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Old April 26, 2013, 05:09 AM   #1
Tangentabacus
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Question on searching: Canada border

I am not sure if this is the correct place to be doing this so forgive me in advanced.

I am searching for some advice that's somewhat gun related. Today my parents were outbound from Washington state towing behind them a camper trailer on their way to Alaska. While going through the border they were stopped and very harshly interrogated with the claim that they were "smuggling weapons". They forced my parents to hand over their phones (went through her phone checking emails and personal data), laptops (passwords for both), and all the items they had on them then took the keys to the truck and searched the trailer head to toe. Tearing apart the inside of the camper: drawers, cabinets, overturning beds, taking apart containers and such. This went on for a while. They were very rude and kept yelling at my mom "WE KNOW YOU'RE LYING TO US JUST TELL US THE TRUTH". Stupid crap like that...

All of this but they didn't check ANYTHING in the truck? They didn't put ANYTHING back together leaving drawers dislodged and cabinets open. Mom said it was like a robber went through the trailer afterwards. On the phone with me she was almost crying and extremely angry. She felt very violated and I could tell by her voice she was not okay.

Again, I apologize for this if it's in the wrong spot but I feel that what happened here was very wrong and I'm hoping to be pointed possibly in the right direction. Hopefully the good people here that I've learned to trust will not let me down.

Thanks!
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Old April 26, 2013, 05:41 AM   #2
SDC
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Legal? Yes. Wrong? Definitely. The way to avoid this is to take the ferry to Alaska, and don't set foot in this country.
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Old April 26, 2013, 06:25 AM   #3
Spats McGee
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The right direction is going to be in the direction of a lawyer licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction, and familiar with the appropriate laws. With that said, there are a couple of items that are unclear to me:
1) Whose border guards searched the items? US? Canada?
2) Are your parents American or Canadian citizens?
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Old April 26, 2013, 06:50 AM   #4
Grizz12
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the exact same thing happened to me in 2001 when I took the sane trip up to Ak via Wa and Canada. They didnt mess with my cell and I didnt have a computer with me at the time but they tore apart my 18' trailer throwing everything on the ground and all the time claiming they knew I was hiding weapons.

I wont be spending any time or money in that Country again
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Old April 26, 2013, 07:39 AM   #5
Tangentabacus
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@Spats
Quote:
1) Whose border guards searched the items? US? Canada? - They were canadian.

2) Are your parents American or Canadian citizens? - My parents live here in Alaska, but my sister is a student in Canada.
This whole situation makes me feel disgusted. I will continue to monitor this thread to see what other people have to say. Makes me sick to my stomach that this could happen here in the great old U S of A one day in our near future. That's just me ranting though.

@Grizz
Were they complete Jerks to you? They yelled at my mom and threatened that "very bad things could happen..." if she didn't tell them the "truth". How many times had you crossed the border previously? Due to my sister living in Canada at the moment we have all crossed the border at least twice a year for the last 2 years. Wonder if that had anything to do with it?

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; April 26, 2013 at 08:04 AM.
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Old April 26, 2013, 08:00 AM   #6
Grizz12
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They "found" holsters (they were in plain sight, not hidden) and insisted I was hiding guns. I asked if holsters were illegal in Canada? I explained I was having the guns shipped and there were none in the truck or trailer. Come to think of it, they did go through my wallet too.

I was in a hurry to catch a ferry in Skagway so I was not being argumentative in any way. They raised their voices, pointed fingers and had 3 other guys surrounding me (they were uncomfortably close and staring at me), each taking turns firing questions at me. I guess they were trying to intimidate me or make me stumble some how.

They were very rude and treated me like a criminal, made me feel even more proud to be an American citizen and not can Canadian subject.

I had a buddy that was crossing the same boarder and on his keychain he had a little wooden stick, about three inches long, and they confiscated it. Then tore his car apart looking for other "weapons".
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Old April 26, 2013, 08:08 AM   #7
Tangentabacus
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Interesting. My parents had NO weapons or weapon accessories in their vehicle at all. Both my parents are 50+ and not intimidating and very mellow mannered (However at times I question why people say this... ). It's not like there was any "probable cause" as you'd expect to see here in America.

