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Privacy.

So last weekend I made my way into Canada during our travels. The border crossing of choice was at the 1000 Islands. This is not uncommon for me.

The 1000 Islands border crossing is not overly busy outside of tourist season and that’s actually one of the reasons I like crossing there. Crossing the border is a game of chance no matter where you’re doing it. Sometimes the customs officer is reasonably nice, other times they’re quite cranky and rarely do you drive away thinking they were actually friendly. The cranky level goes up depending on which direction you’re traveling in. You’re usually welcomed into “The Land of the Free” by very surly people. Heading the other direction makes you feel like the whole experience had a touch of maple syrup sugary sweetness.

As we crossed the bridge from Wellesley Island to Hill Island, I noticed that something was amiss. Everyone was stopping before the Canadian customs station. Trucks with flashing lights were being used to herd all the vehicles into one lane all the way to the left. As we got closer I realised that we were being herded into one of the U.S. Customs lanes and passing through it backwards (since it’s designed for traffic moving in the other direction). There was a whole bunch of U.S. Customs officers inspecting vehicles leaving the U.S.

Um, why?

Now I understand that the customs folks are there to keep the U.S. safe at all points of entry. They look for a whole variety of illegal activities going on. Now that everyone has to have some sort of passport to get back into the states it’s become very, very militaristic. I laugh when I look at some of my old maps from the 60s and 70s which tell how to cross the border easily and efficiently and tout the U.S.-Canadian border as “the easiest border to cross in the world”, because that is hardly the case in this day and age.

I’m sorry, I believe that it’s Canada’s job to inspect people headed into their country. I do not believe that the U.S. should be inspecting my credentials, vehicle, etc. as we are *leaving* the country.

As I pulled up to this impromptu U.S. inspection station our passports were taken and numerous questions were fired off.

“Where are you going?”
“What’s your citizenship?”
“Where do you live?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“How do you know each other?”

Now that last question can be interesting for us. It was our friend dave that was crossing with me this time, and we met dave through online connections. Explaining this is difficult to U.S. border agents because they apparently haven’t heard of the internet yet and they don’t fathom the idea that we have met friends online. The relatively homely woman looked at me askance when I told her that we had met online and had been friends for a few years.

After a few more questions I was told to put the car into park (of course I said, “it’s a stick so I’ll go with neutral”) and several people rifled through the things in the back of my car. I heard murmurs of discussion and bags being rifled through. I smirked. I don’t really care anymore when they go through my bags. I think I’m going to start packing some really shocking underwear or magazines or something to give them something to talk about at their coffee break. I noticed that I didn’t hear the bags zip close before they slammed down the hatch.

A few more questions from the homely woman and off we were a few hundred feet to the Canadian border station, where the pleasant (and pleasantly bearded) official asked where were going, for how long, if we had anything in the car like tobacco, alcohol or firearms and then we were told to have a nice day. Off we were to the 401.

As a tax paying American citizens I have a Really Big Problem with the United States government inspecting me as I LEAVE the United States. I really don’t think it’s any of their business as to when I’m leaving the states. I think they should only care when I coming back into the states, and then I think that they’re inspection process is overly intrusive, laughable and ridiculous. One is assumed to be nearly a criminal these days and I don’t appreciate it at all. I thought things would ease up a little bit when Obama took office in January but no, it’s the same old, same old as when GWB was there.

I don’t know if the 1000 Islands border control is overly zealous or what but that’s the third time that I have had such an intrusive crossing experience. I was thinking that I have a note on a file somewhere but the outgoing U.S. border officers didn’t scan my passport, they just searched and grilled me.

I don’t feel any safer, I don’t feel any comfort and I am certainly not happy being treated like this by my own country, which is supposedly “The Land of the Free”. I felt a great deal of comfort when we were finally in Canada.

To me that’s a little sad.

2 Comments

  1. That’s been my experience too, J.P. When crossing between Detroit and Windsor, I’ve found the Americans to be dicks while the Canadians are always nice and professional.

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