What visitors need to know when entering Canada

The first long weekend of summer is just days away, and so are thousands of tourists from the United States. And for many, the rules regarding what is and isn’t permitted into Canada can be daunting.
That’s why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has prepared a website that lists most of the restrictions applying to people entering Canada from the U.S.
The site has a comprehensive list of the amount of a particular food product each individual can bring into the country, as well those items that are banned.
Visitors are advised to check out the restrictions in order to avoid frustration at the border.
The regulations are fairly straightforward and address most of the things affecting tourists, but it’s always a good idea to use common sense, too.
For instance, be sure to declare everything you have, however innocuous. Many points of entry have specially-trained dogs that will sniff out anything you forgot to declare.
Administrative penalties of up to $400, or prosecution, may result should you fail to make a truthful declaration.
Some food items such as uncooked potatoes that are not accompanied by an inspection certificate will be refused. So will firewood because of the threat posed by a beetle that currently is wreaking havoc on ash trees in southwestern Ontario.
Many live animals require permits and often a health inspection certificate from the country of origin. Be sure to contact the CFIA well in advance. But if you’re planning to bring your dog or cat, just make sure its rabies vaccination records are up to date.
It should go without saying, but every year people try to bring handguns and other restricted or prohibited weapons into Canada. That is a definite no-no.
Also on the prohibited list are switchblades, pepper spray, martial arts weapons, certain types of knives, and most fireworks.
Long guns are permitted during hunting season, but be sure to have all the paperwork filled out ahead of time to avoid long delays and possible refusal.
People with criminal records may or may not have a problem at the border, depending on the nature of the offence(s) and when they occurred. Convictions more than 10 years old may not even be an issue, but it is a good idea to check ahead of time just in case.
People who have been convicted of only one offence that carries a sentence of less than 10 years usually can gain entry by applying for a special dispensation ahead of time.
Convictions of a more serious nature, or for more than one offence, probably will disqualify you from entry to Canada. Offences committed in the U.S. usually are equated with the same offences in Canada.
As you approach Canada Customs, it is a good idea to make an effort to make their job as easy as possible. At this time of the year, Customs personnel can be under a lot of stress due to the volume of people they process.
Be polite. Turn off the radio and cellphone, remove your sunglasses if possible, and avoid jokes about politics or contraband.
Customs officials have the authority to seize your vehicle on suspicion alone and tear it apart in search of contraband. And even if they find nothing, you will be pretty much on your own to put things back together.
Be sure to have your documentation ready. For citizens of the United States and Mexico, little is required beyond proof of citizenship. In fact, they may not even ask for your papers, but keep them handy in any case.
For more information on border restrictions, contact the CFIA Import Service Centre for your district. There are three toll-free telephone numbers that are accessible from most of the northern states.
For those wishing enter Canada through Ontario, call 1-800-835-4486.