I guess the real reason I'm so upset is that A) I feel like digging through personal information like that seems suspiciously not-okay or legal and B) I'm scared to crap seeing the possible future. It's a real eye opener for me in a lot of ways.
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Old April 26, 2013, 09:28 AM   #8
Spats McGee
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Tangentabacus, by no means do I wish to justify the guards' actions. However, whatever actions were taken by the guards would have to be justified under Canadian law (making me wholly unable to comment on the legality thereof).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tangentabacus
@Spats

Quote:
1) Whose border guards searched the items? US? Canada? - They were canadian.
We may have a Canadian lawyer around here somewhere, or someone familiar with US/Canadian agreements that would affect the actions of border guards. The actions taken by those Canadian border guards took place on Canadian soil under Canadian law.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tangentabacus
2) Are your parents American or Canadian citizens? - My parents live here in Alaska, but my sister is a student in Canada.
I will take that to mean that they are American citizens, but residence is actually an entirely separate question.
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Old April 26, 2013, 09:43 AM   #9
deepcreek
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About 15 years ago I was on my way to Alaska, I had planed on driving up the rocky mountains through Canada. I researched the laws on transporting guns through their country. I had a 12ga pump shot gun (I was going to be sleeping in a tent in Alaska) So I get to the border fill out the form and declare the gun. As soon as that happened they told me to pull into a booth.

They treated me like garbage.. I told them I only wanted passage through their country to Alaska. They told me they did not want me in their country. If I tried to go through a border in the next 6mo I would be arrested.
They didn't mention the gun they claimed it was because my car was old and I did not have enough money. my car was 7yrs old and I had $2,700 in cash. People I talked to afterwards said it was because of the gun.

I will never spend a dime in Canada.
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Old April 26, 2013, 10:00 AM   #10
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About twelve years ago I was working something of a TDY assignment in Seattle. Since I had never been to Canada before, I thought I'd take a day trip up to Vancouver just to see what I could see. When I got to the guard and handed him my Texas driver's license, his face turned beet red. Literally. I thought at any moment his head might pop off his shoulders as he castigated me up and down for being from Texas (repeating every last wild west, shoot-em-up, lawless stereotype he could remember as fast and furiously as he could manage). Naturally, I got selected for "enhanced" inspection, and they went through my car with a fine tooth comb (though I suspect that had it not been a rental, they'd have taken a plasma cutter to it). All the while, border guards stood on either side of me, hands on holster.

I'm guessing that border guards are no better informed than anyone else in Canada, and that popular stereotypes resonate within them just as they do in any foreign populace. Marry that with what was, at least at that time, an extremely phobic attitude towards firearms of any type, and these sorts of things seem inevitable.

Since I was an American on Canadian soil and do not believe I could simply turn around and return to the U.S., I didn't have much leverage in dealing with the guards, so I just bided my three hours in limbo and turned around and went back to Seattle, all desire to see the remainder of Canada extinguished.
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Old April 26, 2013, 10:00 AM   #11
MLeake
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Unfortunately, this isn't terribly different from the experiences some of my friends have had with US Customs, when returning from sailing trips in the Caribbean. Searches that actually damage boat fittings have occurred; upholstery opened up, etc.

Some agents seem to presume that if you own a large boat, you must be smuggling drugs or weapons.

I have not yet heard of a successful suit being brought against Customs for such actions - though again, this was US Customs, whereas the OP's parents seemed to have had their issues with Canadian Customs.

I just would not be surprised if they have similar (apparent lack of) rules to what our guys seem to have.
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Old April 26, 2013, 10:02 AM   #12
Tom Servo
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While the Canadian Charter does recognize a "reasonable expectation of privacy," it does not carry the same weight as our 4th Amendment.

Furthermore, when we're talking about border security, most governments have a lowered expectation of privacy. Even in the US, government power to ensure security outweighs some 4th Amendment provisions.

See here for an analysis of your rights at the Canadian border.
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Last edited by Tom Servo; April 26, 2013 at 10:35 AM.
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Old April 26, 2013, 10:29 AM   #13
csmsss
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Quote:
Unfortunately, this isn't terribly different from the experiences some of my friends have had with US Customs, when returning from sailing trips in the Caribbean. Searches that actually damage boat fittings have occurred; upholstery opened up, etc.
I'm curious about the circumstances of these inspections. Presumably they were not departing to/returning from seaports, but to/from private marinas. How would US Customs have known of their exiting/return to US territory? Is it possible these were Coast Guard inspections and not Customs inspections?
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Old April 26, 2013, 11:07 AM   #14
MLeake
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No, they were specifically complaining about Customs. (And there are threads online about issues with similar incidents, if you use google - specifically about lack of reimbursement for damages.) My friends have not had similar experiences with the Coast Guard.

I have some friends who were former Customs aviation, and I suppose I could ask them, but I doubt that a) they'd discuss their tipping with me, or b) they'd want me to discuss them in this (or any other) forum.

But my friends that ran into issues were returning from trips to the islands, in large (38' +) sailboats. This was Florida, in the 90's, so who knows?
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Old April 26, 2013, 10:40 PM   #15
Tangentabacus
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Very interesting read Tom. I will forward this info to my parents. You guys have given some really good opinions and I really appreciate the time you guys have put into responding!!!

