Red and white border crossing blues 

Turning some Americans away may be hurting tourism

Two years ago, after retiring early at the age of 57, Linda Krupa decided to get rid of most of her belongings and hit the road in search of adventure.

She packed everything she owned into her car, left her home in northern California, and pursued her wanderlust with a winter skiing in Utah and a summer in Washington D.C.

And for her next destination, Krupa had turned her eyes north to Whistler.

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for Krupa when she arrived at the B.C.-Washington border on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 11 th .

“I basically drove 3,000 miles to the border, and when I got there they had me sit there for a long time, and then they turned me back. They said, ‘Because everything you own is in your car, you don’t have any ties to the United States, and we are afraid you are going to stay if we let you in,’” said Krupa from a rest stop north of Seattle during a phone interview.

“And after that, they said, ‘If you try and re-enter, we may take legal action against you….’

“I was totally blown away. I was totally shocked. I wouldn’t set foot in Canada now if you paid me,” said the retired dietitian from Silicon Valley.

Krupa’s story joins a growing list of baby-boomer Americans who have recently faced barriers crossing into Canada.

The best known locally was probably acclaimed skier Glen Plake, who was denied entry in April while making his way from the United States to speak at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. The decision was apparently made after an old pot charge came up during a background check on Plake.

But not everyone agrees that Americans are having a harder time crossing the border these days. Chris Williams, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, said he has not seen evidence that more Americans are being denied access than in the past.

Williams said that while the agency does not collect statistics on those turned away, anecdotally the numbers do not seem to be any higher.

“The rules for entering the country at the border haven’t changed. They haven’t changed for several years, if not decades. And people are more and more aware of the type of documentation that you need to cross the border. So no, I don’t think there has been any real change or trend whatsoever,” said Williams.

He added that it is the responsibility of all travelers visiting Canada to satisfy the border officer they are dealing with that they meet the requirements for entry.

Tourism Whistler’s Breton Murphy agreed that there have been no specific indications from visitors of any increasing challenges to crossing the borders.

“We are always looking into any potential barriers to travel. And they are always things that we want to monitor and try and address. But if we look to our numbers, it currently would appear to us that visitors from the U.S., particularly out of Washington state, are quite strong,” said Murphy.

On the other side of the issue, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article earlier this year warning people to “deal with their past” if they had plans to visit Whistler.

The article ran after many readers complained about not being allowed into Canada — a country they had visited many times before — on their way to vacation in Whistler. Many were being turned away because new technology was now bringing up 30-year-old pot charges and DUIs that were not accessible to custom’s officials prior to 9/11.

Following publication of the article, Tourism Whistler began to get letters from individuals and those handling group sales about how this might affect travel plans.

Rob Rohda, president of American Friends of Whistler (AFOW), said the issue of crossing the border has not come up within his organization.

“Of all the things we talk about, this wouldn’t be one of them. The bulk of our board members are Americans who periodically travel back and forth between their homes in the States and up here in Whistler. And I have literally not heard one issue about that,” said Rohda.

He speculates that this may be related to the demographic of AFOW’s membership, who most likely would not have past criminal charges on their records.

Krupa said she does not have a criminal past either.

“I don’t have a criminal record, I don’t do drugs, as far as I know I don’t have any serious illness, and I have health insurance,” said Krupa.

“And I don’t have a place of residence in the United States either, but I do pay state taxes in California. So I am not a vagrant, I am not irresponsible. I am not indigent either, and I have got money.”

She said as a result of Tuesday’s incident, she plans to never set foot in Canada again.

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