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U.S. senator wants clearer boater reporting rules from Canadian border agency

Port Dahlousie

The seizure of two boats and a jet ski from American boaters on Lake Ontario has spurred a U.S. senator to call for clearer rules from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) on what it expects from American boaters on the lake.

Lake Ontario is bounded on the north and southwest by the Canadian province of Ontario and on the south by New York state. Pleasure boaters from both countries regularly cross the border on recreational watercraft.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) urged the CBSA to look into its seizure of two New York boats at Ontario’s Port Dahlousie and to clarify rules and expectations for U.S. boaters entering Canadian territory from the lake.

In an Aug. 21 letter, Schumer asked CBSA president Luc Portelance to review an incident in which Niagara County residents Randy Hook and Gerald Daniel were boating in Port Dahlousie when their two boats and one jet ski were seized by the CBSA. The men, according to Schumer, “were forced to pay $3000 in fines after attempting to lawfully report their presence.”

Schumer told Portelance that CBSA “must provide clear and readily available guidance in terms of the expectations and obligations of American boaters, and should investigate the Hook and Daniel families’ treatment and costly boat seizure, given their unsuspicious and lawful aims in the incident.”

“CBSA must more clearly communicate the duties and expectations of Americans boating near the border, and to provide clear warnings in incidents with first-time offenders in those situations,” he said.

According to reports, Canadian border patrol officers determined that both the Hook and Daniel families had failed to report their presence. However, said Schumer, both families had attempted multiple times and through various means to report their presence within minutes of entering Canadian waters. Ultimately, both of the families’ boats and a Jet Ski were seized and the families were required to pay a $1,000 fine per vessel to get them back. In addition, the families had their NEXUS passes confiscated, he said, adding that western New York residents have visited Port Dahlousie for over ten years and made a good faith effort to comply with Canadian law.

Schumer noted that without clear guidance, American boaters might be in violation of Canadian law without any knowledge or any illegal intent.

Moving forward, Schumer noted that the expectations of those boating near the Canadian border must be made clearer, including the need to report presence at ports of entry, whether boats are anchored or otherwise on shore.