Excerpted from Alaska Newspaper October 2020
Want to Travel Between Alaska and Canada? Think Again…
October 12, 2020/by Tom Scarborough
Editor’s note: a staff member successfully traveled through Canada, last week. However, at the border with Alaska, the Canadian custom’s officer was exceptionally rude and hostile. His interrogation regarding the travel was aggressive. A black powder firearm (.50 caliber muzzleloader) and shotgun were disclosed with the proper forms at the outset and he asked incredulously, “Why in the world would you need a .50 caliber rifle for hunting?” When he asked about the shotgun and was told it was for bear defense since camping was the only way to sleep on the way through Canada, he yelled that if a bear were to be shot on the trip through Canada, the shooter would be sent to jail for a very long time. He then said that “even if you are being eaten, you let the bear kill you, you may not shoot a bear in Canada. Do you understand? You will let the bear eat you!” According to this staff member, who has traveled numerous times throughout Canada, she was treated as if she was a member of a hostile nation, bent on doing harm to Canada. Travelers beware.
In early July, 2020, we crossed into Canada at Wild Horse. Interesting experience. Encountered an angry, sullen Canadian Border Agent. He growled at Judy and I and asked a few COVID-19 questions and we told him where and why we were traveling to Alaska. As we have a business and I hold professional licenses in Alaska, we complied with the Canadian regulations on being allowed to travel through Canada. Therefore, after a short review, we were allowed to proceed north. We passed on into Alaska about 3 ½ days later. As we were in an RV, we had very little contact with anyone on our drive through Canada. Stayed in private RV parks.
On September 9 we closed and winterized our summer living quarters in Fairbanks and proceeded to drive toward the Alaska/Canadian border in our RV. We spent the night at a now closed fueling station a couple of miles from the Canadian border. While there we talked with hunters that were staying there and were told we had very little chance of being allowed to travel past Beaver Creek border station. Anyone with a permanent address in Alaska was being turned back. No idea why. Only Military with travel orders, commercial truckers and anyone moving out of Alaska was allowed to go south.
We had read the Canadian travel restrictions and it appeared we qualified to travel through Canada. Since we were only 20 miles from Beaver Creek we would give it a try. If we would have had any idea how we would be treated, we would never have proceeded.
When we got to the Beaver Creek Border station we were asked a few routine questions and we handed the Border agent our Passports and drivers licenses. After a short while we were asked to put on masks and come into the Boarder station. Never had to do that before in our 30 + trips over the Alaska Highway.
On entering the Station we observed that none of the Canadian Agents wore masks or face coverings, there was no social distancing, wearing of gloves or hand sanitizer visible. This was not a safe place from a COVID-19 perspective to be.
We were then treated like criminals and repeatedly interrogated. Told we were lying to the Agent. About what, we were not sure. The Agent had a report of our crossing the Wild Horse border. No idea what that Agent had put in his report.
We were asked where we were headed and we told him Rapid City, SD. Then he wanted to know how we were employed in Alaska. Any attempt to explain that I do not have an 8-5 job and I oversee the work of highly skilled technicians, and analyze survey work for a Major Construction Contractor in Fairbanks. All appeared to fall on deaf ears.
Some of the questions asked were very strange. Wanted to know why we had our dog with us. Was the dog required for my work? We were asked for pictures of both our living quarters in Fairbanks and Rapid City. In our opinion, much of what was asked had nothing to do with our potential travel in Canada.
It has to be noted, we were never asked a single (zero) question about our health or COVID-19.
No concern was given that traveling south in our RV was by far the safest way for us to travel. Our other options were to take the Whitter Ferry or fly. Ferry was not an option as it was already booked through November. Other option was to fly. Both options placed us around many people of unknown health status
We were of no threat to the Canadian’s as we were self-contained in our RV. All we had to do was to purchase fuel and stay in private RV parks where we could legally walk the dog. Depending on roads and weather, we would be across the border into Montana sometime on the 4th day.
I think the goal was to make us angry. In that the agent was a failure. We just wanted to get out of there, either north or south.
All this could have been over in a few minutes. We were there over an hour. It is now apparent to us that we were to be sent back to Alaska because of our permanent business address. The fact that we have no winter living quarters in Alaska meant nothing. No reason to go through the “dog and pony show”. When permitted we got our passports and drivers licenses back and proceeded to drive the 300 miles back to Fairbanks. Got airline reservations as soon as we could fly with our dog, winterized our RV, and proceeded to return to Denver. Takes some planning, as you cannot fly a dog into Rapid City.
We were told not to return to Canada until all COVID-19 restrictions were lifted or we would be arrested. Not sure what that had to do with anything as it appeared that no one in the Canadian Border Station was the least bit concerned about anyone’s health.
We had a friendly chat with the Alaska Border Agent. He told us 50% of all east bound traffic through there was being turned back. He did not know the reason.
The sad part here is that we will never view Canada again the same. Do not want to repeat this experience. I suspect the other people being sent back will feel much the same.
The other observation we have made is that the economic effect on the businesses along the Alaska Highway that depend on tourist traffic for their survival has to be considered almost criminal. What happens when they close and there are no longer any places to purchase fuel, etc.?
This appears to be a lesson in what happens when technocrats make the rules to live by.