Anne and I crossed into the USA from Prescott Ontario to Ogdensburg NY on Tuesday July 7, 2009 just to get away and do some shopping.
It was really no big deal, since we often cross into the USA for day-trip getaways to buy groceries at Super Wal-Mart stores, since their prices are in some case a third of what we pay in Canada with a far greater variety that is unavailable to us on the North side of the 49th Parallel.
Before I get into what happened to us at the Canadian Border on the return trip, I want to mention that we crossed at Prescott because the Native population threatened Canada’s Border Guards at the Cornwall Massena crossing (a couple of months ago) if they donned guns.
The Canadian Border at the Cornwall crossing is on Native land. And the Natives (Mohawks) do not want an armed ‘FOREIGN’ nation on their ‘SOVEREIGN’ territory.
It started with protests from the natives. It escalated with a Native vigil at the border with signs that said “Honk if you don’t want the Border Guards to be armed”. It then went to threats against the Border Guards if they showed up with weapons.
Let me explain the significance of the Cornwall/Massena Border Crossing.
It is an extremely important commercial crossing. So much so, that the Americans are in the completion faze of constructing a huge high-tech facility.
On the Canadian side, Ottawa has decided to build what I understand will be the single largest RCMP detachment.
In response to the threats from the Natives, Canada’s ‘brave’ Border Guards walked off the job effectively closing down this key crossing. WE STAND ON GUARD FOR THEE – SORT OF.
I Googled how many armed situations occurred at US/Canadian Border crossings on the Canadian side, which resulted in zero occurrences.
So, why do Canada’s Border Guards need guns if there have been no violent gun-related occurrences to speak-of?
Here’s the sad reality of Canada’s Border Guards:
Canada’s Border Guards are nothing more and nothing less than tax collectors. They are really no different than Wal-Mart cashiers with uniforms and bad attitudes.
If Anne and I cross into the USA about 20 times a year, which we do, we are asked for our passports going into the USA every time we cross.
We are also asked why we are going into the USA? Where are we going in the USA? What we are bringing with us? What we are leaving in the USA? If we’ve ever been convicted of a crime? If we’ve ever been denied entry into the USA? When was the last time we entered the USA?
And from time to time, we are asked to open the trunk of our car for them to have a look. We’ve even been asked if this is the same vehicle we used when we last crossed into the USA? Since we sometimes cross with the SUV, and sometimes with the Ford F-150.
More often than not though, through the information available to the US Border Guards from the strip on our passports, they already know everything they need to know about us and we just sail through.
The other thing that is very important about the US Border Guards is their general demeanor. With the rare exception, just about all of the American Border Guards are always courteous and friendly.
When standing in the office of the US Border building one day at the Massena crossing, Anne and I noticed a large sign that more or less said:
Thank you for crossing into the USA. We strive to be polite while we welcome you into our country. If you feel that you’ve been mistreated, please do not hesitate to file a complaint with our agent in charge.
Anne and I used to cross into the States every weekend with our horses. We needed a 30-day vet certificate and a 6 month Coggin’s test to bring them across.
Every time we crossed, someone from US customs would inspect the papers, usually go into the trailer to see the horses, ask us about ownership, how long we will be in the USA with the horses, where we are going with them, and if we were bringing them back?
Then we’d usually chat about the horses in a friendly exchange and be on our way.
Here’s how it goes in Canada:
In the 20 times or so per year that we crossed back into Canada, we are virtually NEVER asked for our passports or any ID.
But we are asked where we live? How long we’ve been away? And are we bringing back liquor, cigarettes, guns and/or ammunition?
AND MOST IMPORT OF ALL:
HOW MUCH IS THE VALUE OF THE GOODS WE ARE BRINGING BACK INTO CANADA?
When we’ve crossed back into Canada with our horses, we’ve been asked the usual questions as stated above, but NEVER anything about our horses. NEVER!
Once our horse trailer was searched because the Border Guard (tax-collector) asked if we were bringing back any liquor, to which I answered a few cans of beer. How many is a few? He asked. I don’t know, three or four I answered. Pull over he said. And then two Border Guards (tax-collectors) proceeded to search the horse trailer until we opened the cooler to find three cans of American beer.
