Canada

Beware Canadian Border Guards Pawing Through Your Phone and Computer

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Border port of entry
Government of Canada

A bit of Internet buzz in recent weeks has it that the Canadian government is warning its citizens not to bring large amounts of cash to the United States because cops might steal it under the guise of "asset forfeiture." It's not really true, though it ought to be. It is true, however, that the United States government warns Americans traveling to Canada that border authorities could well go pawing through their cell phones and laptops without any cause at all.

The buzz started with a piece by CBC Senior Washington Correspondent Neil Macdonald cautioning:

On its official website, the Canadian government informs its citizens that "there is no limit to the amount of money that you may legally take into or out of the United States." Nonetheless, it adds, banking in the U.S. can be difficult for non-residents, so Canadians shouldn't carry large amounts of cash.

That last bit is excellent advice, but for an entirely different reason than the one Ottawa cites.

There's a shakedown going on in the U.S., and the perps are in uniform.

Macdonald never claimed the warning is related to asset forfeiture (it's actually because of U.S. Customs requirements), but uses it as a starting point for a riff on asset forfeiture, building on the Washington Post's great coverage of that nationwide law enforcement scam.

But the Internet took the ball and ran with it, with sites and bloggers announcing that the Canadian government cautions travelers about uniformed highwaymen south of the border.

Again, the Canadian government should offer that warning, but it doesn't.

But the U.S. State Department does caution travelers about warrantless searches of electronic equipment for travelers heading north of the border.

Canada has strict laws concerning child pornography, and in recent years there has been an increase in random checks of electronic media of travelers entering Canada.

Computers and cell phones are subject to searches without a warrant at the border and illegal content can result in the seizure of the computer as well as detention, arrest, and prosecution of the bearer.

The searches are justified as attempts to intercept child pornography, but just-because pawing through your stuff by government officials is intrusive and annoying no matter the reason. It's also potentially dangerous, since there's no way of knowing what officials will find intriguing while scanning your hard drive.

Then again, the United States does the same thing. In the course of a lawsuit over the practice, the ACLU noted, "Between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, over 6,500 people—nearly 3,000 of them U.S. citizens—were subjected to a search of their electronic devices as they crossed U.S. borders. DHS claims it has the right to conduct these invasive searches whenever it likes, to whomever it likes, and without having any individualized suspicion."

The official policy is here, and it has been upheld in court.

Ain't travel fun?

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  1. …border authorities could well go pawing through their cell phones and laptops without any cause at all.

    Goddamn hosers stealing our American law enforcement agents’ JOBS!

  2. justified as attempts to intercept child pornography

    Are we suddenly awash with cheese pizza child porn?

    1. I defer to the wisdom and experience of Old Man With Candy

    2. There is also this thing called and Internet that allows anything that could be stored on an electronic device to cross borders without any control at all. Which suggests to me that they only check people’s devices to project authority and intimidate.

  3. Yet another reason I’ve never visited Canukistan despite living not that far from it.

  4. ….and this is a big part of the reason I quit playing with a Canadian pipe band after 30+ years making the trip, and despite having great success in international competition and loving it.

    the goddamned border was getting to be like entering Russia in the 60’s. (/utter exaggeration) Oh, I mean coming BACK into the US. But Canada was catching up….now both sides have ratcheted it up even further.

    “Well, it’s an international border, and it’s still easier than blah blah blah
    SHUT THE FUCK UP! Thirty YEARS I went over that border with a driver license and MAYBE a voter ID card (which they took as “national ID”). Now I need a passport to visit our l’il buddies to the north? Who question me about “work visas” while I’m spending my own fucking money for the privilege of driving to Toronto to play with the Toronto Police band at a charitable event?

    Fuck all governments. I’ll keep my pipes in the US (I know you bagpipe haters are happy to limit the spread of the threat – you’re welcome!)

    1. It’s kind of ironic that just after NAFTA the border controls on Americans kept getting worse and worse.

  5. A bit of Internet buzz in recent weeks has it that the Canadian government is warning its citizens not to bring large amounts of cash to the United States because cops might steal it under the guise of “asset forfeiture.” It’s not really true, though it ought to be.

    Hmm, at first the way this was written… almost sounded like JD was suggesting that it wasn’t true that the U.S Government would steal your cash. Because yes, yes they fucking will.

    I now realize that the ‘not true’ part is the Canadian government warning people about it.

    Consider the internet buzz to be the warning.

  6. A bit of Internet buzz in recent weeks has it that the Canadian government is warning its citizens not to bring large amounts of cash to the United States because cops might steal it under the guise of “asset forfeiture.” It’s not really true, though it ought to be.

    Actually, it is true. CBC recently published this article, American shakedown: Police won’t charge you, but they’ll grab your money” and this article The slippery slope of civil forfeiture.

    CBC is a crown corporation set up to be the Canadian national broadcaster. As such it is a government entity that serves as the propaganda outlet for the Canadian government.

    1. Well there ya go.

      CBC is a crown corporation set up to be the Canadian national broadcaster. As such it is a government entity that serves as the propaganda outlet for the Canadian government.

      So… the NPR of Canada?

      1. More like the BBC. NPR gets at least some of its money honestly.

        1. Does withholding content while begging and pleading several times a year count as honestly?

  7. But that’s unconstituti…

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