Business was brisk and the volume of work was hefty at the international border crossings at North Portal and Estevan Highway this past month.
April traffic was up significantly and a number of immigration matters were handled along with more than a few customs incidents that required action and penalties.
In their April report, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said that 64 foreign nationals were refused entry at North Portal while four were refused entry at the Estevan Highway station.
Of the 64 at North Portal, 39 were denied entry due to previous criminal offences while six were not considered genuine visitors to Canada and another 19 were denied for a variety of other reasons.
At the Estevan Highway, one of the four who was refused entry had a previous criminal record.
A sampling of the cases that were considered by immigration officers included a person living in New York who stated he was going to northern Alberta to visit a friend for three weeks. The New Yorker attempted entry on April 19.
While questioning the subject and examining the vehicle, CBSA officers determined that the man was actually attempting to move to Canada so he was refused entry and issued an exclusion order that bars him from access to Canada for one year.
On April 23, a commercial driver from Washington sought entry to pick up a load in Saskatchewan. During a background check, it was discovered he had been convicted of negligent homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol. He was refused entry into Canada and returned to the United States.
On April 26, a Montana-based commercial driver was refused entry due to a serious criminal background that included two counts of assault, assault causing bodily harm to a child, criminal endangerment, probation violation and possession of methamphetamines with intent to deliver.
On April 27, three Wisconsin residents who had apparently been contracted to provide training in northern Alberta were refused entry at the North Portal port. Two of the people had drug/alcohol related convictions while the third did not have authorization to work in Canada. Upon examination of their vehicle, CBSA officers discovered 13 grams of synthetic cannabis. As a result of this activity, two men were returned to the U.S. while the third was arrested and turned over to the RCMP.
On the customs side of the business in April, CBSA officers at North Portal seized more than $185,000 in undeclared goods and weapons resulting in over $66,000 in penalties being levied against travellers entering Canada. Several incidents are also being investigated for criminal prosecution by the CBSA investigation branch. All of the following could have been avoided had proper declarations been made:
On April 2, an Alberta resident returning to Canada with a horse trailer declared $22,000 in various goods. When CBSA officers carried out a secondary examination they discovered the truck pulling the trailer had actually been purchased in Oklahoma for $45,459 and was not being declared. The truck was seized and a penalty of $25,002 was assessed for its return. A further investigation into this matter is ongoing.
If the truck had been declared, the importer would have paid a total of $2,372.97 in GST.
Two Saskatchewan residents returning to Canada on April 4 after being away for one day declared fencing material, alcohol and a dog that had been given to them from a person in Florida who apparently had an allergy to the pooch. Through further questioning and examination, CBSA officers determined the couple had actually paid $1,000 for the dog and had it shipped to North Dakota. The couple was penalized $545 for not declaring the purchase of the dog. If they had done it properly, the amount due would have been just under $50.
On April 10, two Alberta residents returning from Michigan with a boat trailer valued at $1,750 stated the boat aboard the trailer had been purchased in Canada. After examining their import documents and through further questioning, it was determined the boat had also been purchased in Michigan for $19,607.80. The boat was seized and a penalty of $10,784.29 was applied and paid before the boat was returned. The driver of the vehicle later told CBSA officers he was attempting to save money. If the declaration had been carried out truthfully, the GST bill would have totalled $980.
On April 17, an Alberta resident was importing a limousine into Canada which he undervalued by $7,000. The vehicle was seized and a penalty was applied for its return. Subsequent investigation revealed the limo was inadmissible to Canada since it did not meet Transport Canada specifications.
On April 23, a Saskatchewan man who was trying to save money on taxes, undervalued a boat and trailer by $31,745.42. Had he declared the true purchase price of just under $59,000, he would have paid about $2,950 in GST. Instead he was required to pay a penalty of $17,460 for the return of the goods.
On April 30, CBSA officers found two prohibited switchblades that were concealed in a false compartment within the vehicle occupied by two Saskatchewan residents. The weapons and vehicle were seized and the driver paid a $1,500 penalty to reclaim the vehicle.
On the commercial side of the border business in April, it was noted that $24,950 in penalties were issued against commercial importers.
In one instance, CBSA officers became engaged with an importer with a unique reason for undervaluing a bull by $10,000, stating he was only the co-owner of the bull which had a full value of $20,000. A $2,000 penalty was paid.
On April 17, a commercial carrier from North Carolina was issued a $16,000 penalty for not declaring a shipment of chemicals bound for Alberta that was valued at just over $22,000. CBSA officers examined the trailer and found the chemicals loaded midway in the trailer, tucked behind a load of insulation. The officers noted that it was the third offence of not reporting goods for this particular company.
The CBSA reminds Canadian residents that if you are buying online and are picking up your goods in North Dakota, make sure you have a printout of the online receipt and take it with you to present to CBSA officers upon your return to Canada. Not all shippers send a receipt with the product and this information regarding the sale and the goods is necessary for proper processing at the border.
CBSA also noted that as of June 1, there are new personal exemptions going into effect.
After an absence of 24 hours, a person may now bring back $200 worth of goods duty-free and tax free. After 48 hours, the personal exemption is now $800.
There are no exemptions for same-day travel.
Questions concerning immigration, customs and commercial transactions may be directed toward the CBSA at their information line 1-800-461-9999.