David's Blog

Living a quiet life in Coquitlam, B.C.

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Location: Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Prehistoric Policies of Canada Customs

Cannot resist posting about the behind-the-times policies of Canada Customs.

As might be gathered from previous posts, I travel quite a lot. (Also made many trips before starting this blog.)

If you have ever flown into Canada, you’ll know that each person entering Canada must be listed on a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Declaration Card, on which must also be listed the value of goods being brought into Canada. This declaration form is utter nonsense. The only other nation that uses such a declaration form (that I know of) is America. You can fly to most countries in Europe, India, China, Japan, and more, without having to waste your time on B.S. like this form.

A little more about this form.
The main purpose of this form is to shake money out of people. The form specifically asks about gifts being brought into Canada, their value, as well as alcohol and cigarettes. In Canada, I think 50% (if not more) of the purchase price of alcohol and cigarettes is taxes, which go toward supporting Canada’s bloated–and useless–social programs. Instead of eliminating these ridiculous programs, cutting taxes, and eliminating the motive for travelers to load up on alcohol or tobacco before entering Canada, Canada’s policy is, instead, to restrict the amounts people can bring into the country with them.

Of secondary interest is the value of goods being brought into Canada. Canada Customs agents have a general idea where each flight is arriving from so they tend to give special attention to passengers arriving from particular places. For example, if they know Flight XXX just arrived from Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is known as a shoppers’ heaven, they would do more “random” checks of passengers who disembarked from this flight. If a traveler is found to have several children toys, electronic instruments, gadgets, etc., Canada Customs will generally confiscate the items AND fine the traveler $200 - $300. On the other hand, if a traveler does declare goods being brought into Canada, they are hit with duties and taxes.

Canada does not have a domestic SLR camera manufacturing industry to protect, but a person bringing in, say, a Nikon camera would still be hit with duties and taxes. Canada does not have a domestic television manufacturing industry to protect, but a person bringing in, say, a Sony television would still be hit with duties and taxes.

In fact, I have even seen an old woman from Austria being fined for bringing in too many chocolate bars for her grandchildren. It was mid-December. The Customs agent had brought her into the inspection area for a random check and he felt that she was carrying too many chocolate bars (I think she had six). He confiscated the chocolate bars AND fined her. I was in the line beside her thinking that if this is her first visit to Canada she must be getting a terrible first impression. Honestly, does the Canadian government really think this is a good way to greet people coming to Canada? If I were treated that way, I certainly wouldn’t want to spend another tourist dollar in Canada and I’d be telling everyone I could back home about my experience too. For my part, I spread the word among my networks (co-workers, community groups, volunteer groups, family, etc.). I also recommend to everybody I can to open a foreign bank account and get as much money out of Canada as possible. Under Canadian law, foreign bank accounts are allowed. I hope Canada Customs enjoyed that $300 they got out of that old woman. I am sure that, over the years, I have encouraged much more than $300 to leave Canada. And for the foreseeable future I’ll be recommending everybody not come to Canada for visits, trade shows, conferences, etc.

(I do a lot of traveling for business, bringing demo equipment back and forth with me, which is listed on a Carnet, so I go through the inspection area when returning from every trip I take, so I have seen a LOT of what goes on in the inspection area.)

This form is just another means of generating revenue for Canada, to support their high-tax and spend practices. Either they get you when you honestly declare goods being brought into the country or they fine you if you don’t. I will never be convinced that these policies are anything but a petty cash grab.

The form also requests travelers to declare if they are bringing with them more than $10,000 in monetary instruments (cash, cheques, money orders, etc.). Not sure how such a matter is Canada’s business. I make my money honestly and at one time even held three jobs to try to get ahead. If I decide to bring more than $10,000 in or out of the country with me, that is nobody else’s business. The policy behind having such a question on this form is just another reason the credibility of Canada’s political/legal system has all but evaporated.

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