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Canadian Waters Off-limits To U.s. Boaters With Criminal Records!

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Captain Bob Kornosky, 69, of Harrison Township and owner of Fish Tale Adventure Charter Service, said his fishing business is suffering after he was denied entry to Canada during a fishing trip in April. / June 12 photo by JARRAD HENDERSON/Detroit Free Press



By Eric D. Lawrence


Detroit Free Press Staff Writer


For Bob Kornosky, Canada is off limits.

The Harrison Township charter boat captain, who boated freely on both sides of Lake St. Clair until this year, said his fishing business, Fish Tale Adventure Charter Service, is suffering after he was denied entry to Canada during a planned fishing trip with friends in early April.


Kornosky and several other area charter captains said Canadian authorities have stepped up enforcement of a law prohibiting people with most criminal convictions -- even misdemeanors -- from entering the country. The captains said they began hearing last year about a rule that requires them to call a Canadian telephone reporting center number as they're crossing into Canadian waters. They began calling in this year as word spread of fines for anyone not calling.


The Canadian Border Services Agency declined a request for an interview so the reason for the enforcement push is unclear, but the agency said via e-mail that the requirements for boaters to report when entering Canadian waters have not changed:


"Canadian Law requires that individuals entering Canadian waters report to the CBSA. This is not a new requirement."


Instead, the agency said it has made the reporting requirements less burdensome by allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents who don't plan to land on Canadian soil to call in from their cell phones as they enter Canadian waters.


Several charter captains, however, insisted that if requirements for them to report were already in place, they were not enforced. The captains said they have been asked to supply the names and birth dates of their passengers when calling in.


"They claim it's been on the books forever, (that) it's nothing new," said Wally Ponican, who runs Second Heaven Charters in St. Clair Shores. He said much of what the charter boat captains around Lake St. Clair know of the Canadian call-in reporting rules and their enforcement have come via word of mouth. "No, I was never aware of it before I started hearing about it last year."


U.S. boaters, including charter captains, who are traveling into Canada but do not plan to land on Canadian soil are required to call the reporting center number and provide information about their boats and passengers or risk a minimum $1,000 (Canadian) fine. Boaters who intend to land on Canadian soil must travel to a designated reporting site, such as St. Clair Marine in LaSalle and Boblo Island, to call for clearance.


Once someone is deemed inadmissible, getting cleared to return into the country could take 10 years with no additional criminal activity after an individual's sentence is complete. Unless Kornosky can get approval to enter the country, he won't be taking any of his charters into Canada in the near future.


"I'm totally lost this year because 80% of my good fishing in all my good spots are in Canadian waters, especially muskie," Kornosky said.


Kornosky, 69, wasn't given a reason for the denial from Canadian authorities, but he said a 2001 Driving Under the Influence charge in Harrison Township, which netted him two years of probation, could be the reason. A Canadian Border Services Agency spokesman said the agency does not discuss specific cases.


Michael Niren, an immigration attorney in Toronto, said cases like Kornosky's are not unusual. Niren said his law firm deals with about five cases every week of someone being denied entry into Canada because of a criminal offense. Such individuals do have options for getting into the country, such as by applying for a temporary resident permit, but filing a permit application does not guarantee entry.

"We have a lot of these cases across the board for all types of offenses," Niren said of people being denied entry into Canada. "Most of the time, it's a surprise."


Niren said Canadian authorities are quite strict in keeping people out of the country who have had what might be considered even a minor conviction years ago. He suggested those who suspect they might have trouble getting into Canada contact an immigration attorney instead of waiting to be refused entry at the border, which could complicate any eventual resolution.


Niren said the number of entry denials tends to be consistent, with an increase in the summer months because of people taking vacations. But he said Canadian immigration authorities have been "cracking down."


It's unclear how Canadian authorities track criminal data used to keep people from entering the country, but Niren noted that "the two countries (U.S. and Canada) do share information between them."


Whether there is any measurable impact from the apparent enforcement push on the charter fishing industry in Michigan is unclear because it's unknown how many potential customers or charter captains could be denied entry into Canada or how many would simply go elsewhere rather than risk being turned away. A study released last year by Daniel O'Keefe of Michigan Sea Grant and Steven Miller of Michigan State University's Center for Economic Analysis found that in 2009, the charter industry's impact on the state's coastal communities included gross sales of at least $14.9 million and that the state's charter fleet had at least 550 captains.


Denny Grinold, the federal and state affairs officer for the Michigan Charter Boat Association, estimated average sales for many charter captains at $20,000-$40,000 per year. Grinold expressed surprise when told by a reporter of the call-in reporting requirements for charter boats.

Ken Hammond, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he could not speak about Canadian policies, but he noted that Customs and Border Protection has been helping Canadian authorities spread the word about the call-in reporting requirements at boat shows and other locations.


Hammond and Kyle Niemi, chief petty officer for the 9th Coast Guard district in Cleveland, said there are no comparable call-in requirements for Canadian boaters planning to fish in only U.S. waters.

Frank Piku, who runs Captain Frank's Fishing Charters in Harrison Township, raised a concern shared by several of the charter captains. He wondered why he can't call with information about his passengers before leaving his dock and before those passengers buy a $25 one-day, nonresident Canadian fishing license.


"My only fear is that guys buy a (Canadian fishing) license, and they tell you you can't go. What do I do with the guy?" Piku said, envisioning a situation where he's just crossed into Canadian waters with several passengers and one is denied entry. He noted that these are passengers who would not be landing onCanadian soil.


And such scenarios have led Kornosky -- a charter captain since 1985 -- and others to offer their own speculation.


"To me it's just harassing Americans," Kornosky said. "They just don't want us over there in their country fishing in their waters."


Contact Eric D. Lawrence:elawrence@freepress.com





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This is the first year in many years of fishing both sides of Lake StClair,Deroit River and Lake Erie that I didn't get a Canadian fishing license and it because of this call in reporting...Just about every year the Canadian license fees goes up..Now you have to purchase a Sportsmans card to even buy the license..I'll just fish the good "ol" American Side!!!

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im not allowed in canada for a drunk driving ticket i got here, that was quite a few yrs ago, I have not been back, my friend has a kicking lil cottage rite on lake huron, I used to go there every summer several times, (i lived in harrison twp, macomb county, boat town usa!)


so yea I find it easy to beleive!




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