Going To Canada? Maybe Not

American tourists with old misdemeanor records are being turned away at the Canadian border -- after a stop at secondary immigration checks.

Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: "Your next stop is immigration.''

Felsch was ushered into a room. "There must have been 75 people in line," he says. "We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet.''

Another tourist headed for a ski trip was turned back at secondary immigration for a pot possession conviction in 1975.

What's going on?

While Canada officially has barred travelers convicted of criminal offenses for years, attorneys say post-9/11 information-gathering, combined with a sweeping agreement between Canada and the United States to share data, has resulted in a spike in phone calls from concerned travelers. They are shocked to hear that the sins of their youth might keep them out of Canada.

But what they don't know is that this is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there.

Here's one more tale:

Canadian attorney David Lesperance, an expert on customs and immigration, says he had a client who was involved in a fraternity prank 20 years ago. He was on a scavenger hunt, and the assignment was to steal something from a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. He got caught, paid a small fine and was ordered to sweep the police station parking lot.

He thought it was all forgotten. And it was, until he tried to cross the border.

There is one way around the problem:

The lesson, the attorneys say, is that if you must travel to Canada, you should apply for "a Minister's Approval of Rehabilitation" to wipe the record clear.

But, that's just for Canada:

Lesperance says it is just a matter of time before agreements are signed with governments in destinations like Japan, Indonesia and Europe.

"This,'' Lesperance says, "is just the edge of the wedge.''

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    from the linked article, a link to the Canadian (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 04:01:00 PM EST
    consulate, listing the pile o' crap you'll need to produce, though not the extent of the difficulties you'll have to go through, just to go to Canada:


    POLICE CERTIFICATES from the jurisdictions where the applicant has lived since his/her 18 birthday (or for the last 10 years).

    THE APPLICANT'S OWN STATEMENT OF CIRCUMSTANCES leading up to his/her conviction.

    COURT RECORDS relating to the applicant's conviction(s).


    A COPY OF THE STATUTE under which the applicant was convicted.

    THREE LETTERS FROM PERSONS OF STANDING IN THE COMMUNITY who know the applicant personally, and who can attest to the applicant's rehabilitation.

    AS the linked article says:

    "This,'' Lesperance says, "is just the edge of the wedge.''

    Someone of my acquaintance got a bag of crap last year, prior to the recent rule change requiring a passport to enter Canada, for having the temerity to try to enter Canada on a drivers' license (as was fully legal and accepted at the time):

    "But it's perfectly legal to enter on a valid driver's license and I've been doing it for years."

    "Ohh, no, eh.  It has always been the law that a passport is required to enter Canada.  You're entering a foreign country, eh."

    Knowing that smart-mouthing officious bureaucrats was a sure way to bring down the entry gate, acquaintance made sure to bite down and not say what acquaintance thought:  "And Eurasia has always been at war with Eastasia."

    An hour after entering "immigration" and after enduring a couple interviews and obvious bureaucrat trips to the back room for computer checks, this person was finally allowed to enter, but told to bring a passport next time.

    oh, yeah. (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 04:07:19 PM EST
    about those "police certificates":

    if you click through on the consulate website, you'll see they require your fingerprints.  And the involvement of the FBI.


    Scribe, I dont think so. (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 04:25:03 PM EST
    In general, US citizens only need to have a passport "just to go to Canada" - unless they've had previous legal troubles in Canada and/or the US, in which case, yes, you are right, there will be a "pile 'o crap" to slog through to go there.

    well, the point of the article was (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 04:52:43 PM EST
    that "previous legal troubles" like that thirty-year-old pot bust or whatever are cropping up now.

    The central problem, though, is several-fold.
    First, most local courts where those tiny busts get adjudicated purge their records of, well, everything on paper, after a few years.  All that would exist would be the record of the conviction or plea.

    Second, some states, like Pennsylvania, are not limiting what they put on the web to just convictions.  Rather, they are putting all arrest records on line, too.  In other words, the old object lesson from the Rules of Evidence class in law school, that you can't ask a witness "have you ever been arrested (because an arrest means nothing)", though you can ask about convictions, is meaningless.  So try explaining that the cop who hated your guts (or wanted your girl or to prove a point) arrested you in 1972 for no reason at all, and that the charges were dismissed, when in fact all that's remaining on the computer record is the fact of arrest.

    Third, as a corollary, you should be aware that there is no requirement in the law for any level of government to clean up its records to remove erroneous information, nor is there any limitation on the power of the cops to arrest (or immigration to detain) based upon that bad information.  A few years back, I defended a civil rights case where the allegation was "I lost my job because I was busted and held on an invalid warrant which never should have been in the system."  All of which was both true, irrelevant and not actionable.

