Unfair scapegoat

There are a lot of reasons why the number of American tourists visiting Northwestern Ontario has declined significantly over the past few years, but the men and women who guard our borders, including those here in Fort Frances, certainly aren’t among them.
Doug Reynolds, executive director of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters (NOTO) in town last Friday for the fall meeting of the North Western Ontario Tourism Association, was off-base when he lambasted local Canada Customs officers for allegedly being “unfriendly and rude” to U.S. visitors while doing their job.
He even went so far as to question how well-trained they are.
The job of Customs officers isn’t to see how many tourists they can tick off each day by refusing them entry—it’s to keep contraband and undesirables (like criminals, illegal immigrants, and, yes, potential terrorists) from getting into our country.
In short, it’s a tremendous responsibility.
Frankly, suggesting American tourists are staying away in droves because they can’t bring potatoes across the border is ludicrous. After all, did Canadians stay home because U.S. Customs officers were confiscating pizzas with meat toppings or have-eaten roast beef sandwiches during the height of the “mad cow” crisis?
Equally surprising is that Mr. Reynolds’ tirade came just two weeks after local tourist operators and Canada Customs here teamed up on a new website specifically-designed to make crossing the border easier for visiting tourists.
It’s joint ventures like these that offer a solution to the very real woes facing our tourism industry, not petty finger-pointing. If anything, NOTO should be working to debunk the unfair perception surrounding our Customs officers instead of fanning it by vociferously belittling them as convenient scapegoats.