travel

Put the Clown Head Back, Eh

canadaborderstopThey say that your past always catches up with you, but who would have figured we’d be busted by our mild mannered neighbors to the North. According to recent reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, Americans heading to Canada for Spring skiing have been pulled out of customs lines for secondary screening because of minor offenses in their past. Most are told they are “inadmissable” and have to return to the U.S. No soup for you!

It could be an old marijuana bust, or the time you took the clown head from the Jack n’ The Box, or a teenage shoplifting escapade, but it doesn’t matter. You’re going down buddy! The culprit appears to be a recently tweaked computer database that has always been part of U.S. and Canadian intelligence sharing.

What can you do about it? Well, for starters, don’t head for Canada if you have some minor conviction in your past, because that will get you pulled out of line fast. According to spokespersons for the Canadian Border Services Agency, you can apply for a “Minister’s Approval mountieof Rehabilitation” to wipe your record clean. Seriously. It sounds like a Get Out Jail Card from a Monopoly game, but it’s all too real. And you thought Canada was our friend.

But let’s not blame Canada for this bizarre turn of events. Soon , the same thing could happen if you’re on your way to Japan, Indonesia or Europe. If other countries sign reciprocal agreements with the U.S., the same thing could happen. Just about anything from a DUI stop to a college prank can show up in the data mine if it happened after you turned 18.

canadaborderIt does make you wonder about the strategy behind our homeland security program. Are they worried about who or what is getting across our borders? Then why not check all the shipping containers and really maintain an accurate list of who should not be entering our country. Then there’s the fact that the U.S. government is sharing some very detailed, and in some cases, incorrect information with other governments that will follow you around until the end of time. Not a comforting thought. In many states, an arrest with a later acquittal or charges being dropped will still appear on your record unless you jump through the required hoops to expunge it from the records.

What can you do about this? For the moment, it looks like if you have something iffy in your past, your only option is to stay out of Canada and ski in Utah.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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