BY DOUG REYNOLDS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NOTO
Issues around problems at the border continue to be front and center for the industry. Over the past several months, officials from the Canadian Border Service Agency addressed meetings of KDCA,NWOTA and NOTO, and the same tough questions came up at every meeting.
Two recurring themes have come up at virtually every discussion of this issue I have been involved in since I started working on this issue. Every guest who is refused entry claims to have “just one DWI 25 years ago”. If we follow up with border officials, of course, they can’t tell us what they know, because of confidentiality concerns.
The other issue that keeps repeating itself is the question of whether certain border crossings enforce much more vigorously than others. Government officials continue to insist that their statistics show that there are no differences among border points, but they have never been willing to share their actual numbers with us. Our own surveys of the industry paint a very different picture, with almost all of our complaints coming from the same few border points.
I’m going to suggest that we take some specific steps to address these two problems.
“The next time a guest is turned back at the border, or subjected to rude or inappropriate comments, I urge you to ask the guest to immediately document their complaint including all details and write to the supervisor for the region.”
Since it is no secret that almost all of our complaints originate in northwestern Ontario, that means contacting the head office in Thunder Bay.
It is important that they indicate the date and time of the incident, what exactly was said, and anything else to help identify the officer involved. You may want to help your guest make a note of these things when they first call or arrive with the complaint, so they don’t forget important details. It is also very helpful if they provide a copy of the letter they write to NOTO. Besides letting officials know that NOTO is involved, it helps us to prove our point when we meet with government to look for solutions to these problems.
Of course, it is also very important to continue to educate your guests about admission requirements. As we all know by now, the fact that a guest has been here before is no guarantee that they’ll get in next time. If they have any concern at all about their admissibility, they should call the Canadian Border Service Agency office in Thunder Bay to check on their status.
If a problem is identified with their record, they may want to see if it can be cleared up on the US side. A number of tourist operators have reported that guests were able to have problems with their records cleared up before trying to enter Canada. Needless to say, if it is not on your record when officials check, it is not a problem.
Pretty much everybody agrees that we don’t want people with really serious criminal backgrounds coming to Canada. We need to continue to educate our guests so that they understand the rules before they get to the border. We also need fair and consistent enforcement of the rules, and every guest deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, whether they are allowed in or not.
Taking the time to clearly document problems and write a letter will take a bit of time and effort. However, it is the best way to leave the paper trail we need if we are to come to a solution to this long standing problem. It also demonstrates to everybody concerned that we are serious about finding a solution, and are prepared to do our part to prove our case.
This article was taken from page 10 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Winter 2005 Issue