    Last, don't be surprised if you hear about things like ethnicity and race, and politics, start being used on the border-crossing sieve.  Liberal Canada has a fire-eyed guy, just like Bushie, in charge.


    Fair enough (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 05:01:56 PM EST
    I went to college near Canada in the '80s and we'd head across the border for stronger beer on occasion. Their border agents were no softies back then...and neither were their bar bouncers.

    They aren't just cropping up now ... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Sailor on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 05:38:48 PM EST
    ... but they are worse. It used to be just Americans working in Canada, now it appears to be all Americans. It's probably payback for all the barriers the Bush admin has put in place, (not to mention kidnapping one of their citizens and sending him to syria to be tortured.)

    When I went to Canada on a job at the age of 30 they initially denied me entry because I was arrested when I was 18. Charges dropped, no trial, no conviction, just arrested. My company protested and the Regional customs office sent a rep to the local border crossing and escorted me thru with apologies.

    Of course the US is even weirder. 5 years ago I sailed to a Canadian island on the Great Lakes. Clearing in all I had to do was make a phone call. Coming back to the US 12 hours later I had to produce DL, SS card and maternal and fraternal info for immigration. Then I had to go to another place and clear customs.

    Maybe Canada is realizing that if enough people complain these draconian measures will stop. Or bush could just declare another preemptive war.


    I was (none / 0) (#28)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 01:17:19 PM EST
    waiting for it to be Bush's fault.

    Your papers please.... (none / 0) (#4)
    by jerry on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 04:30:15 PM EST
    It's part of the "your papers please" mentality that the IT age has opened up.

    Death by a thousand cuts and being entertained with big cars, big houses, and reality shows while we bleed.

    Welcome to the world of liberalism! (none / 0) (#16)
    by LonewackoDotCom on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 10:00:50 PM EST
    The attitude you describe has been aided and abetted by all those "liberals" who continually attempt to subvert our laws, such as with their support for illegal immigration.

    If "liberals" opposed illegal immigration, then things like this - as well as the HalliburtonRetentionCamps etc. - would look awfully suspicious. As it is, they gain traction because they're necessary to fight against those - dare I say it - anti-American forces that think we shouldn't have borders at all.


    I don't know about you guys..... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 05:02:03 PM EST
    but I feel safer. (sarcasm)

    Hopefully, Canada will revise their rules in light of the new data-mining capabilities when it comes to criminal backgrounds.  I'm sure the tourism industry in Canada will be behind reform, this has got to hurt business.

    I have little faith in the US govt. coming to the aid of their citizens with minor criminal records wishing to travel freely.  

    People in border-towns on both sides are starting to get fed up, and who can blame them?  Who needs these senseless hassles?

    But we're Americans! (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jim Strain on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 06:07:34 PM EST
    All those Canadian "horror stories" are a walk in the park compared to the way the US's Kafkaesque ICE (Customs and Migra) treats Mexican visitors. It's almost as if every tourist and business traveler is assumed to be a drug lord or worse.  Welcome to the US.  Yeah, right.

    What are you talking about? (none / 0) (#11)
    by Pancho on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 06:16:24 PM EST
    There are MILLIONS of Mexicans living here illegally. They deserve all the scrutiny they get.

    its not just mexicans that get treated like this (none / 0) (#20)
    by Jen M on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 06:45:50 AM EST
    its almost every nationality, except a priveledged few.

    And it ain't new.


    It goes the other way too (none / 0) (#10)
    by Al on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 06:11:58 PM EST
    Canadians are subjected to exactly the same restrictions going to the US (Link):

    We receive calls every day from Canadian citizens refused entry at the U.S. border. Many are genuinely bewildered:

    "Why was I refused? I've been coming to the U.S. with no problem for twenty years!"

    For some people, refusal is simply a problem getting the U.S. immigration inspectors to understand the reason for the trip. For others, a nearly forgotten brush with the law, perhaps in student days, has been resurrected as a border barrier.


    The U.S. computer may remember more than the RCMP.

    And then there's the passport thing. Canadian premiers are not amused (Link):

    The Conference Board of Canada has warned that the change in land rules could cost Canada $3.6 billion in lost tourism revenue and 14 million U.S. visitors over the five-year period ending in 2010.