OK they said. You can go. But not one question about the horses that were literally a foot away from where they were searching in the trailer.
Back to Tuesday July 7, 2009:
As we got to the Canadian Customs in Prescott, we were just one of two cars crossing into Canada. There was one Border Guard (tax collector) in the booth with at least 7 more in the office.
The Custom’s guy in the booth asked to see our passports, which was out of the ordinary. He then asked the usual questions about where we lived, how long we’ve been away and what we’re bringing back?
My response was: $300 in groceries with $90 in sundries. “What are sundries he asked?” Things I told him. But before I had a chance to even tell him what the ‘things’ were, he asked me what that big bag was on the back seat of our SUV. Horse feed I told him. Part of the ‘things’.
AND THEN HE STARTED WRITING.
He wrote a short novel on a yellow sheet of paper about my bag of horse feed, and told us to report into the office. In the office, Anne and I stood with the 7 Border Guards (tax-collectors) as they discussed the bag of horse feed, and whether or not I could bring it into Canada.
I told the Border Guard (tax collector) that this same identical feed was sold in Canada under the same name and brand (Blue Seal), and costs a grand sum of $9.99. After more debate, they decided to Google (I’m not making this up) whether I could bring in the feed.
About 10 minutes later, we were told that our $9.99 bag of horse feed could not come into Canada unless we were licensed to import horse feed. To say that I was pissed is a real understatement. So I asked them where I could leave it so we could just get on our way.
READY FOR THIS?
I couldn’t leave it I was told. IT HAD TO GO BACK TO THE USA.
For it to go back to the USA, Anne and I had to re-cross the International Bridge at $3.50 each way, cross back through the American border, and dispose of the bag there.
What I never had the chance to tell Canada’s Border Guards (tax collectors) is that we also had two bags of horse treats (more ‘things’) valued at about $15 each. So what do we do with these?
When we got to the American Border, and were asked the usual questions, before answering any of them, I told the USA Custom’s agent what had just happened.
He rolled his eyes.
“Did you tell them that the feed was for personal use?” Yes I did. He rolled his eyes again. “We have a dumpster you can throw the bags into if you want, or better yet, if you hurry you might be able to bring the products back to a TSC (Tractor Supply Company) store before they close.”
On the way to the TSC, we passed an ASPCA shelter a mile or so from the border. When we got to the TSC, we had missed their hours by 15 minutes. So back to the border we went with the intention of leaving the horse feed and treats at the ASPCA, which they were very pleased to have received.
And once again, we crossed the bridge ($3.50) and headed to our border, where the same genius who ordered us into their office was still manning the booth, who started with the same dumb-ass questions even though he knew who we were and what had happened.
Before he could conclude with his questions I interrupted with: “you gotta be kidding, it’s not like we haven’t just been through this.” So, here again came the yellow sheet of paper with an ‘invitation’ to go into their office.
Before I was able to even get into their office, the same schmuck who made a capital issue of our $9.99 bag of horse feed met me and asked for the car keys so he could search the vehicle to make certain I wasn’t trying to sneak the feed across.
I just shook my head in disbelief and disgust. Five minutes later, he returned to tell me all is well and I could be on my way. My response to him was:
“THANK GOD – CANADA IS SAFE AGAIN!”
What happened at this border crossing wasn’t really unique or anecdotal. It is very much indicative of the Canada Border Guards’ (tax collectors) general attitude. They forget what their job really is, and who is paying their salaries with their magnificent after retirement pensions.
About a year or so ago, when we were coming back from a shopping trip in Massena, the Canadian Border Guard (tax collector) bordered on being rude in how he presented his questions. So, before answering them I said:
“It wouldn’t hurt for you to be a little bit polite and friendly.” He then proceeded to search the car.
So, after all of this, I have to ask this question:
Do you really think these BORDER TAX COLLECTORS are smart enough, and show enough good judgment to carry guns any more than cashiers at Wal-Mart?
At least Wal-Mart cashiers provide a real service, just about always smile, and say thank you on your way out.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov