Lost at the Canadian Border?
August 13, 2013 9:57 AM   Subscribe

My friend's daughter was travelling to Canada over the weekend. Apparently she was stopped at the border due to some health insurance related issue. She didn't make it to the hostel she was supposed to stay at the first night, or the volunteer program she was destined for. She called those places when she knew she wouldn't make it, but she hasn't called home at all, as far as we can tell. And we have no idea where she is right now. What can we do?

A friend's adult daughter was travelling to Canadian for volunteer work. She would have been on a Greyhound bus travelling from Seattle to Vancouver.

My friend only found out her daughter did not make it across the border when she received a call from the hostel where her daughter was supposed to stay, saying that she could not be refunded for the night she was going to miss. Apparently my friend's daughter had called the hostel to try to get a refund.

My friend called the volunteer program her daughter was destined for and they had received a message over the weekend from her saying that she had been stopped at the Border Patrol.

The apparent issue was related to my friend's daughter's health insurance. I believe she has state-funded health insurance from the State of Vermont. I'm not sure what the health insurance issue was exactly or why she might have been prevented from crossing the border.

The Canadian Border Patrol won't release any information to my friend because her daughter is not a minor. So we don't actually know what's going on exactly. I'm not sure why my friend's daughter hasn't called home at all.

Is there any way for us to get information about what happened? What normally happens when someone is detained at the border?

Any advice that might help us locate her would be great appreciated!
posted by doomtop to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never heard of anyone being detained at the border for reasons relating to their health insurance. That doesn't sound plausible at all.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:02 AM on August 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


How frightening for your friend! I just went through that border crossing last week. We were asked where we were headed and how long we were staying. That was all. It took 1 minute. In the half-hour we sat waiting, nobody was pulled over or detained. YMMV, of course, but the story seems strange to me. Best of luck!
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may not understand the health insurance thing correctly. It's second-hand information, as no one has actually spoken to her. My friend thinks it's possible she was detained due to a DUI conviction from four years ago. Apparently Canada is very restrictive about that?

Again, we do not actually know why she wasn't able to cross the border.
posted by doomtop at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2013


They can keep you from crossing the border if you have criminal convictions, yes.
posted by rtha at 10:09 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The health insurance thing is not likely. The more likely reason is the DUI, especially as it was in the last 5 years. It's very common with people with a DUI on their record to be refused entry.

She would not have been detained, she just would not have been allowed to cross. She would have been required to return to the US, nothing more. (This is assuming she isn't wanted for any crime at the moment.)

I'd guess that she is embarrassed and doesn't want to face people quite yet.
posted by jeather at 10:09 AM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Health insurance: nope. DUI: YA, YOU BETCHA: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-c49436/Canada:Dwi.Or.Dui.Driving.Convictions.html
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:09 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've taken Greyhound from Seattle to Vancouver and back and seen people turned back at the border. Normally when someone is not allowed through the border, Greyhound puts them on the next bus back in the other direction.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:10 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does friend's daughter have a phone? Friend should text daughter something like, "Sweetie, we got a call from the hostel and know you're not staying there. Sounds like there was some confusion with border patrol? We're worried about you, so please just let me know that you're OK. If you need anything, I'm always here to help you. Love you!"

She's not a minor. She may be out doing something wild and silly and befitting an 18-20something kid. Or she may be in trouble. The best way to find out is to let her contact you in a nonjudgmental way.
posted by phunniemee at 10:10 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


What normally happens when someone is detained at the border?

I travel to Canada by car a couple times every summer and not once have I ever been asked about anything health related. Usually it's "Where do you live, how long are you going to be in Canada for, where are you going, are you bringing anything in? Have a nice day."

My friend thinks it's possible she was detained due to a DUI conviction from four years ago.

They would have no reason to detain her. Turn her away, maybe. (I am no expert on border crossings or anything legal.)

Apparently my friend's daughter had called the hostel to try to get a refund.

