U.S.: Customs and Border Protection Deny Entry to Canadians Without Criminal Records

Update: see previous posts – May 20, 2014 Ontario: Police Records Destroy Lives: No Criminal Charges, No Trial.

Imagine driving up to the U.S. border crossing with your passport in hand, only to be denied entry into the U.S.A. because of a incident three (3) decades ago, in which a charge, that did not result in a criminal conviction were the grounds that you were denied entry, indefinitely.
Imagine driving up to the U.S. border crossing with your passport in hand, only to be denied entry into the U.S.A. because of a incident three (3) decades ago, in which a charge, that did not result in a criminal conviction, were the grounds used by border officials to justity denial of entry, indefinitely. Apparently this happens all the time at the U.S. border.

see source

TORONTO – All of a sudden, Uncle Sam doesn’t want him anywhere near their country and their ridiculous lack of hospitality has cost him his career.

Is Terry Potvin a terrorist? A convicted killer, rapist, robber or drug dealer? Not at all. The 48-year-old Wasaga Beach auto parts executive and father of two is so squeaky clean that he had no idea why he was pulled over for secondary screening by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

All he knew was that being grilled for six hours about his past was going to make him late for his business trip to Nashville as part of the new job he’d started just two weeks before as lead quality engineer.

But after being photographed and fingerprinted, he was told he wasn’t going anywhere but home. Not only has Potvin been barred entry to the U.S., but that decision has cost him his job and livelihood.

And his “crime?”

Even after an individual has been criminally charged and the charges have been dropped or dismissed by the courts, the police still maintain a “record” of those charges, which are released to a third party upon request. This “record” of dropped or dismissed charges are enough to destroy someone’s hopes and aspirations.
Even after an individual has been criminally charged and the charges have been dropped or dismissed by the courts, the police still maintain a “record” of those charges, which are released to a third party upon request. This “record” of dropped or dismissed charges are enough to destroy someone’s hopes and aspirations.

According to Canada, he never committed one. When he was 19 — a whopping 29 years ago — he was arrested with a small amount of “crappy hash oil” while he and his pals were searched outside a pool hall. For what he acknowledges was “being young and dumb,” he got a conditional discharge, two years probation — but no criminal record.

He forgot all about it. He married, had a family, has been a hard-working, contributing member of society. His career has required him to travel to the U.S. — which he has done without incident more than 50 times, until that day in May.

“I was absolutely in shock,” Potvin recalls. “I’m a grown man but this brought me almost to tears.”

He had to call his new boss and tell him that he wasn’t being allowed into the U.S. because of a three-decade old pot charge. Potvin understood when his employer had to let him go because of his travel problems. Another position with an auto parts company also fell through when he told them he couldn’t go into the States.

“The Canadian and United States governments have ruined my life,” he says.

Potvin’s story is one that immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann hears increasingly from clients who, until recently, never had problems entering the U.S. He blames Canada’s increasingly generous “information dump” about its citizens that it sends to its American counterparts. Even Canadian police incident reports — any interaction you may have with law enforcement whether it results in a charge of not — are now being handed over freely to the Americans, he says, all in the name of homeland security.

“This is very sinister,” Mamann says.

Canadians who value their privacy and the confidentiality of their medical information would be surprised if they discovered how much of it is transferred to the U.S. authorities by different police forces upon request. In February 2014, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police proposed new guidelines advising forces “against disclosure of non-conviction records” with a “narrow public safety exception” for cases where disclosure would protect vulnerable people. Government must come up with strict guidelines as to what will be shared and won't be shared about Canadians (police charges, medical information, etc.) with American authorities. This should be a priority for Canadian authorities at the Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels, given the lack of clear, consistent and uniform policies within different police policies within these various jurisdictions. Why are Canadians being denied travel based on U.S. policies that stems back half a century ago?
Canadians who value their privacy and the confidentiality of their medical information would be surprised if they discovered how much of it is transferred to the U.S. authorities by different police forces upon request. In February 2014, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police proposed new guidelines advising forces “against disclosure of non-conviction records” with a “narrow public safety exception” for cases where disclosure would protect vulnerable people. Government must come up with strict guidelines as to what will be shared and won’t be shared about Canadians (police charges, medical information, etc.) with American authorities. This should be a priority for Canadian authorities at the Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels, given the lack of clear, consistent and uniform policies within different police policies within these various jurisdictions. Why are Canadians being denied travel based on U.S. policies that stems back half a century ago?

Big Brother, it seems, knows everything. The lawyer had an anorexic client barred from returning to her U.S. treatment program after they accessed her medical records and found that she’d used recreational drugs. Another woman was stopped at the border because police were once called to her home when she attempted suicide many years before.

“I don’t think we should be giving up that kind of information,” argues Mamann. “We didn’t agree to sacrifice our privacy. We agreed to share information that would enhance security and these are not cases that pose security risks.

“It’s time we rethought this. It’s been 13 years since 9/11.”

After all Potvin’s years of American travel, even post 9/11, why has this become a problem now? Mamann believes U.S. customs’ increasing access to our databases probably turned up the conditional discharge — and while our justice system treated the possession charge as a misdemeanour not even worthy of a criminal record, the Americans view it as a drug crime.

Ironically, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they couldn’t comment on the case because of privacy issues.

Now Potvin has a U.S. document that says he’s been denied entry into the U.S because he has a criminal record and a Canadian document telling him he doesn’t need a pardon because he has no criminal record.

He must wait up to a year and spend about $1500 to get a U.S. waiver that will hopefully let him back into their country and allow him to reapply for positions in his industry that require American travel.

It all seems ridiculous.

“The information we’re releasing to the U.S. should be about truly bad people — drug dealers, sex offenders, murderers. Don’t throw Terry Potvin in there,” he says. “That’s insane.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Justin: It would appear that there is a double standard and that Canadian Customs are much more lax and forgiving then the American Customs. Why would the government allow Canadian Police authorities to carelessly share information with American Customs and Homeland Security when it appears that American Police Authorities aren’t providing the same information to Canada Customs? When Mike Tyson crossed the border, you would think that Canada Customs would have access to a data bank that showed that Mike Tyson was a convicted felon who served three (3) years for rape and that, on that basis, he would be denied entry to Canada and more specificly, to Toronto, Ontario. He wasn’t denied entry, and yet someone who is a law abiding Canadian with no criminal record and who
    hasn’t served any jail time, would be denied entry to the US while travelling on business, due to a hashish charge thirty (30) years ago. Does Canada Customs simply turn a blind eye to American convicted felons who have done time because they enjoy celebrity status in the U.S.? The system has to be fixed in order to prevent the sharing of irrelevant information on all sides of all borders.

  2. Why is the Canadian government so quick to release this information to US Homeland Security, which is then used to bar entry to law abiding citizens – when the opposite is not true. How can Toronto Mayor Ford enter the US when he has admitted, again and again and again to smoking crack? The media is well aware of it as are Americans and American talk show hosts (who have invited him on their shows). On September 9, 2014 Canada Customs allowed convicted rapist/boxer Mike Tyson into Canada to trace to Toronto to enjoy a media event with Mayor Rob Ford at Toronto’s City Hall. Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years behind bars, was welcomed into Toronto City Hall by Rob Ford on Sept.9/2014. Why would Canada customs allow this to happen, and yet disclose three decade old information about Canadians, which are used by US authorities to deny entry into the US? What gives?

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