Originally Published in the June 1994 issue of The Outfitter Magazine.
The following letter was written to the Honourable David Anderson, Minister of National Revenue, Customs and Excise after a NOTO member received a letter of concern from one of their guests and informed NOTO of the problem.
I write to inform you of an increasing problem that our industry seems to be facing regarding the treatment of guests by Canadian Customs who try to enter Canada to vacation in Northern Ontario, who have past impaired driving charges from the United States.
As an example, I would like to outline for you the situation faced by one U.S. resident who had an impaired driving charge in 1980 but who has to pay a fee every time he enters the country. I would like to quote from a letter this gentleman sent to one of our member camps, expressing concern over this situation.
“The customs people pulled us over to do a trailer and car check. We went inside and were asked a few routine questions one of which was have you ever been arrested. Unfortunately, in 1980 I was arrested for impaired driving as was one of the other fellows that was traveling with us. At that time I was told that Canada considered us both to be unwanted felons and we were refused entry unless we paid a one-time permit fee of $100.00, which we did, and planned to clear this up upon our return to the States…
In the United States after a period of time records are no longer available and I am not able to get any information concerning the accident. I have no record for this incident. I no longer carry any points on my driving record for this incident nor does this incident figure into my insurance rates any longer, it was 14 years ago.
For me to enter your fine country it will be necessary for me to file with the Canadian Consulate in Detroit as to when I wish to enter and leave. Of course, each time I must fill out forms, wait 6 to 8 weeks for a reply plus pay $268.00. After doing this 3 times I may apply for what is called a Letter of Rehabilitation which will also carry a fee of approximately $600.00 to $1400.00 for a mistake that I made 14 years ago.”
Mr. Minister, this is not an isolated incident. As I indicated earlier in this letter, NOTO has received a number of similar complaints from our members regarding guests who have had past impaired driving charges in the U.S. going back many years, but who still face a similar situation with Canadian Customs when they try to enter Canada.
NOTO does not challenge the vital work that Canadian Customs does in protecting our country from the possible entrance of felons and other criminals, legal or illegal, who may be a threat to Canadian Citizens or to security. NOTO supports this effort wholeheartedly.
However, we believe that sometimes Customs’ policies can be too onerous and lacking in common sense. This is one such case. Certainly there are people charged with more serious crimes who merit more attention from Customs and who are deserving of greater fees and so on before they are allowed to enter Canada.
I am sure that you recognize and appreciate the time, effort and money that our industry spends in bringing guests to this country. In Northern Ontario, it brings an important influx of dollars to northern communities and, in the case of out-of-country guests, brand new dollars and tax revenues.
Our industry must also provide quality facilities and service in order to be successful. Given that we, as an industry, pride ourselves on the way we treat our guests, you can understand our concern when we hear of situations involving Canadian Customs, such as the one outlined above. It does not leave people with a “positive” feeling about returning to Canada.
NOTO believes that more common sense must be brought into play in these situations. We would suggest that your Ministry review existing policy and implement a more reasonable sunset clause on how long people will be “punished” by Customs for past transgressions.
NOTO recognizes that impaired driving is a serious matter and does not condone such actions in any way. However, we believe that after a certain period of time, those charged will have paid their “debt” to society and it should not be held against them in the manner in which Customs currently seems to do.
NOTO would be willing to enter into discussions with your Ministry to try and determine what a fair and reasonable time period would be for Customs to keep charges on the books. We believe, however, that 14 years for an impaired driving charge is not appropriate.
NOTO would appreciate it if your Ministry would review its policies relating to the above with an eye toward a more common sense approach. Once again, we would be pleased to discuss the situation directly with you and your staff to help resolve what amounts to a deterrent to people who want to travel to this country.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I await your reply.
Bud Dickson, President