Canadian Border Crossing
October 10, 2006 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How do you find out for certain exactly what information appears when Canadian border guards run your information through their system? A friend of mine didn't mention a minor incident that was supposed to go off his record from when he was a kid in the 70s. It appeared in their database, and they weren't too happy that he didn't mention it. He granted entry after being roughed-up verbally and doesn't want to go through the same ordeal every time. Since there is no reason to volunteer information that's not supposed to be in the system, how does one know what they are SUPPOSED to say?
posted by augustweed to Travel & Transportation around Canada (18 answers total)
 
How can anyone answer this? If he thought it was expunged from the system, and it wasn't, that was his mistake. Now he knows that he should mention it.
posted by smackfu at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2006


Is your friend a Canadian citizen? U.S.? Other?

I don't have an answer for you either way, but I imagine it might be relevant for others answering your question. I, a U.S. citizen, have crossed into Canada by car twice in the past two years, and I don't recall being asked about any criminal history at all.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:54 PM on October 10, 2006


What good is having something expunged from the system then? You answer the question by answering the question. How do you find out what their system says about you?
posted by augustweed at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2006


Friend is U.S. visiting Canada. He's answered the same visiting there for decades, now it's a problem.
posted by augustweed at 12:59 PM on October 10, 2006


This would be a great question to ask the Canadian Border Services Agency.
posted by birdherder at 1:14 PM on October 10, 2006


Look, there's no reason for your "friend" to go through the same procedure again. "He" knows what's in the system now, and in the future, "he" should simply answer truthfully. They let "him" into the country before, even when they discovered the information, so your "friend" should man up and answer fully next time.
posted by OmieWise at 1:15 PM on October 10, 2006


There's a general pattern that stuff that has been expunged for normal purposes is not necessarily expunged for immigration purposes, because foreign countries don't have to give a flying fuck what got expunged and what didn't.

When immigration people ask you if you've been convicted of a crime, they usually mean "Have you ever been convicted of a crime, including crimes for which the conviction was expunged."

Your friend should just volunteer the information next time if asked. That is, if asked the question "Have you ever been convicted of a crime," he should answer that question truthfully. He should not substitute the question "Have you ever been convicted of a crime for which the conviction was never expunged?"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:27 PM on October 10, 2006


One thing I'm wondering is why do they even ask this question if they're just going to pull up the information anyway... it wastes everyone's time.
posted by chef_boyardee at 1:33 PM on October 10, 2006


Huh? I go through customs several times a year and have never been asked about a criminal record. And this from a guy who gets pulled over regularly for 'special' searches...(What is it about traveling alone that gets customs people so excited?)
posted by Gungho at 1:59 PM on October 10, 2006


i had a friend (yes, really not me, omie) who recently ran into something similar. he had to report on a county form whether or not he had ever been convicted of something, expunged or not. well, even though he's in his sixties, he had been convicted at 18 of possession and had it expunged when he was 20 after successfully serving his probation.

another county asked if he had ever been convicted (nothing about expunged), so he said no. then they called back and said, actually you were when you were 18, why did you lie to us?

so, like augustweed says, what good is having something expunged from the system?

i would really like to hear more from someone who knows something about this. i've been really curious just what having something "expunged and sealed" really means.
posted by mosessis at 2:05 PM on October 10, 2006


i've been really curious just what having something "expunged and sealed" really means.

Usually it just means that it can't be accessed by the general public, but is still fair game for a law-enforcement agency to access.
posted by dcjd at 2:20 PM on October 10, 2006


I had a similar experience several years ago, but with an even more sneaky border agent. She asked if I had had "any trouble with the law". When I answered no, she brought up an incident from 7 years earlier which was "continued without finding" and supposedly removed from my record after a year of probation (it didn't occur to me to mention it when she asked, since I honestly didn't even remember that it had happened until she brought it up!). The agent let me in, but not until after I was questioned a lot and searched. On the other hand, this year I crossed the border again without any incidents at all. The earlier crossing was at the Halifax airport, and the recent one was at a highway checkpoint on the BC border.

Anyway, obviously border agents/immigration have access to some pretty extensive background info. Honesty is the best policy.
posted by acridrabbit at 2:22 PM on October 10, 2006


so, like augustweed says, what good is having something expunged from the system?

The good is that employment questions are regulated by local law, so usually the question "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" is really "Have you ever been convicted of a crime that was not expunged?" It can sometimes also mean getting your vote back if you were convicted of a felony.

But foreign countries are foreign. Their questions aren't governed by the laws of the state in which you committed your crime, and they don't have to give the slightest damn whether or not that same state also saw fit to expunge your crime. An employer has to care, because it's bound by state and US law. Canada, oddly enough, isn't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2006


One thing I'm wondering is why do they even ask this question if they're just going to pull up the information anyway... it wastes everyone's time.

The lie itself provides the CBSA officer with grounds to deny entry should they wish to (and allows them to threaten further consequences to 'shake loose' concealed information).

The incident was clearly not serious enough to warrant denial of entry, so if I were this friend I'd just mention it from now on (if asked) - particularly since this 'miscommunication' may have been noted in his record.

Finally, is it at all possible that the incident in question was not properly/automatically expunged as it should have been - in which case your friend's inquiry should be pursued on the American side?
posted by Urban Hermit at 2:43 PM on October 10, 2006


Since your friend is a US citizen, then it's a US database that has expunged their record (or not), so the issue is with them, not Canada or its customs dept. They only use what has been supplied to them.

Your friend got a stern talking to? Poor baby. Google Mahir Arar for what a bad day at the border can look like.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:51 PM on October 10, 2006


If you have committed any offence (even speeding), they (whoever they may be) keep it forever. It is only expunged for the general public and is not taken into account into sentencing you for subsequent misdeeds.

This reminds me of a New Zealander who was asked by immigration on entering Australia whether he had a criminal reord. His response was Sorry, I didn't know it was still a requirement.
posted by TheRaven at 3:41 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


i've been really curious just what having something "expunged and sealed" really means.

Relief From The Collateral Consequences Of A Criminal Conviction: A State-By-State Resource Guide
posted by mlis at 8:14 PM on October 10, 2006


I had a similar experience several years ago, but with an even more sneaky border agent…at the Halifax airport

The customs agent at YHZ took a bizarre interest in my reasons for being in Canada. In the past two years, I've entered Canada at least seven times, and the only really strange line of questioning was there. (Mentioning that you're visiting your significant other, who lives in Canada, leads to the unsurprising "you're not trying to move here illegally, right?" line of questioning, which I don't consider weird.) The questions about my vacation turned into a quiz on the geography of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, as well as a test of how well I could remember my schedule.

At least I got a stamp for my trouble.
posted by oaf at 1:32 AM on October 11, 2006


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