    I sense there's a message being sent here.

    i sense (none / 0) (#12)
    by cpinva on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 06:26:29 PM EST
    as the canadian tourist industry starts to suffer economically, some of these barriers will magically disappear. as an example, the casino in windsor, ontario (just across the river from detroit) gets the bulk of its business from americans. when i went there, a couple of years ago, all i needed was my va driver's license. were i to need anything more than that, i wouldn't waste my time, and their casino wouldn't have my money.

    i suspect many people will have the same reaction.

    I doubt it (none / 0) (#14)
    by Al on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 08:41:35 PM EST
    If the US requires Canadians to show a passport, Canada can hardly do less. In any case, tourism is not a major component of US-Canada trade. Canada's main exports to the US are oil and gas, and agricultural products.

    No way out (none / 0) (#13)
    by scarshapedstar on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 07:57:03 PM EST
    Want to escape the police state? Too bad.

    Don't (none / 0) (#29)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 01:18:43 PM EST
    you work for the state?  

    And what about the draft? (none / 0) (#15)
    by dutchfox on Mon Feb 26, 2007 at 09:18:35 PM EST
    I know that Harperites and the Bushies have come to some sort of agreement, where, if the draft is started again, it will be hard for Americans to move to Canada to avoid the draft. Could these recent problems crossing the border be connected?

    So (none / 0) (#17)
    by Che's Lounge on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 01:31:50 AM EST
    are we to assume that when people were told that their record would be cleared (expunged?) after they did their sweeping, or whatever, that this was false?

    in a word (none / 0) (#24)
    by scribe on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 11:44:49 AM EST

    DUI (none / 0) (#18)
    by retank on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 06:02:47 AM EST
    So Cheney and Bush both have DUIs, but I guess that's ok, since they play by different rules.

    going to canada (none / 0) (#19)
    by merlallen on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 06:06:26 AM EST
    Are they doing this to keep dick and george out of the country? I think dick has 3 duis and george has one.

    Laughter in the morning. (none / 0) (#21)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 08:39:35 AM EST
    I love it.

    Canada has a new policy and immediately it is the fault of the evileeeee Bush and Cheney.

    Look. Get serious. I know that you understand that is really Carl Rove who has done this. Quit pretending.

    indeed (none / 0) (#25)
    by Sailor on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 12:43:57 PM EST
    Canada has a new policy and immediately it is the fault of the evileeeee Bush and Cheney.
    canada instituted their new laws in reaction to dick and george's immigration law changes.

    Got (none / 0) (#30)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 01:19:34 PM EST
    a link?

    Wile (none / 0) (#32)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 07:24:35 PM EST
    No, he doesn't.

    reading and comprehension (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jen M on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 12:44:33 PM EST
    is a problem for you... yes?

    oops, (none / 0) (#27)
    by Jen M on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 12:45:49 PM EST
    this was supposed to be a reply to Jim

    sigh I have migraines

    Sorry everyone.


    Jen.. I'm sorry (none / 0) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 07:25:57 PM EST
    We all know that it was Lieberman...not Rove...

    hey (none / 0) (#37)
    by Jen M on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 09:58:36 PM EST
    cant we all just sing

    "Blame Canada"?


    Yes it is funny (none / 0) (#22)
    by squeaky on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 09:00:19 AM EST
    Canada has a new policy and immediately it is the fault of the evileeeee Bush and Cheney.

    Well Bush and Cheney are not protesting the treatment, are they? They have given the nod of approval. Wonder who is providing the new security technology and training to Canada? The Russians? The Chinese?


    I am glad to see you are on top of the situation.. (none / 0) (#23)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 09:22:32 AM EST
    squeaky (none / 0) (#34)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 07:27:45 PM EST
    They're too busy trying to save the free world..

    Wanna help?? No?

    I thought so.

    Ever decide what you will give away to the terrorists???


    Torture Prisons (none / 0) (#35)
    by squeaky on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 07:34:19 PM EST
    They're too busy trying to save the free world..

    You mean, with the help of Haliburton they are too busy trying to imprison the free world.

    And to think that just a short while back... (none / 0) (#31)
    by Bill Arnett on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 04:15:24 PM EST
    ...I suffered much scorn and derision when I decried government databases filled with information of unknown quality that citizens have no right to see, review, or correct.

    This is only the beginning. The bigger, better databases filled with dossiers on every citizen are coming, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

    This could also be Canada's way of giving Washington the finger for the kidnapping and torturing of their citizens. They did after all threaten to end all intelligence cooperation with America over the matter.

    Bill A (none / 0) (#36)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 07:36:18 PM EST
    Nah... I think they sent us all that snow...