NWOTA sees end to border squabble

The North Western Ontario Tourism Association is hoping the end is in sight to a border-crossing issue that cropped up last year.
“We’ve been working with [Canada] Customs. A lot of the problems we’ve had last summer we’ve worked on,” said NWOTA president Tom Pearson, who also owns Camp Narrows Lodge on Rainy Lake.
“Hopefully, we’ll work to get a few more issues solved.”
The problems stemmed when tourist camps found out border officials were turning away U.S. tourists due to past charges on their police record—namely impaired driving convictions—dating back as far as 20 years ago.
The topic sparked a large debate during NWOTA’s fall meeting last November. But recent changes regarding applications for waivers for people with DUIs under Bill C-68 should make things easier for those to pass through.
“They’ve changed a few policies,” said Pearson. “They have promised it would be easier with the new Bill C-68.
“Instead of going through the Consulate, where it was taking 18 months to get [their record cleared], they can do so in six weeks.”
Another major issue discussed at NWOTA’s spring meeting last week in Emo was the potential impact of the eight-week-old OPSEU strike on the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Local MNR manager Bill Darby said while the strike has removed all on-duty conservation officers from the field, they will have two representatives in the district (Atikokan and Fort Frances) for emergencies under an Emergency Services Agreement with the union.
NWOTA’s role is to maintain conservation—regardless of how long the strike lingers.
“Just because officers are on strike, I hope people are still going to be conservation-minded,” stress-ed Pearson. “Everybody’s been working hard to get lakes to sustainable levels.”
About 40 people met at the Emo Inn for NWOTA’s spring meeting and they’re anticipating a solid tourist season, which unofficially kicks off May 18 with the opening of walleye/sauger season.
“Everyone is looking forward [to] a great year. From what it seems right now, bookings are looking really good. There was a lot of positive feedback,” said Pearson.