Customs onerous for returning Canadians

In response to Wayne Harris’ letter in the July 7, 2011 Capital News: A Tale of Two Countries and Two Mindsets.

To the editor:

In response to Wayne Harris’ letter in the July 7, 2011 Capital News: A Tale of Two Countries and Two Mindsets.

Mr. Harris’ experience with the U.S. Customs upon entering the U.S. for a camping trip to the States was indeed not a pleasant experience.  Mr. Harris commented on how easy it was to re-enter Canada.

My husband and I found this to be the opposite case.  Upon returning to B.C. after a trip to California & Arizona we were stopped at the Canadian border for close to two hours while Canadian Customs officials thoroughly searched our 5th Wheel trailer and our truck.

Our bed was torn apart, mattress upside down, compartments, cupboards and drawers searched and the seats uprooted in our truck.

While the Customs officials were searching our trailer and truck I had to go to the ladies washroom and started to leave the building as the washroom was in a different building. I was shouted after and stopped by a Customs official who questioned where I was going. When I told him he asked me if this was an emergency.

I said, “it might be if I’m not allowed to go.”

He then told me to walk around a bit further to another building in order to keep a distance away from our trailer and truck “for the safety of their Customs officers.”

I’m a small woman, 71 years of age and 120 pounds.  I found this to be rather ludicrous.

In addition, we had to accompany a Customs official to another building and witness him pouring out our three bottles of beer and a 26 ounce bottle of liquor which was over our limit of alcohol.  The 26 ounce bottle was purchased in Canada and not consumed on our trip.  We didn’t think we had to declare it as we paid all the taxes at the time of purchase. We were honest and reported the amount of liquor we had to the first Customs booth which we suspect ‘triggered’ us being searched.

We were not offered a choice to pay for the over limit and had to accompany an officer to another building to witness him pouring our liquor down a sink.  He told us we would be “flagged” on their records if we wanted to keep the liquor and that we would be searched every time we crossed back into Canada.

We felt like criminals just trying to get back home into B.C.

We, and others we know, have had instances with our Canadian Customs officials that are inconsistent and unfair. I know they have a job to do and have a great deal of authority but sometimes I wonder where their precedence lies with their own Canadian citizens.


G. Smith, Kelowna



Kelowna Capital News