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Brad Dokken: Canada law eases border boat crossing

Brad Dokken

Entering Canada by water just got easier for anglers and other boaters who cross the border for the day and meet a simple set of guidelines.

As part of a new Canadian law, private boaters no longer have to report to the Canada Border Services Agency if they don't land on Canadian soil; don't anchor, moor or make contact with another conveyance in Canadian waters; and don't embark or disembark people or goods in Canada.

The exemptions as worded above are outlined on the Canadian Border Services Agency website at cbsa.gc.ca/travel-voyage/pb-pp-eng.html. Canadian authorities still have the discretion to require boaters to report if circumstances warrant.

The new law stands to be especially beneficial for boaters on the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods and other U.S.-Canada border waters, providing they meet the exemption requirements. Boaters planning to touch land to have shore lunch, for example, drop anchor and fish or explore an island still would have to report to CBSA. At the Northwest Angle, that's most often done by calling (888) CANPASS, said Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism.

Henry said he reached out to northwest Ontario CBSA officials for confirmation on the exemption after reading various press accounts but was told they hadn't received word from supervisors higher up in the agency.

Now that it's on the website, the exemption appears to be official.

"According to their website, that is the case," Henry said, adding with a laugh, "Notice how I word that?

"From my perspective, I didn't want to report on this until I heard it from the horse's mouth, and I've reached out in what I feel is a proper manner to hear from CBSA, and my contacts have reached out to their supervisors, and they haven't heard anything back.

"However, now that I see the information on their official website, I would say that we are good to go."

In related news, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection pilot project allowing returning boaters who touched land in Canada to report back to the Northwest Angle without going to an Outlying Area Reporting System (OARS) site should be online in mid-August, Henry said.

Phase 1 of the pilot project, which will allow returning boaters who have touched Canadian land to report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection via iPads set up at participating resorts, was supposed to be online in June but has been delayed by software glitches, Henry said.

Currently, boaters who touch Canadian soil or anglers who ice fish in Ontario waters—ice is considered land under U.S. law—have to report back to the Angle via an OARS station. From Oak Island, for example, that means a round trip of 16 miles to the nearest OARS station at Young's Bay on the Northwest Angle mainland.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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