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Old 12-06-2017, 02:18 AM   #1
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Canadian Customs Purgatory

On December 5, 2017 at approximately 2:30 pm I attempted to enter Canada through the ABBOTSFORD-HUNTINGDON (817)
Canadian Customs office.
I explained to the customs officer that I would be in Canada to pick up a trailer that I was purchasing from Escape trailer Industries in Chilliwack BC. I spoke to the officer with the utmost congeniality and respect.
The customs officer referred me to the office for further investigation.
Two female customs officers searched my truck and I cooperated fully with their investigation.
They asked how I would be paying for the trailer, and I told them that I would be paying cash via wire transfer.
They called Escape trailer Industries, and verified that I would be purchasing a trailer, and that there was no record of a wire transfer at that time.
I provided the officers with the name of my bank in Pennsylvania and the bank officer in charge of the wire transfer.
The officers asked for the password to my cell phone and I cooperated fully, providing it. I provided the officers with the password a second time when they forgot it.
When going through my cell phone they found a picture of a pistol. I explained to the officers that I had purchased the pistol in July , and that the pistol was at home in a safe. They were not satisfied with this answer and insisted that the pistol must be in my truck, and that they would disassemble my truck if I didnt tell them where it was.
They also frisked me and had me remove my shirt, looking for a "money belt". Im assuming that they thought I was carrying 32 thousand dollars cash to pay for the trailer.
After approximately 2 hours, and searching my truck twice, they finally confiscated three apples and let me through to drive to Escape Industries In Chilliwack.
As I was leaving the customs office, one of the officers asked me if I had any questions. I sincerely asked the officers what I had done to warrant such treatment, and how I could avoid difficulties in the future. They replied that I "must have done something, because we dont search everybody", which made absolutely no sense to me.

Some concerns:
-At all times I was respectful, courteous, and genial with the customs officers
-I have absolutely no criminal record of any kind.
-I courteously,clearly and genially explained in detail my business in Canada, where I was going, and how long I would be there.
-Did the customs officers have the jurisdiction necessary to search my cell phone?
-Is the photo of the pistol that they found on my phone sufficient evidence to warrant their insistance that the pistol was in my truck, and that they would disassemble my truck if I did not tell them where it was?
-If the officers did find a "money belt" containing funds would they have confiscated said funds?
If so, I can think of no more effective way of killing Canadian exports to the United States.
I think highly of the products manufactured by Escape Trailer Industries, and had planned on purchasing another larger unit from them in the near future, but I cannot justify making such a purchase, given the capricious behavior of Canadian customs agents
With Regrets;
Dennis Siepierski