Something else is going on here.
posted by bondcliff at 10:12 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


As a Canadian, I have crossed the US border many times, both alone and with American friends. The Americans I have travelled with have had a variety of health insurance situations, including no insurance at all. I have never heard of the US or Canadian Border agencies asking anyone about health insurance, in either direction, at any crossing I have passed through, including the crossing the Seattle-Vancouver Greyhound uses. That seems really strange.

On preview, if it's not really about health insurance... When a Greyhound bus passes through the border, there is not too much time in the bus schedule. I have seen people turned away in one direction or another; the bus will just leave without them. I haven't seen what happens after that.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:12 AM on August 13, 2013


She probably has any cell phone turned off because she can't use it over the border due to high roaming charges.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:12 AM on August 13, 2013


Okay, so then DUI is almost certainly the actual reason she couldn't cross. I guess the health insurance thing was her explanation to the hostel why she couldn't make it.
posted by doomtop at 10:13 AM on August 13, 2013


Oh yes, DUI? NO CANADA. I know a few Alaskans who when they wish to travel have to fly to the lower 48 because of this. They cannot drive the AlCan highway. They will never be permitted into Canada unless the laws change.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:14 AM on August 13, 2013


Is it possible she was refused entry due to her DUI and claimed health insurance was the issue so she wouldn't have to deal with the possible embarrassment of having a DUI?

I say "refused entry" and not detained, because I think it's more likely that she simply wouldn't be allowed to enter the country than actually detained. She'd just be turned away at the border.

Would she be "killing time" so she could return home as scheduled later and pretend she was in Canada the entire time?
posted by backwards guitar at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it possible she was refused entry due to her DUI and claimed health insurance was the issue so she wouldn't have to deal with the possible embarrassment of having a DUI?

This is very likely the explanation for her message to the hostel about the health insurance.

Would she be "killing time" so she could return home as scheduled later and pretend she was in Canada the entire time?

I guess that's a possibility. She was supposed to be in Canada for a month though and is coming from Vermont. I don't think we should wait that long to find out and need to figure out the best course of action towards locating her now.
posted by doomtop at 10:18 AM on August 13, 2013


For people saying their border crossings have been uneventful, maybe you were just visiting Canada rather than entering for a school or work reason? Anything that requires a special permit/visa (school, work) is going to involve more scrutiny when entering for the first time. I don't know if the volunteer situation would be in that category, but if so, it's not surprising that a DUI would come up.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:21 AM on August 13, 2013


LobsterMitten, it's just a matter of luck. The border guards have discretion about whether a DUI will prevent you from coming in. Multiple or recent DUIs? DUIs plus other convictions? You're not getting in. One DUI at least 5 but ideally more than 10 years ago? Maybe, depends on the agent's day and whether you seem ok and other intangibles.
posted by jeather at 10:24 AM on August 13, 2013


As for advice in finding her; She probably got bounced to where she came from, or possibly down to Bellingham? Start checking low rent guest houses and hotels in the area. They don't really have hostels per sebum b'ham, but it's worth checking.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:29 AM on August 13, 2013


Visitors to Canada on tourist visas cannot volunteer. It is illegal. So, if she said that she was going to Canada to volunteer, she would have been refused entry.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:31 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Most anyone I've know that has shown up at the border with a DUI, even a fairly old one, and had any reason for them to do more than a cursory inspection of ID, usually gets turned away. I've had to drive up to Swanton to rescue a coworker who was not familiar with this issue.

If it's an old DUI, there's a process to have them allow you into Canada again, you can file for rehabilitation.

