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Old 02-26-2007, 01:38 PM   #1
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Going to Canada? Check your past

Article in San Francisco Chronicle:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...NGCAO9NSB1.DTL

****

Going to Canada? Check your past
Tourists with minor criminal records turned back at border

C.W. Nevius
Friday, February 23, 2007

There was a time not long ago when a trip across the border from the United States to Canada was accomplished with a wink and a wave of a driver's license. Those days are over.

Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: "Your next stop is immigration.

Felsch was ushered into a room. "There must have been 75 people in line," he says. "We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet.

Or ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They'd made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to "secondary'' immigration.

There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was "a person who was inadmissible to Canada.'' The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession.

In 1975.

Welcome to the new world of border security. Unsuspecting Americans are turning up at the Canadian border expecting clear sailing, only to find that their past -- sometimes their distant past -- is suddenly an issue.

While Canada officially has barred travelers convicted of criminal offenses for years, attorneys say post-9/11 information-gathering, combined with a sweeping agreement between Canada and the United States to share data, has resulted in a spike in phone calls from concerned travelers.

They are shocked to hear that the sins of their youth might keep them out of Canada. But what they don't know is that this is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there.

"It's completely ridiculous,'' said Chris Cannon, an attorney representing the East Bay couple, who asked that their names not be used because they don't want their kids to know about the pot rap. "It's a disaster. I mean, who didn't smoke pot in the '70s?''

We're about to find out. And don't think you are in the clear if you never inhaled. Ever get nabbed for a DUI? How about shoplifting? Turn around. You aren't getting in.

"From the time that you turn 18, everything is in the system,'' says Lucy Perillo, whose Canada Border Crossing Service in Winnipeg, Manitoba, helps Americans get into the country.

Canadian attorney David Lesperance, an expert on customs and immigration, says he had a client who was involved in a fraternity prank 20 years ago. He was on a scavenger hunt, and the assignment was to steal something from a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. He got caught, paid a small fine and was ordered to sweep the police station parking lot.

He thought it was all forgotten. And it was, until he tried to cross the border.

The official word from the Canadian Border Services Agency is that this is nothing more than business as usual. Spokesman Derek Mellon gets a little huffy when asked why the border has become so strict.

"I think it is important to understand that you are entering another country,'' Mellon says."¯You are not crossing the street.''

OK, but something changed here, didn't it?

"People say, 'I've been going to Canada for 20 years and never had a problem,' '' Lesperance says. "It's classic. I say, 'Well, you've been getting away with it for 20 years.' ''

A prior record has always made it difficult to cross the border. What you probably didn't know was that, as the Canadian Consulate's Web site says, "Driving while under the influence of alcohol is regarded as an extremely serious offense in Canada.''

So it isn't as if rules have stiffened. But what has changed is the way the information is gathered. In the wake of 9/11, Canada and the United States formed a partnership that has dramatically increased what Lesperance calls "the data mining'' system at the border.

The Smart Border Action Plan, as it is known, combines Canadian intelligence with extensive U.S. Homeland Security information. The partnership began in 2002, but it wasn't until recently that the system was refined.

"They can call up anything that your state trooper in Iowa can,'' Lesperance says. "As Canadians and Americans have begun cooperating, all those indiscretions from the '60s are going to come back and haunt us.''

Now, there's a scary thought. But the irony of the East Bay couple's situation is inescapable. Since their rowdy days in the '70s, they have created and sold a publishing company, purchased extensive real estate holdings and own a $3 million getaway home in Lake Tahoe.

"We've done pretty well since those days,'' she says. "But what I wonder is how many other people might be affected.''

The Canadian Border Services Agency says its statistics don't show an increase in the number of travelers turned back. But Cannon says that's because the "data mining'' has just begun to pick up momentum.

"It is too new to say,'' he says. "Put it this way. I am one lawyer in San Francisco, and I've had four of these cases in the last two years, two since January. And remember, a lot of people don't want to talk about it (because of embarrassment).''

