Sunday, December 31, 2006

Border crossings - profiling

We travelled to Bellingham, Washington last week to spend Christmas at a seaside hotel and spa. The trip went smoothly. No delays for weather and the hotel and Christmas dinner were excellent.

But speaking of delays - the only significant one was crossing the border. No problem entering the U.S.A. at the Peace Arch - it took all of ten minutes including the time actually speaking to a U.S. customs official. After handing the border agent our passports we answered a couple of pertinent questions - how long staying, purpose of visit, anything to declare? Welcome to the United States.

Crossing back into Canada two days later it was a slightly different story. The crossing at Sumas, Washington near Abbotsford was backed up at least a half hour. Not that the line was very long - there must have been about twenty cars ahead of us waiting to go through one of two open gates. It turned out that Canadian customs was being extra thorough:

Customs agent: citizenship?
Me: (handed her our passports)
Agent: (a little more forcefully) citizenship?!
Me: Canadian.
Agent: Where were you born?
Me: Canada.
Agent: Where do you live?
Me: Victoria.
Agent: When did you cross into the U.S.?
Me: On Sunday.
Agent: Anything to declare?
Me: No.
Agent: You didn’t buy anything?
Me: Nothing.
Agent: Any alcohol or tobacco?
Me: Nope.
Agent: When did you cross into the U.S.?
Me: On Sunday.
Agent: Is this the same vehicle you crossed into the U.S. with?
Me: Yes.
Agent: What is your occupation?
Me: I’m retired.
Agent: What was your occupation before you retired?
Me: Military.
Agent: Are you carrying any weapons in your vehicle?
Me: No.
Agent: What was the purpose of your trip?
Me: A short vacation.
Agent: (long pause) Welcome back.

No wonder there was a backup. Makes you wonder though. Certainly the thorough grilling couldn’t have much to do with Canada’s post 9/11 security concerns:). My guess is officiousness, posturing and going after taxes on purchases in the U.S. Or, maybe we were being profiled. Whitebread anglos get the grilling. The swarthy, bearded guy with the Arabic accent, wife in full burqha and ragged passport stamped in Syria they let by in a flash.

Happy New Year!

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