Note: I spoke to the folks at Escape about it, and they said it "wasn't our problem", that they have no control over customs. It might not be their Fault, but as an exporter to US customers it is definitely their Problem.
A few suggestions:
- bring the issue to the attention of Canadian export organizations
-do more to make customers aware of potential problems entering Canada (it aint like it was years ago)
- devise orientation resources/ procedures that make it unnecessary for customers to enter Canada to pick up their purchased trailer.
Thoughts?
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Old 12-06-2017, 04:55 AM   #2
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Hi: DSiepierski... Your time in Purgatory shows what powers the inspectors at border crossings have. They are "Gods" in their own territory. We as Canadians have been subject to searches by the US Inspectors and found to be smuggling as little as a quarter of a red pepper, washed, seeded and sealed in a ziploc bag!!! The fine for failing to declare is $300. bucks!!!
This whole process is unsettling and yes, makes one weary of travelling to a foreign country, but in today's society... necessary.
Last time we flew to Florida our return trip turned nasty at the airport. I was singled out for secondary inspection being marked as "The chosen one". At least I was forewarned the inspectors touch could get personal. WHY ME?
The BC sales tax laws make it necessary for ETI to export the trailers as they now do. Alf
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Old 12-06-2017, 05:10 AM   #3
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Dennis,
I am sure you are frustrated with your experience at the border. The quick answer is that customs officials do have the authority to search anything you are bringing across the border including your cell phone.
I have to imagine something prompted your being singled out, perhaps your last name or an incident involving someone matching your appearance or your vehicle’s description. There is a member of this forum who always got hassled when crossing because he shared the same first and last name of another person who had been banned from entering Canada. Both were from Florida as I understand the situation. Another member was hassled a bit because agents found out that he was a retired employee of a firearms manufacturer.
I have a concealed carry permit and I’m told that this information pops up on the screen when my passport is scanned. Still, I have never been scrutinized at the border other than to be asked if I have any weapons, which is a pretty standard question, along with “are you bringing anything into Canada that you are going to leave in Canada?” That question seemingly relates to the collection of import duties. I typically go to Canada once a year and perhaps I am lucky but neither my vehicle nor my trailer has ever been searched other than to have a walk around by a drug sniffing dog while I was answering the standard questions.
ETI is correct that they have no control over what happens at the border. If you want to purchase a larger Escape, you do have the option of skipping orientation and just having them deliver it in Sumas, WA. There is no reason to punish ETI or to deprive yourself because of the actions of a couple of customs agents who had probably been told to “be on the lookout for .....”
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Old 12-06-2017, 05:27 AM   #4
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We crossed the border at Sumas when we picked up our trailer in April. The Canadian customs officer asked several times about any weapons we had. The officer had trouble believing someone from Texas didn't have a gun or knife. I finally told him we did have some kitchen knives. I guess that could have been taken as a smart aleck answer, but I wanted to answer truthfully when he specifically asked about knives.

Crossing into Canada at Sumas may make it easier since they are familiar with exporting/importing Escape trailers into the US and US buyers going to Canada to get their trailers.

A few weeks later we went back into Canada and returned after a few weeks via Sumas. I didn’t have a license plate on my trailer at that time, and I figured Sumas was the safest way to cross. They did want to see my paperwork. Anyway, during the questioning by the US immigration officer, he said “The stars at night are big and bright”, and I replied “Deep in the hart of Texas” (it is a song). He was testing me to see if I was really from Texas. My wife, who isn’t from the US, had no idea what just happened.

By the way, I don't think there are problems with taking large amounts of cash into Canada if you declare it at the border. There are other discussions on this form that have talked about this in regards to making the final trailer payment.
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Old 12-06-2017, 05:49 AM   #5
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Not sure where Abbotsford is in relation to Sumas and Chilliwack but at Sumas Escape is well known? Also at Osoyoos for the yearly rally. But entering Canada at other places I too have been grilled, particularly about guns. It seems when you obtain a concealed weapon carry permit, it goes out over law enforcement everywhere and their antennae are raised when you approach them. Also I had my identity stolen 10 years ago, another red flag which causes additional questioning. No body searches though. I can understand your predicament.
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:00 AM   #6
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Looks like the Sumas (US Side) crossing is the Abbotsford (CAN Side) crossing.
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:22 AM   #7
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I did not know that, so this is the Canadian side going to Chilliwack and Sumas is US returning?
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:47 AM   #8
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This is the reason I plan on skipping orientation and just having them deliver it in Sumas. When we pick up our new trailer we will be on a hunting trip along the way of course we will have some weapons. You see what they did when they seen a picture of one. well if you had one you still be there.many people cross everyday with no problem,but if you get targeted for a detailed search it is very upsetting. I love to see EFT have a yard on the U.S border where you could pick up and get orientation and a temporary license plate. .
They do have power to search anything . including you butt hole witch happens on a daily basis. My sister in-law works on the thousand island bridge and is very often called over to witness a female strip searches. I guess they like to have a witness that the custom officer did not do any thing inappropriate. I not sure what makes them decide who they target. I also believe some our random. I understand they have to protect both borders and with the events over the last 20 years this may be a necessary evil.
Next trailer just skip orientation
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Old 12-06-2017, 08:05 AM   #9
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Crossing

