The Swiss-born Canadian citizen had visited historic sites from the Gold Rush era on a road trip to a remote area near the Alaska border. His trip included a visit to White Pass, where the physical border is located.
On his way back from the pass, Winkler arrived at the Fraser border crossing, located several kilometers on Route 2 in British Columbia, far from the border itself.
“There is construction going on right next to this border station,” Winkler told CTV News Vancouver. “It doesn’t look like a border post at all. It doesn’t sound like what we are used to in the Lower Mainland. ”
He stopped at the stop sign and waited for someone to come out of the nearby “dilapidated” building, but no one came. He even took out his passport, in case the guards came to ask him if he had just been in the United States.
“I unbuckled to get my passport out of the glove compartment,” he said. “I waited a while. I looked around me. Nobody came.
So he put his passport down in the passenger seat and continued on his way. Then he heard a noise, which he now realizes was the sound of an alarm. Winkler checked all of his mirrors and saw no indication of a problem coming from behind. He says that at the time he assumed it was a construction noise he heard.
“No customs officer rushed out of the building to wave at me,” he said. “There was no one inside. ”
Winkler says his next destination was about 200 yards down the road, where he stopped his car to get out and take photos of historic Fraser Station.
“If these people wanted me to come back, they could still have yelled at me or waved me back,” he said.
He only learned that something was wrong 70 kilometers yet.
Winkler was just outside Carcross, Yukon, when an RCMP officer stopped him and asked for identification. His passport was still in the passenger seat, but he offered the officer his driver’s license.
“He looked at it and said I had crossed the border,” Winkler said. “I said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ ”
The police escorted him to British Columbia and to the border post.
Yukon RCMP said in a statement that Winkler had “passed through the Fraser, British Columbia, port of entry without reporting.”
“The RCMP escorted the man to Fraser where he was processed by the CBSA,” the statement continued. . ”
Winkler was fined $ 1,000 and border officials searched his vehicle before allowing it to continue.
CTV News has contacted the CBSA to inquire about whether people arriving at a port of entry without leaving Canada are required to stop and report to border officials.
“All travelers wishing to enter Canada must report to the Canada Border Services Agency at a designated port of entry,” the agency said in an emailed statement. “If someone enters the United States, no matter where or what mode of entry, upon their return to Canada, they must report to the CBSA. Under current border measures, they may also be subject to quarantine measures. Failure to report to the CBSA upon entry into Canada is a serious offense and may result in penalties and / or charges. ”
The words “regardless of where or what mode of entry” were in bold in the statement, which may mean that the border agency considers Winkler to have left Canada, whether or not he actually crossed the physical border.
CTV News also asked if travelers should get out of their vehicles and search for a border officer when they arrive at the Fraser border crossing.
“Upon arrival at the Fraser Port of Entry, travelers should stop at the stop sign and remain in the vehicle until an officer instructs them on the next steps,” said the agency in its press release.
Winkler plans to appeal the fine. He also expressed concern about the lack of a mask warrant for CBSA officers – one of whom, he said, searched his car without wearing a mask.
The agency says wearing a mask is not part of Health Canada’s guidelines for its agents.
“The CBSA’s standard operating procedures are consistent with recommendations from Health Canada medical experts,” the agency’s statement read.
Winkler says he is “puzzled” that the CBSA does not require border officers to wear masks when searching vehicles.
“The protection is not for them, the protection is for me,” he said. “During a normal border crossing, there would be thousands of people arriving, and they all come from different places. That they don’t have a policy of wearing masks for this is amazing to me.