Tuesday, March 22, 2016

(N)O Canada

Now go home!

It will not come as news to anybody that a certain North American country is highly agitated about people from the country to its south crossing the border in search of work.

I speak, of course, of Canada.

In recent years, the Canucks have tightened their border security, perhaps in response to terror threats.  One aspect of this tightening has been much greater scrutiny of U.S. visitors entering Canada to work, even on short-term assignments.

I first became aware of this a few weeks ago when I talked with a professional man, a New Yorker who had been dispatched to the Great White North to assist a Canadian company in preparation of documents for a financial transaction.

First Story

As his plane coasted into Toronto, my friend filled out the usual entry form; when he came to the "Reason for Your Visit" question, he checked the box marked "work."

"All the snowboarders got waved through," he told me.  "They sent me to a second line. Someone in a uniform wanted to know why I was doing this job and not a Canadian."

"It was very interrogative," he added. "They got very offended when they learned I was working on a process to sell a Canadian company."

After about 30 minutes of questioning, my friend was granted entry.  He spent a couple days on his assignment, went home for Presidents Day weekend and returned the next week to finish the job.  He filled out another entry card as his plane touched down at 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

"This time was harder," he said, apparently because the immigration scanning system indicated he'd been in Canada on a "work" visit the week before.  "They asked all the same questions."

Apparently his answers were not convincing.

"It is my judgment that you are going to need a work permit to stay in the country," the second screener said.  "What is the nature of your work?"

"I'm an investment banker."

The immigration officer consulted something she called the "NAFTA list."

"'Investment banker' isn't on the list," she said.  Trying to be helpful, she tossed out another question.

"Well, maybe you're a management consultant, eh?"
          (Okay, so I added the "eh" bit.  I've been to Canada; it definitely could have happened.)

"I'm not a management consultant," my friend said.

"Okay, what was your college degree?"

"I majored in math," he said.  Again, she consulted the list.

"'Mathematician' is on the list," she said triumphantly.

"But I'm not a mathematician."
        (Are there jobs for traveling mathematicians?  Do these people carry briefcases full of pi?)

After more questioning, my friend was directed to surrender his passport.  At 3 a.m., he was allowed to go to his hotel, 25 miles away in the city, and ordered to return at noon with documentation to support the issuance of a Canadian work permit.

Fortunately, the Canadian firm's legal counsel had dealt with similar situations. My friend returned to the airport at midday with a file including an engagement letter and other documents affirming that he was, in fact, a management consultant.  After sitting in a waiting room for 45 minutes, his name was called.  He sat for another period while an immigration agent examined his papers.

Finally his passport was returned to him; stapled to it was a one-year Canadian work permit.  Later that week, he went home. I don't think he's planning to visit Canada again soon.

"The funny thing," he said later, "is I had to go to France to do the same work for the same project.  I didn't have any immigration problems there."

Second Story

A week after my friend ended his work stint in Canada, another American was detained in Vancouver, B.C.  He is the self-named Augustus Invictus, an eccentric-sounding Florida libertarian who is seeking the Republican nomination for Marco Rubio's senate seat.

Invictus is also a lawyer.  Two years ago, he represented a former neo-Nazi leader appealing a criminal conviction on domestic terrorism charges.  Even assholes get access to legal representation in the U.S.; it's a constitutional thing.

Anyway, Invictus seems to have been invited by like-minded Canadians to give a speech.  Canadian communists threatened violence if he were allowed to talk, he said. (Suppression of speech is a "thing" in both our countries now.)

Canadian immigration officials questioned him closely when he arrived in Vancouver on March 4.  According to his account, he was interrogated for three to four hours "about my affiliation with neo-Nazis, about the charges of Fascism, and about allegations of racism.”  He said border agents made him remove his shirt to look for incriminating tattoos, presumably swastikas.  None was found.

“I was a politician traveling to give a speech, and yet they treated me like a gang member trying to run guns across the border,” Invictus said in a release. “They said that no good could come of my entry into the country because violence would certainly ensue.”

At the end of the interrogation, Invictus was denied entry to Canada.

His point:  “So I was prevented from making a speech because Communists made threats of violence against me – and that seems to me to be ass-backward. Clearly, the Canadian government values the right of violent protest for Communists more than they value the right of free speech for all.”


Later I had a dinner with a an IT expert for a company with several branches in Canada.  He said that he, too, had been grilled harshly several years ago when he traveled to Canada to offer training and support to personnel in the company's Canadian offices.


Then I talked with another friend who works on the business side of an entertainment company.  His firm sent an American architect who specializes in sports venues to evaluate a site in Montreal.
       "Canadian immigration gave him grief about working in the country, and he lost his temper," said my friend.  "So they refused to admit him and put him on a plane back to the United States."


Another friend told me that Canada doesn't look kindly on travelers with drunk driving arrests.  (Neither she nor I has such a record, by the way.)  Here is some government guidance on the matter.

          Q.  Can I enter Canada with a DUI?
          A.  The short answer is maybe.  

               Once arrested for drunk driving, an individual becomes Criminally Inadmissible
               to Canada.  This means the offender may not visit Canada for any reason, without
               first obtaining special permission from Canadian immigration authorities.
               Canadian immigration officials have a tremendous amount of discretion when
               deciding whether or not to admit an inadmissible individual to Canada on a
               Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).  A Temporary Resident Permit is a document
               that enables foreign nationals, who would otherwise be inadmissible, to enter Canada
               for a prescribed period of time.


A final note:  Ha ha ha.


My previous impression was that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency treats guests and immigrants more harshly than similar systems in other countries.

It appears that our Canadian friends are playing catch-up or possibly even getting tougher than our own border agents in these matters.

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