Banished at the border: Canadians ensnared in customs hassles post 9/11

Neal Hall|Times Colonist

Traveling from Canada to the U.S. used to be easy. That’s not always the case anymore.

According to Homeland Security, which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. welcomed 300 million people in 2009, the most recent statistics available.

VANCOUVER — Wayne Liptrot has fond memories of crossing the U.S. border in the 1970s at Point Roberts, where he had a bank account because he owned two condos in Hawaii.

“‘Hi, Wayne, where you going today?’” he recalled the friendly customs officer asking. “He’d just wave me through.”

Back then, he lived in Tsawwassen, a block from the border at Point Roberts.

But the border is not friendly any more for Liptrot and an increasing number of Canadians.

In 2008, he was banned from entering the U.S. while trying to board a plane to Hawaii with his wife at Vancouver International Airport.

Liptrot, 68, recalls being pulled aside and questioned for more than six hours by a U.S. customs officer, who accused him of living in the U.S. between 1993 and 2006.

Flabbergasted, Liptrot told the officer he had all sorts of documents at home to prove he had been living in Canada and occasionally entered and left the U.S

Without being allowed to show his documents, he was banned from entering the U.S.

“They told me if I tried going to the U.S., I’d be put in jail.”

He went back to the airport the next day with his documents and talked to the officer’s supervisor, who said he couldn’t overturn the decision.

“We ended up going to Mexico instead,” said Liptrot, who hasn’t been to the U.S. since.

Liptrot was among dozens of people who contacted The Vancouver Sun this week after reading about Leah Shaffer, a North Vancouver man who owned a cottage in Point Roberts for 23 years.