April 18, 2012
Fear and Loathing at Canadian Customs
By David E. Petzal
This took place in the 1990s at an airport in one of Canada’s western provinces, and involved a member of that country’s Immigration Service, which is dedicated to making life as hard for American hunters as it possibly can.
I had been invited to this province by a scope manufacturer to hunt whitetail deer, freeze, and see what great stuff they made. By sheer chance, a few weeks previously, Field & Stream had been visited by a minister of Canada’s Department of Tourism who asked the magazine’s help in persuading sportsmen to visit their country, eh? He left a couple of his cards, and I, in a rare stroke of foresight, kept one.
So I got to the Canadian airport and on the entry card, where it asked whether I was there on business or pleasure, I checked off business, because I was, after all, representing the magazine and was the guest of a manufacturer. This was a mistake.
I was waved into an office where I encountered a member of the Immigration Service who asked if I had a work permit for what I was about to do. No, I said, I was going deer hunting, and if there was any actual work connected with the event it would take place later back in the United States.
“Well,” she said, “I can’t let you in without a work permit.”
I smiled. I was faced with the one chance you get in a lifetime where you get to make them sweat for a change.
I took out the Tourism Minister’s card, laid it on the counter, and explained how I came by it.
“Now,” I said, “since I can’t get in without a permit, and since I have no intention of taking out a permit, I’d like someone to escort me to the baggage claim so I can pick up my rifle, and then to the ticket counter so I can go home. And when I get home the first thing I’m going to do is give Minister So-and-So a call and tell him about our little adventure here. And the second thing I’m going to do is write about this and keep everyone out of Canada that I can. And finally, I think that your life next week is going to be a lot more interesting than it is this week.”
Frantically, the immigration person dragged out a huge book of regulations. I watched smiling, and encouraged her by telling her that she’d better find something in her effing book that would let me into Canada. Finally, she did. I congratulated her on keeping her job, and went on the hunt as scheduled, where I froze, and shot a monster eating whitetail with only three points on either side.
But this happened only once in 40 years of flying with guns. The rest of the time, I have had to put up with various officials’ crap until they became bored with me and moved on to the next hapless traveler.