Asked if there were more cases, attorney Lesperance was emphatic.

"Oh, yeah,'' he says. "Just the number of calls I get has gone up. If we factor in the greater ability to discover these cases, it is just mathematically logical that we are going to see more.''

The lesson, the attorneys say, is that if you must travel to Canada, you should apply for "a Minister's Approval of Rehabilitation" to wipe the record clear.

Oh, and by the way, if you don't need to travel to Canada, don't think you won't need to clear your record. Lesperance says it is just a matter of time before agreements are signed with governments in destinations like Japan, Indonesia and Europe.

"This,'' Lesperance says, "is just the edge of the wedge.''

Who would have thought a single, crazy night in college would follow you around the world?
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Old 02-26-2007, 01:38 PM   #2
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Going to Canada? Check your past

Article in San Francisco Chronicle:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...NGCAO9NSB1.DTL

****

Going to Canada? Check your past
Tourists with minor criminal records turned back at border

C.W. Nevius
Friday, February 23, 2007

There was a time not long ago when a trip across the border from the United States to Canada was accomplished with a wink and a wave of a driver's license. Those days are over.

Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: "Your next stop is immigration.

Felsch was ushered into a room. "There must have been 75 people in line," he says. "We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet.

Or ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They'd made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to "secondary'' immigration.

There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was "a person who was inadmissible to Canada.'' The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession.

In 1975.

Welcome to the new world of border security. Unsuspecting Americans are turning up at the Canadian border expecting clear sailing, only to find that their past -- sometimes their distant past -- is suddenly an issue.

While Canada officially has barred travelers convicted of criminal offenses for years, attorneys say post-9/11 information-gathering, combined with a sweeping agreement between Canada and the United States to share data, has resulted in a spike in phone calls from concerned travelers.

They are shocked to hear that the sins of their youth might keep them out of Canada. But what they don't know is that this is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there.

"It's completely ridiculous,'' said Chris Cannon, an attorney representing the East Bay couple, who asked that their names not be used because they don't want their kids to know about the pot rap. "It's a disaster. I mean, who didn't smoke pot in the '70s?''

We're about to find out. And don't think you are in the clear if you never inhaled. Ever get nabbed for a DUI? How about shoplifting? Turn around. You aren't getting in.

"From the time that you turn 18, everything is in the system,'' says Lucy Perillo, whose Canada Border Crossing Service in Winnipeg, Manitoba, helps Americans get into the country.

Canadian attorney David Lesperance, an expert on customs and immigration, says he had a client who was involved in a fraternity prank 20 years ago. He was on a scavenger hunt, and the assignment was to steal something from a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. He got caught, paid a small fine and was ordered to sweep the police station parking lot.

He thought it was all forgotten. And it was, until he tried to cross the border.

The official word from the Canadian Border Services Agency is that this is nothing more than business as usual. Spokesman Derek Mellon gets a little huffy when asked why the border has become so strict.

"I think it is important to understand that you are entering another country,'' Mellon says."¯You are not crossing the street.''

OK, but something changed here, didn't it?

"People say, 'I've been going to Canada for 20 years and never had a problem,' '' Lesperance says. "It's classic. I say, 'Well, you've been getting away with it for 20 years.' ''

A prior record has always made it difficult to cross the border. What you probably didn't know was that, as the Canadian Consulate's Web site says, "Driving while under the influence of alcohol is regarded as an extremely serious offense in Canada.''

So it isn't as if rules have stiffened. But what has changed is the way the information is gathered. In the wake of 9/11, Canada and the United States formed a partnership that has dramatically increased what Lesperance calls "the data mining'' system at the border.

The Smart Border Action Plan, as it is known, combines Canadian intelligence with extensive U.S. Homeland Security information. The partnership began in 2002, but it wasn't until recently that the system was refined.

"They can call up anything that your state trooper in Iowa can,'' Lesperance says. "As Canadians and Americans have begun cooperating, all those indiscretions from the '60s are going to come back and haunt us.''

