Tourism being hurt by Canada Customs Actions

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January 23, 2008 ~ Thunder Bay ~ Since 911 there have been a steady stream of complaints from American tourists being turned back at the Canadian border. This is having a serious financial impact on our region's tourist outfitters, and entire tourism industry. Outfitters are reporting to LSN that if one member of the fishing or hunting party is turned back, the whole group will not continue on to Canada. Their fishing or hunting trip cancellations are causing huge losses for Northern Ontario resorts and lodges. Many of the Americans being turned back at the border have been long-time repeat customers for Canadian outfitters.

The main reason many of these potential tourists are being turned back at the border is often an old impaired driving charge. These are charges that might have happened 20 or 30 years in the past. Canada now had better access to US criminal records in the Post-911 era. Canada Customs were not aware of these charges in the past, today they are.

In the United States a drunk driving (DUI) conviction is not a felony offense, in Canada it is.

In a front page story in the USA TODAY newspaper, reporter Alan Gomez, writes, “Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to get into Canada, as border agents with better access to American criminal databases are turning people back for offenses ranging from assault to drunken driving to shoplifting.

"Canada has had better access to criminal records since the Sept. 11 terror attacks but lawyers say they are now using the records more aggressively.

"There has been some changes in procedures," says Enrico Caruso, a Detroit-based immigration lawyer who says he has received more complaints in recent months from Americans shut out for old non-violent offenses.

"There's more questions being asked at the point of entry," he says.

Americans took nearly 44 million trips to Canada in 2000, according to StatsCan, the Canadian federal government's statistical agency. Fewer than 29 million made the trip in 2006, the last year for which figures were available.

There have been similar stories to the USA Today report in a number of other leading American news outlets, including the Minneapolis Tribune.

During the January North of Superior Tourist Association (NOSTA) Board of Directors meeting this problem was again discussed. At that time it was stated the border turn back issue is escalating to a level worse than SARS. One source commented, "We need money and action immediately to effectively promote "the positive tourism attributes" of our borders, regions and province!"

Others say, "That Stockwell Day should take a second look at why we are turning away Americans with DUI convictions. Are they really a threat to Canada? Are they likely to re-offend while in Canada? Is it a benefit to Canada to turn way long-time visitors to Canada because of a mistake they made 20 years ago?"

"By turning them away are we only hurting our Northern Ontario Tourism economy?" one board member asked.

To read a copy of the letter sent to Stockwell Day by Jerry Fisher, President, NWOTA and Harald Lohn President, KDCA in

PDF format

Special from Lake Superior News Bureau

 
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