Regional tourism operators are hoping to maintain the momentum of a recent pledge by Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, to examine longstanding issues with Canada Border Services at the Fort Frances entry point.
While the issue seems to flare each summer, Temple Bay Lodge owner Bob Paluch says the problem has only escalated.
Recently, Paluch mailed envelopes to media outlets and politicians brimming with true-to-life Northwestern Ontario vacation horror stories. Each, a tale of someone being detained at the Fort Frances entry point of the Canadian border, stranded with only the clothes on their back after they were barred access to the country based on charges ranging from 30 to 50 years old.
It’s a problem Paluch he believes public pressure might help resolve.
“We haven’t been getting to the right people on this issue somehow,” said Paluch. “These are people that have been our customers for 10 years, then all of a sudden they are denied entry because of something they did 50 years ago.”
While he respects Canada Border Services need to diligently screen entrants to Canada, he says their actions, in regards to many of his clients, have been neither consistent, nor reasonable and it’s costing the region and its residents tourism dollars and jobs.
“We’re laying people off — people aren’t getting enough weeks for their unemployment. It’s affecting a lot of things,” he said. “It might only be two per cent of people in this situation, but that likely represents another 20 per cent that won’t be coming to Canada. The ‘bad word’ gets out twice as fast as ‘the good word’.”
One Illinois man, Ed Pokorski, says he was turned away from the Canadian border based on incomplete records of a 30 year-old incident which resulted in all charges being dismissed.
Pokorski writes: “I won’t be able to attend a week of fishing at your lodge — since I don’t intend to spend a lot of time and money trying to prove that my case was dismissed all those years ago. Forget Canada!”
Paluch said the appeals process for these minor convictions is costly and onerous, a process Ambassador Doer said he would attempt to improve, speaking at a pulp and paper sponsored meet and greet event in International Falls, Aug. 25.
The website of the Kenora District Camp Owners Association also states that the Thunder Bay Rainy River MPP John Rafferty has expressed concern with the reports from the regional tourism industry.
By Chris Marchand