Now, there's a scary thought. But the irony of the East Bay couple's situation is inescapable. Since their rowdy days in the '70s, they have created and sold a publishing company, purchased extensive real estate holdings and own a $3 million getaway home in Lake Tahoe.

"We've done pretty well since those days,'' she says. "But what I wonder is how many other people might be affected.''

The Canadian Border Services Agency says its statistics don't show an increase in the number of travelers turned back. But Cannon says that's because the "data mining'' has just begun to pick up momentum.

"It is too new to say,'' he says. "Put it this way. I am one lawyer in San Francisco, and I've had four of these cases in the last two years, two since January. And remember, a lot of people don't want to talk about it (because of embarrassment).''

Asked if there were more cases, attorney Lesperance was emphatic.

"Oh, yeah,'' he says. "Just the number of calls I get has gone up. If we factor in the greater ability to discover these cases, it is just mathematically logical that we are going to see more.''

The lesson, the attorneys say, is that if you must travel to Canada, you should apply for "a Minister's Approval of Rehabilitation" to wipe the record clear.

Oh, and by the way, if you don't need to travel to Canada, don't think you won't need to clear your record. Lesperance says it is just a matter of time before agreements are signed with governments in destinations like Japan, Indonesia and Europe.

"This,'' Lesperance says, "is just the edge of the wedge.''

Who would have thought a single, crazy night in college would follow you around the world?
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Old 02-26-2007, 05:41 PM   #3
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I wonder why we don't employ the same standards? Oh yah that's descriminating.
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Old 02-28-2007, 08:03 PM   #4
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Hi there, we have to worry about the same things up here, going down there, but we can be thrown in jail or our vehicles confiscated...
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Old 03-02-2007, 03:04 AM   #5
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I wonder if this includes Expunged Juvenile records? I made some fool choices when I was a kid and got punished for them (Nothing really bad, punishment involved a $65 fine). Since at the time you could seal your juvenile records, and I had done so, I wonder if they're violating that now by sending that information.

Anyone have an idea on who to contact? I would personally like to know before bothering to spend the money on a Passport. No sense in getting one if I have no plans to ever leave the states.
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Old 03-10-2007, 09:31 AM   #6
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The day the US decided to crack down on anything would be the day that the US govt became men and grew a pair and told the whiners to shut up. But we know that will never happen expecially with the millions of dollars they make being in charge cuz they just dont care.
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Old 03-23-2007, 07:51 PM   #7
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Gosh it must be working, I have never heard of a single terroist act performed in Canada by someone crossing from the USA, of course there was the ELF guy wanted from Portland Oregon that was caught shoplifting in Vancouver BC, but he probably lied about his name or felony record. Best idea, spend your money in the USA and stay away from a country that treats you like a criminal for some inane reason.
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Old 03-24-2007, 02:03 AM   #8
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Mom use to say be careful what you do, it will come back to haunt you later in life. Quess she was right. Some people did not smoke pot in the 70's as one attorney suggests, or some people did not walk into the local grocery store to steal something because it was suppose to be a prank. Ssorry but you screwed up, face life and move on the the restrictions that are imposed on you because of your "litte error in life". Maybe some of you will make sure that you become a parent instead of best friend to your child.
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Old 03-24-2007, 05:32 AM   #9
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It`s Canada`s rules and and in todays environment understandable.I would like to travel to Canada again but have DWI incident 32 years ago.
Does anyone know who to contact to clear these matters up beforehand?
When Canadians come here they are expected to obey our laws and I will do the same.
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Old 03-25-2007, 02:35 PM   #10
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It is called "the Law of Unintended Consequences". Or, your past comes back to bite you.
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Old 03-29-2007, 01:42 PM   #11
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If you have been convicted of a minor felony, does that preclude you from getting a passport?
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:08 PM   #12
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I don't believe so but it will likely keep you from entering Canada. BTW, I don't believe there are any 'minor' felonies, at least in Arizona. In fact, a Misdemeanor DUI will keep you out of Canada.
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