As others say, there may be other issues, including the fact that she was volunteering (Canada is pretty picky about what it considers tourism).
posted by kaszeta at 10:33 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


if the border personnel had searched her and found contraband there would have been consequences also, not just a prior DUI.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 10:36 AM on August 13, 2013


So maybe she got refused entry for a DUI and is embarrassed about it, and is laying low for a while, probably not realizing that people in her family know she didn't make it over the border. Not a great situation, but at this point all you can really do is put up a notice in the Stranger or something.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2013


If your friend's concern is great enough, why doesn't she just contact the local (US) police department in the jurisdiction where the attempted crossing would have taken place? They should be able to find out if CBSA actually did detain her for some reason or, more likely, if they just turned her away over the DUI, in which case they can advise as to next steps.

The speculation about how she might be laying low or whatever all sounds plausible, but it doesn't address the OP's questions. If your friend has exhausted all reasonable means of contacting her daughter and has reason to think that she might be in custody or missing, she should talk to the police.
posted by wreckingball at 11:12 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yep if it was me I'd be embarrassed as hell, maybe sticking around to desperately try to make my case to some manager somewhere, with no idea that mom knew anything. Eventually I'd realize I was out of luck and would call home, crushed by embarrassment and probably in tears. That would have been my response at, say, 19 years old.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:22 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it was my daughter, I would probably be leaning on the volunteer group pretty heavily right now. I'd go down to their offices and convince them that they have a role to play in locating the woman. I'm imagining that they would be able to ask around, find out who her friends are within the organization and get someone in direct contact with her.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:24 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


phunniemee: "Friend should text daughter something like, "Sweetie, we got a call from the hostel and know you're not staying there. Sounds like there was some confusion with border patrol? We're worried about you, so please just let me know that you're OK. If you need anything, I'm always here to help you. Love you!"

She's not a minor. She may be out doing something wild and silly and befitting an 18-20something kid. Or she may be in trouble. The best way to find out is to let her contact you in a nonjudgmental way.
"

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

I sympathize with your friend's feelings, but no-one is obligated to keep her apprised of her adult daughter's whereabouts. Daughter probably has no idea that the hostel called her mom, and therefore has no idea that her mom knows something has gone awry and is worried sick.
posted by desuetude at 11:36 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


CBSA is not going to be able to discuss the case with your friend (or even confirm that they know who her daughter is) without the daughter's consent.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:37 AM on August 13, 2013


As wreckingball says, calling the Blaine, WA police ((360) 332-6769), Bellingham, WA Police ((360) 778-8800), and perhaps the Whatcom County Sheriff's Department ((360) 676-6650) are all reasonable.

It helps immensely for the actual family to call, since Law Enforcement, in my experience, generally takes a strong privacy tack on these sorts of issues.
posted by kaszeta at 11:38 AM on August 13, 2013


I suspect that she got to the border, said she was there to volunteer, and they turned her away because of the DUI and the lack of a visa, since you can't legally volunteer as a visitor. She would have called the hostel and given them the health insurance story (which may also be true, but probably is not the reason she was turned away). And she's probably very embarrassed and just hiding out for a few days, so that people don't know about the whole DUI thing. I mean, if people found out she didn't have insurance, they would expect her to just go buy some in Blaine. So she's got to figure something else out.

That being said, if she has any history of mental illness or you think she is at risk, I would be concerned about how all this might be affecting her.

I would leave the message given above and maybe add that you were so sorry to hear that there was some legal stuff that might have kept her out too (or say DUI if you're supposed to know) and that you love her and want to help her figure this out. She may need to hear that you don't think she's an idiot and that she isn't a terrible person for having a DUI. Maybe someone could suggest a local volunteer program too.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:32 PM on August 13, 2013


For anyone following along here, her mom had contacted the local police here in Vermont and they were able to track debit card purchases she made in Washington State. So we have some idea of where she is, although have not been able to speak with her yet.

Hopefully she is okay, and simply not prepared to phone home yet. It seems like she probably didn't realize we are already aware she did not make it to her destination, and so doesn't know everyone is trying to find out what happened to her.

Thank you so much for everyone's advice.
posted by doomtop at 3:06 PM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


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