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DWI refusals costing a lot of business

June 10, 2002
Honorable Denis Coderre
Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
Dear Minister Coderre:
Our organization, along with the Northwestern Ontario Tourism Association (NWOTA), Northwestern Ontario Municipalities Association (NOMA) and the Northwestern Ontario Association of Chambers of Commerce (NOACC), has had ongoing discussions on a problem which is having an extremely negative economic impact on our region. We estimate that at least nine million dollars in direct spending was lost in Ontario last summer and anticipate even greater losses this season if this problem is not immediately addressed.
Greatly increased enforcement of regulations concerning visitors with minor criminality in their backgrounds has resulted in large number of guests being denied entry. This is a new problem that emerged during the summer of 2001, and seems to be related to the introduction of new computers which are tied to the US Immigration database at selected border crossings, including Fort Frances. It should be noted that this increased enforcement is not September 11 related, nor is it a result of any new legislation or regulation.
This new enforcement initiative was introduced without any consultation or even notice to the tourism industry, and we have, therefore, been unable to inform our guests of the changes. As a result, news media in some US border states are reporting that it is now extremely difficult for many tourists to enter Canada.
This is resulting in numerous cancellations and extensive loss of business.
The problem is compounded by what can only be described as an anti tourism attitude on the part of immigration staff at the Fort Frances crossing. Our organizations have received numerous complaints of rude and inappropriate treatment, and a survey conducted by our industry showed that the majority of complaints about poor treatment of tourists by immigration officials (79%) occur at Fort Frances.
Although we are aware of pending regulation changes that are designed to help alleviate this problem, we believe the new regulations are seriously deficient in several ways. We are aware of the need to protect the safety of Canadians, but we believe we can suggest procedures that protect public safety without devastating the economies of entire communities.
We are eager to meet with you and your officials to discuss this problem and our suggested remedies. Please understand that time is of the essence, as we are currently entering the peak tourist season. We are available at your earliest convenience to meet to discuss an effective solution.
Doug Reynolds
Executive Director
Northern Ontario Tourism Organiation