Are Canadian customs officers traumatizing visitors?

Thu Apr 22 2010

The complaints, obtained by the Star through an Access to Information request, include accounts of officers cursing and yelling at Canadians and visitors, and threatening them with sniffer dogs or arrest for seemingly minor infractions - or for even having the temerity to ask a question.

There were 1,421 complaints filed with the CBSA in 2008-09, down slightly from 1,607 the previous year.

Travellers also complained of being scolded like schoolchildren, having their cars and personal belongings ripped apart and thrown helter-skelter. But it's the personal degradation that appears to bother people the most.

The complaints also included the following:

• “As a Canadian, I was appalled at the attitude, tone and disrespectful manner in which this officer performed (or did not perform) her duties. To put it bluntly, she was a bully on a power trip,” wrote a Canadian resident who returned on a bus from a three-day shopping to New York State.
• “‘You're coming into my country and that's how you show your respect? By putting on your makeup? (again huffing noises and a look of disgust),'' recalled a female passenger, recounting how she was berated by a female border officer for touching up her makeup as they pulled up to the booth.
• “When I hear the agents' plea to carry firearms in their capacity, it quite honestly frightens me to think of this agent having a weapon available to her …,” writes a woman, a daily commuter from Windsor to Detroit, whose transgression was not stating the exact number of hours she's been in the U.S.

I personally was questioned with a Canadian birth certificate in hand whether to let me in Canada or not. Also, a friend of my family was threatened by a Canadian customs officer comming from the US to Canada to get married that as a visitor, they "better not be caught doing business, or else".
Seems most of the above complaints were towards female border agents.

But I can't say I have had to encounter our border agents yet so I can't tell you what I personally think of them.... but I haven't herd many positive things said about them.

Since I never really planned to head to the US for any particular reason, chances are, I'll never encounter them..... at least not at the border anyways.
Under 2000 complaints in the 6 million plus incidents/year of cross border shopping?
Mountains from molehills.
I've never travelled to the US, so I don't know what it's like there, but, coming through airport customs returning from Europe was a snap. Hubby flies to the US routinely, and he rarely encounters much trouble. US customs even rushed him through past the line ups one day due to a scheduling snaffu on the airport's part.

But, working the physical border must be a lot different.
lone wolf
I know some of them can be incredibly dumb - but I'm sure there's a course on that anyhow. Never cross the border pulling an empty flatbed and tell one you have a load of sailboat fuel....
The last time I was greeted by a female customs agent in Canada, she was extremely pleasant and friendly.
Quote: Originally Posted by lone wolfView Post

I know some of them can be incredibly dumb - but I'm sure there's a course on that anyhow. Never cross the border pulling an empty flatbed and tell one you have a load of sailboat fuel....

lol... that's awesome.
I commuted weekly to our company's head office for six years. Crossed the border at the Fort Erie, Niagara Falls or Lewistown around three-hunderd times.

I always found entering Canada more difficult than entering the United States.

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