Erin Steeksma

Erin Steeksma

Border guards watching for cheats and sneaks

Canada Border Services Agency officer on tour
of ports in Okanagan and Kootenay region

People in search of big-ticket items are heading south for a deal but some find themselves in trouble when greed costs more than they bargained for.

Brad Britton, superintendent of Port of Paterson in Rossland, said he’s witnessed a surge in Canadians presenting false receipts when entering back into their country.

As a result, they’re forced to pay between 25 to 80 per cent on the value of seized item.

“They’ll have the vendor put a different amount on there, saying they paid a much lower amount to save on some taxes,” he said Wednesday, during a special meeting with the Times and Erin Steeksma, public affairs officer and border services officer for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Steeksma stopped in Rossland on tour of ports within the Okanagan and Kootenays, in hopes of opening up the lines of communication and familiarizing herself with the region’s officers and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

Unlike larger ports that have an abundance of manpower and equipment to help border officers examine and keep a grip on security, smaller ports like the Paterson and Waneta crossing operate much differently.

“Our officers rely a little bit more on their instincts and training to detect the narcotics and firearms that we’re looking for,” said Britton, unable to provide specifics from the CBSA on the amount of drugs or weapons seized at these local crossings by press time Thursday.

While the majority of travelers dealt with at the Rossland entry are “law-abiding citizens” who are heading home after shopping in Spokane, occasionally they’re dealing with individuals who attempt to cross with drugs – such as marijuana, magic mushrooms and ecstasy – or firearms.

In some occasions, added Steeksma, Americans are not up to speed on their rights and don’t claim they’re own guns in fear they’ll face consequences.

“Being so close to a country that has different firearm laws that is always a constant challenge, trying to educate them and let them know these are the requirements and rules and these are the penalties that you can face if you fail to declare your gun, including criminal charges in a lot of cases,” she said.

Though smuggling is a criminal offence, it’s not illegal to import firearms into Canada so long as they’re declared and necessary permits and licenses are presented.

“When you have a seizure with CBSA, you are searched more frequently over a long period of time,” said Steeksma. “When you’re in the database and you’re referred to have more examinations that can become a major inconvenience for a frequent traveler.”

For more information on what to know about crossing the border, visit

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