As mentioned the extensive searches can be both random or “for a reason” at the end of the day the outcome is really only a story you can tell forever. I’d give a quarter (U,S.) to see what pops up on the screen when they scan my I D. Sometimes I get extensive questioning, twice a U.S. customs search, once 14 questions crossing to Osoyoos, 12 of them about my thoughts on the 19 as a late fall hunting rig. Don’t let this bother you, life’s too short. If you want to mess them up, once they tell you you’re free to go, tell them they are doing a Hell of a Fine job and that you appreciate their efforts. They don’t get much of that. Enforcement these days is tough, we all have to get use to that. Enjoy your trailer. Life is too short to worry about a Canadian crossing. Play it straight with those guys and you will get through.
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Old 12-06-2017, 08:14 AM   #10
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Heart of Texas

Quote:
Originally Posted by ThomasG View Post
We crossed the border at Sumas when we picked up our trailer in April. The Canadian customs officer asked several times about any weapons we had. The officer had trouble believing someone from Texas didn't have a gun or knife. I finally told him we did have some kitchen knives. I guess that could have been taken as a smart aleck answer, but I wanted to answer truthfully when he specifically asked about knives.

Crossing into Canada at Sumas may make it easier since they are familiar with exporting/importing Escape trailers into the US and US buyers going to Canada to get their trailers.

A few weeks later we went back into Canada and returned after a few weeks via Sumas. I didn’t have a license plate on my trailer at that time, and I figured Sumas was the safest way to cross. They did want to see my paperwork. Anyway, during the questioning by the US immigration officer, he said “The stars at night are big and bright”, and I replied “Deep in the hart of Texas” (it is a song). He was testing me to see if I was really from Texas. My wife, who isn’t from the US, had no idea what just happened.



By the way, I don't think there are problems with taking large amounts of cash into Canada if you declare it at the border. There are other discussions on this form that have talked about this in regards to making the final trailer payment.
Your song lyrics comment reminds me of “ Password “ stories from WWII where American camp guards would ask lost or intruding US military clothed soldiers “ Who won the World Series last year” . Every American knew the answer back then. Now, most of us would fail this simple question.
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Old 12-06-2017, 09:54 AM   #11
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I think they do know if you have a concealed permit as I was asked multiple times if I was carrying ammo or weapons when I went up in May. No and I told them they were welcome to search as I knew Canada was strict about that so they were thousands of miles away at home. They were content with just asking and otherwise both entry and exit from Canada was uneventful.

If you think that was a pain have the Customs & US Border patrol decide they need to search your vehicle after you cross back into El Paso.
They literally removed the seats and searched all our luggage, selves and poked and prodded every bit of the vehicle. After they were done I was asking why and our rental of a Tahoe and there just being two of us alerted them to search for drugs. I said I do not think we look like we would do that and the officer told us it's often people you would never suspect who are caught transporting..
So that was one time where I wish when they had told us the Impala that we were to get was not available we not accepted the free up size. Luckily other than everything we brought with us being scrambled together no damage was done to the vehicle.
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Old 12-06-2017, 10:00 AM   #12
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I'm not sure why people get so upset when they cross a border into a foreign country. Just because the border agents speak English and maybe better than "you" do, the laws of that country are not the same as what you're used to. If things head south, it will not be a problem for your BIL the attorney in Oklahoma, but the US State Department. Strict border checks are part of the world we now occupy. Get used to it, I bet it gets worse before it will ever get better.
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Old 12-06-2017, 10:00 AM   #13
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I remember them good old days of long ago driving and camping in Canada. Antigonish, Cheticamp, Port-aux-Basques, Rocky Harbor... ... When I first got my Scamp, from in a town called Lackawanna I made the mistake of trying to drive over the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side at Niagara Falls but-- without a passport. Was "in custody" for almost an hour.

re: ".....Who won the World Series this year?" I know, I know.... not my (once beloved) Dodgers, but...Houston! (Who'd a thunk it?)
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Old 12-06-2017, 10:53 AM   #14
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Once a long time ago I was camping with my kids in Glacier NP. An archaeologist we met suggested a trip across the border to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. I didn't give the fact that I was a single mom crossing into Canada with two children a thought, but the border police sure did.They asked if I had permission from their dad to take them out of the country, and I said no, we were just on an impromptu day excursion to the above mentioned site.

