Just one mistake? Then welcome back to Canada
Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size
Just one mistake? Then welcome back to Canada
Does Canada's 'competency' reg for boaters apply to Americans?
Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 10:00 am
By Tim Spielman Associate Editor | 0 comments
Dryden, Ontario — Like hundreds of other resort owners and outfitters in northwest Ontario, Bob Paluch says his fishing lodge saw a significant drop in clientele when Canadian border officials a few years ago began a crackdown on Americans with past offenses, most notably drunk driving convictions. According to some, rejections at the border became more prevalent a few years ago when the United States instituted a passport requirement for re-entry to the States.
But a federal Canadian policy directive could lead this year to an influx of those with a single black mark on their records, those with one drunken driving offense, for example.
“We lost a lot of people; our business was hurt a solid 15 to 20 percent, said Paluch, owner and operator of Temple Bay Lodge on Eagle Lake in Ontario.
Others weren’t as fortunate, according to Gerry Cariou, executive director of Sunset Country Travel Association. Not only were more Americans turned away at places like International Falls and Baudette, but fewer hunters and fishers were heading to far-away locations thanks to high gas prices and a poor economy in general.
“I know that some businesses went out of business because of (the loss of a certain tourist segment),” Cariou said, adding that revenues at some smaller resorts and lodges previously was just clearing expenses.
“We probably lost a lot of people (anglers, hunters) permanently, but probably 80 percent of those turned away fell into that (one offense) category.”
Under current Canadian law, one conviction is the same as four, and it doesn’t matter if that conviction occurred last month, or last decade. But now, federal officials in Canada say, an exemption will make it possible for some of those with drunken driving convictions to visit the country to hunt, fish, or for any other reason – once.
The new directive was announced last week during a conference call led by Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism. The policy is part of a Tourism Facilitation Action Plan.
According to the TFAP, “Many tourists are stopped and denied entry at our borders because they are deemed inadmissible for having a minor criminal offense on their record. Often, these are outdated misdemeanors or minor infractions that took place decades ago.
“It is a dubious and intrusive rule,” the TFAP continues. “ … the current process for those refused is overly burdensome and requires substantial supporting documents and records that are not easily available. This rule results in millions of dollars in lost revenue from would-be tourists and has a negative bilateral effect.”
Greg Rickford, a conservative party member of Canada’s parliament, representing the Kenora District of Ontario, has pushed for the one-time exemption, until a long-term solution is found.
“As of March 1, this goes into full effect,” Rickford said earlier this week.
Rickford said he’s “championed the cause” on behalf of the tourism industry in northwest Ontario, but the rejection of some Americans with but one offense was felt elsewhere in the country, like British Columbia and in larger cities.
When elected in 2008, “I made it my personal agenda as a passionate fisherman” to help the Kenora-area resort industry, he said.
Minnesota fishermen and hunters might want to make the best use of the exemption possible: “If we don’t get a long-term policy in effect this year,” only once can people with minor convictions use the exemption to cross the border, according to Rickford.
“If you come back a second time, you must have the temporary documentation and $200 fee already dealt with,” he said, referring to the paperwork and fees required to enter the country following a conviction in the United States. In Canada, it’s often referred to as “rehabilitation” documentation.
Convictions considered “major” still may preclude entry of Americans to Canada. Rickford said the exemption is for those with “one singular minor offense, including a DUI, punishable by less than six months in jail.”
However, he added, “discretion still rests with the border guard (the CBSA, or Canadian Border Services Agency).
“In no way do we condone any criminal action,” Rickford said. “But we recognized the past mistakes of people.”
Cariou says it’s best for Americans entering Canada to be “up front” with border guards, and to be polite.
For now, those in the tourism industry are working to get those once rejected to come back to Canada.
“Obviously, it’s a good thing,” Cariou says of the new policy.
Rickford said federal officials in Canada intend to work with members of the tourism industry, resorters, and American counterparts to “reconcile” differences in border-crossing rules, and to eventually establish a long-term policy that’s acceptable to most involved in the issue.
“It’s unclear how long it will be until a long-term solution is found,” he said. “But it’s very much on our radar screen.”
Cariou said such a long-term policy is important. “It would be ridiculous if it goes back to the same thing next year; it would make the country look even worse,” he said.
Paluch believes the exemption will inspire several sportsmen with one-time, minor offenses to return to Canada to hunt or fish. In fact, he has an acquaintance who works with first-time DUI offenders in Minnesota – a new group each week. “And the number one thing that comes up is, ‘we can’t go to Canada anymore,’ ” he said.
For more information on requirements when visiting Canada, call 1-800-665-7567; for more on the latest policy, visit www.cic.gc.ca
, Citizen and Immigration Canada.