asked about other currencies, because the account is calculated by converting everything to the currency in which the limit is defined and then adding it all up. It's legal to export (or import) larger amounts, but it's not legal to fail to report them.

See for example here:

Currency and Monetary Instruments in Circulation

  1. Currency and monetary instruments in circulation may have to be reported to the CBSA using one of the methods outlined in Memorandum D19-14-1 Cross-border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting. Currency and monetary instruments valued at CAD$10,000 or more have to be reported on Form E677, Cross-border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report – Individual, E667, Cross-border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report – General or E668, Cross-border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report Made by Person in Charge of Conveyance. Other than the above, no export declaration is required.

Emphasis and links removed.

With regard to your edit, investigators often ask irrelevant questions or questions to which they already know the answer to gauge the reaction of the subject of the interrogation. This can help them evaluate the person's credibility. Such questions may also elicit information that is relevant to the investigation at hand or to other possible lines of inquiry. For example, it may have been established that people in certain occupations or traveling to certain destinations are more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash or committing some other violation.

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  • Is it legal in OP's case to not answer these questions? Would they actually prevent a person from boarding the plane if all he wants to do is go home and not answer any "do you have any change mate?" questions from the official? – kiradotee Jun 27 '19 at 10:45
  • @kiradotee If you aren't compliant they can definitely make you miss your flight at a minimum. Customs officials usually have very broad powers to question, detain and search people crossing a border. – MJeffryes Jun 27 '19 at 12:20
  • @kiradotee regardless of whether it's legal not to answer it would very likely trigger a very thorough search. If the officer is sufficiently annoyed, it would not be difficult to ensure that the search takes so long as to make the passenger miss the flight. – phoog Jun 27 '19 at 12:39
  • @phoog What would happen if after the search customs officials are satisfied that everything is fine but because of the search length the customer has missed their flight? Is it their problem or customer just gets strangled in the airside (for example, with no money or means to buy a new ticket themselves)? If they just put you onto the next flight for free, sounds alright personally speaking. – kiradotee Jun 27 '19 at 12:49
  • @kiradotee I'm not sure. I suppose the airline would rebook the passenger, but if it were known to the airline that the passenger had been uncooperative they might be less inclined to do so without charge. – phoog Jun 27 '19 at 12:59
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Many countries, including Canada, limit the amount of (undeclared) cash you are allowed to carry in and/or out of the country.

If you had answered them for example '$20000', you would have been in trouble, and they might have just confiscated your money. If you lie, and get caught, it could be worse.

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  • they only confiscate if they cannot prove the source of the funds, ie if the funds were procured by an illegal action ("working in Canada"). If you declare it to them at that point, you're not penalized (source: Border Security: Canada's front line TV show) – Matthew Barclay Dec 5 '19 at 14:50

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