I was immediately separated from the kids, interviewed, all my id/credit cards etc run, and the kids were interviewed separately from each other. Luckily they were not at an age to be frightened. After about an hr, we were cheerfully told we could proceed. It was a bit scary, but I knew all the info I provided was accurate and that the kids would tell the same story. In the end, I was grateful that they are so vigilant on behalf of children.
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Old 12-06-2017, 11:27 AM   #15
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We crossed in late July with no problems. The Canadian official asked about guns and I replied" don't have one and don't own one". He replied " you are from Texas and don't own a gun?". I said "that is correct and I knew you would say that". Thomas, I think that perhaps it was you who mentioned the Texas angle before. Two minutes later, I was on my way. Even my SIL, who came up from Mexico and was visiting/traveling with us on a tourist visa, had no problems entering Canada or returning, I took only a little cash being as I had paid the trailer off in the months before going to get it.
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:08 PM   #16
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I remembered watching a news segment that talked about how many people (was mostly talking about the local populations in WA) forgot their firearms in the car/truck when they cross the border... maybe there were a few more incidents than usual during that time.. We watched a single traveler in a sedan with BC plate being searched in front of us while waiting in line to cross at Sumas, not sure what got him flagged, but four armed border agents searching a car in front of us left an impression on our 6-years-old...

also I suspect the payment part is one other red flag... since you have to declare amount over 10k, if the trailer is 32k it's over. But in theory your trailer should be mostly paid off by the time you cross the border for pick up.. if there is any balance left it's <3000 anyway.. ?
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:28 PM   #17
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Dennis I agree you should not decide to never again visit Canada because of this one unfortunate incident.

Long before the current issues with security back in about 1970 friends of ours, engaged, strict Baptists who did not even believe in dancing, were crossing back into Canada and their VW matched one that customs were looking for and so had the car completely torn apart, and their belongings even to tearing apart feminine personal supplies (likely looking for drugs). They were extremely embarrassed and were left to put everything back together again.

We on returning to our own town on the border from the US are usually asked about guns or other weapons. Crossing south from here we have only been searched once I believe because I stupidly but honestly told the agent we were heading to a church picnic, they asked about food, I said none. After pulling into the garage and sitting in the car while they checked it, one agent came to the window and asked "who packed the food" to which I politely replied as I had told the first agent we had no food.

These people are only doing their job, and we should feel good that they do all they can do avoid criminal elements entering the country. As Donna said you are entering a foreign country even though once arriving the country seems much like your own.

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Old 12-06-2017, 12:47 PM   #18
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Hi Dennis- took me a little time this AM to connect the dots. We met you at Black Canyon c.g. above Santa Fe and it was a pleasure to show you our 21. Thanks again for the referral!

You never know what is going through their minds, yet that is a pretty menacing looking Dodge 3500! They were probably in disbelief that you would be towing only a 17B with it Anyways hope you can stop by on your way back south and have a great orientation!!
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:48 PM   #19
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We have crossed from the US into Canada and vice versa about a dozen times since we picked up our first trailer in 2012. We have been searched a couple of times for contraband fruit and vegetables but that is about it. The only ‘hassle’ we ever had was crossing into Canada just south of Osoyoos in early October we told the Canadian Customs Agent we were going to Lake Louise and and Banff. He gave us a small lecture about how we were daft to be going so late in the year. But he was smililing all the while.

When I was younger I worked at a Boy Scout camp on the Canadian border. Every Wednesday I and some other counselors would take about 50 boys in canoes to the north side of Lake Metigoshe where there was a small store. The boys would stock up on Macintoshe’s Toffee bars and a few other Canadian delicacies and then we would all pile back into the canoes to paddle a few miles back to the camp. No one had an ID, and we never saw a border guard. Those were the good old days, but as Donna points out they are long gone.
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:51 PM   #20
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Those were the good old days, but as Donna points out they are long gone.

The sad part, in 30 more years, today's days will be the "old days".....
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