Very interesting to see how many have had so many bad experiences.
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Old April 27, 2013, 08:49 AM   #16
Rifleman1776
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Terrible what happened. No doubt.
But, remember Canada is a very socialized country. It's residents are not citizens, they, like England, are 'subjects' of the crown. They are owned by the government.
Searching, even homes, does not require any warrant or even due cause.
Take this event as a reminder of how much we have to value in the U.S. and why we want to keep it.
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Old April 27, 2013, 12:32 PM   #17
Vanya
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Quote:
It's residents are not citizens, they, like England, are 'subjects' of the crown. They are owned by the government.
Searching, even homes, does not require any warrant or even due cause.
Neither of these statements is correct. Canada is a parliamentary democracy; the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946 defined who was a citizen and made it clear that Canadian citizens were not British subjects.

Section Eight of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: "8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure."

It protects everyone in Canada from unreasonable search and seizure, just as the 4th Amendment does in the US. Search warrants are required under Canadian law in essentially the same way that that they are in the US. In some respects (the use of sniffer dogs by police, and vehicle searches, for example) Canadian courts have issued rulings that give people in Canada more protection from unreasonable search and seizure than the US Supreme Court has seen fit to give people in the US. (Note, too, that the Canadian Charter explicitly protects "everyone in Canada;" the rights and freedoms it sets out don't apply only to citizens/legal immigrants, but to anyone on Canadian soil.)
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Old April 27, 2013, 03:55 PM   #18
spacemanspiff
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Sorry guys, some of this ill treatment might be the fault of some of us Alaskans. We probably could cut back on how often we drive to the border and moon the Canadian agents and taunt them with our awesome freedoms.

All joking aside though, kind of wish turnabout was truly fair play. Suppose US Border Agents were as ill mannered to Canadian or even Mexican visitors?
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Old April 27, 2013, 05:46 PM   #19
SDC
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The problem is, when you leave the US, you also leave any expectation you have of US legal rights; when you enter another country, you're asking to be granted permission to do so, which is a two-way street: they'll grant you permission, under certain specific conditions. This is why they're keeping terrorists at Guantanamo, remember? If those terrorists were allowed into the US, they would also automatically be granted rights under the US Constitution, including the right to not be waterboarded.
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Old April 27, 2013, 06:05 PM   #20
kilimanjaro
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They do have a problem with gun smuggling to the gangs in Vancouver, but not enough to have the attitude to the folks going to Alaska.

Last edited by Vanya; April 27, 2013 at 07:16 PM. Reason: corrected place name.
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Old April 28, 2013, 01:47 AM   #21
hermannr
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As a person that regularly crosses the border between the US and Canada, and has done so for over 65 years, it has been my experience, going into Canada is never a problem if you answer their questions the way they want to hear the answers. (this is with a car, or truck with a camper on it.) I have crossed over almost every possible crossing from Blaine to Ontario at least once.

In the literately 1000s of crossings, I have never been searched going into Canada, Not even a trunk opened. One time I had my Bronco stuffed to the roof and the Canadian border guard wanted to look, but then thought better of it when I said, "be very careful and prepared, when that back window comes down, stuff will start falling out."

I have been searched coming back into the US though, and they always want to see inside your trunk coming back.
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Old April 28, 2013, 08:21 AM   #22
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Vanya, I have friends from other (non-gun) forums who give exactly opposite picture you described. Inspectors come in their houses to check everything imaginable. The Government selects candidates for elections.
Freedom? Not even close.
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Old April 28, 2013, 08:50 AM   #23
thickice
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When I moved down from Alaska, this is what transpired at the Canadian border.
Canada customs inspector: Do you have any firearms?

me: No

CCI: Don't all Alaskans own firearms?

me: yes.

CCI: Do you own firearms?

me: Yes, but in respect for your laws, I shipped them all down with my household effects.

CCI: proceed.
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Old April 28, 2013, 11:25 AM   #24
HiBC
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Was headed up to go fishing.Two guys,a pickup,and a boat.I could show reservations at the lake cabin.

Silly me..I used a few empty CCI plastic .22 boxes to put hooks,swivels,etc in.

That cost us some time and grilling.

I did tell them"At home,it is lawful for me to own firearms and shoot.I do,a lot.I understand in your country,it is not lawful for me to bring firearms,so I did not.I am not here to break laws.I am here to go have a great time fishing"

"Are you SUREyou are not carrying ANY weapons of any kind?


????"I have a machete in the back of the truck.You might think of it as a weapon.I think of it as a tool."


Hmmmm.Proceed
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Old April 28, 2013, 01:04 PM   #25
Destructo6
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At a port of entry, your rights are few. It is like knocking on someone's door and asking to come in: it is completely within their right to look at you and everything you propose to bring into their house before they allow entry.

If they cause damage in doing so, they are financially responsible for that.

We do similar at US ports of entry. If a country can not determine who and what enters, do they really have sovereinty?

Oh, and smugglers aren't stupid; if they realize thet grandma types aren't being checked, then they will use those types until they start getting popped again.
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