The traffic count at Saskatchewan's main international border crossing at North Portal continues to increase at a steady pace.
The Canadian Border Services Agency released statistics for March indicating a nine per cent increase in travellers at that port compared with March of last year. CBSA officers processed 24,697 travellers entering in 6,259 vehicles and 11,326 commercial trucks.
At the nearby Estevan Highway Port, the overall traveller numbers remained a little more constant with 4,297 travellers entering Canada in March. The number of commercial trucks however, continues to see large increases at the Estevan Highway Port with 584 crossing the border there compared with 146 in March of last year.
CBSA also noted with interest that there was a significant increase in non-resident travellers at the Estevan port. Their numbers rose by 32 per cent to 765 from 582 in March of 2011.
In the past month, CBSA officers at North Portal issued 60 work permits and 47 travellers were refused entry, five for serious criminality and 19 for various other forms of criminal activities. Six more were refused for being non-genuine visitors and 17 were denied entry for a variety of issues.
CBSA officials noted that on March 2, a commercial driver from North Dakota sought entry to deliver commercial goods. Background checks revealed he had been convicted for disorderly conduct, hindering law enforcement and resisting arrest. He had been refused entry into Canada on a previous occasion and he was once again denied entry and turned over to United States authorities.
On March 5, a United States resident seeking entry to find employment as an iron worker was refused entry after it was revealed he had prior convictions for murder and attempted murder.
On March 12, a U.S. resident sought entry to deliver commercial goods in Saskatchewan. Upon further examination, it was noted he had been convicted for sexually assaulting a minor and was a registered sex offender. He had been refused entry on a previous occasion and was denied entry again.
On March 17, a Saskatchewan resident returning to Canada at the Estevan Highway Port on an all terrain vehicle (ATV) displayed a demeanour that suggested he may have been drinking and driving. Border officials administered a roadside alcohol screening test which he failed, so he was arrested and turned over to the RCMP for further processing. The person in question appeared in court and pled guilty to one count of impaired driving and was fined $1,000 plus a $150 surcharge and prohibited from driving for a year.
On March 21, background checks revealed that a U.S. resident seeking entry to deliver commercial goods to central Alberta had been convicted of trafficking cocaine and for illegal possession of a firearm for which he had served 4.5 years in prison. He was refused entry and returned to American authorities.
On March 31 at the Estevan Highway crossing, a resident of North Dakota sought entry to provide assistance to a co-worker whose vehicle had broken down in Estevan. Border officers found that the man had been convicted of aggravated assault with a knife so he was refused entry and turned over to U.S. officials.
There were several instances involving undeclared goods purchased in the United States and in all instances penalties were applied that could have been avoided if the goods had been properly declared.
A few examples of these transgressions included a March 5 incident where a Canadian resident was importing a truck valued at US$10,000. A secondary exam uncovered the fact that several repairs had been completed on the vehicle following the purchase that were not reported, such as lights, pumps, diesel superchip, glow plug module, door resurfacing and a new paint job plus new tires for a trailer that was being towed. The undeclared repairs were valued at US$2,164. The vehicle was seized for undervaluation since the declared value needed to include the repairs as well as purchase price. The vehicle was returned following the payment of a $541 penalty. Had the goods been declared, the additional tax bill would have been less than $22.
On March 7, a U.S. resident was planning on travelling to northern Alberta for a month. A secondary examination at the North Portal crossing uncovered a plastic bag that contained 1.75 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, a controlled narcotic. The drugs were seized, the traveller was arrested and refused entry and returned to U.S. officers. The vehicle was seized and eventually returned to the traveller after a penalty of $440 was paid.
On March 10, a U.S. resident arrived at the North Portal crossing seeking entry to visit a friend in Saskatchewan. The person was driving a pickup truck with an ATV in the box that appeared to be in showroom condition. When questioned about the ATV, the traveller claimed it was a gift to him from his Canadian friend. Further investigation revealed his Canadian friend had purchased the vehicle and asked his American friend to bring it into Canada and not report it in an attempt to evade paying taxes on it. The ATV was subsequently seized and later returned after a $1,462.98 penalty was paid.
On March 29, three travellers including two Canadians and one American arrived at the port. During a routine examination, child pornography was located on one of their laptops. CBSA officers arrested one of the Canadians and turned her over to the Estevan detachment of the RCMP. The U.S. resident was refused entry as a non-genuine visitor and was turned over to U.S. authorities. The other Canadian resident did not have any involvement so was allowed to enter Canada. The laptop computer in question was seized.
On that same day, two U.S. residents coming to Canada to go hunting with a friend in Alberta arrived at the port towing a motorcycle which they claimed as theirs and stating that it would be returning to the United States following their visit. Further investigation revealed the friend in Canada had conspired with his American counterparts to have the motorcycle imported into Canada without paying taxes. The motorcycle was seized and only released after a penalty of $4,033 was paid. The tax that they were attempting to avoid would have amounted to a little over $1,000.
On six separate occasions in March, prohibited knives were found on travellers. These weapons ranged from switchblades to butterfly knives. In each instance, the knives were seized and penalties of $500 each were assessed.
If you have information regarding suspicious cross-border activity, please contact the Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060. For general information regarding cross-border travel call 1-800-461-9999.