RVers Pays for Deceiving Border Officials

Once again RVers and other travelers entering Canada, attempting to dodge a few extra dollars in taxes, ended up paying significantly more for their misdemeanor after their schemes were uncovered by Canada Border Services Agents (CSBA) at border crossings in North Portal and the Estevan Highway during March.

flag1CBSA agents report that one example occurred on March 1 when a Saskatchewan resident importing a motorhome declared its value at $21,500.

CBSA officers conducted a routine secondary examination and found an Internet listing for the motorhome and after contacting the sellers, determined the motorhome had actually been purchased for $36,500 and therefore had been undervalued at the port by $15,000, reports the Estevan Mercury.

The motorhome was seized and only returned to the purchaser after he had paid a penalty of $8,485.13 to retrieve it. If the motorhome had been correctly declared, the taxes owing would have amounted to $771.

In other border related incidents, CBSA officers reported that on March 3, a United States resident sought entry into Canada to work in Alberta.

While attempting to enter Canada at North Portal, it was noted he had previously been granted work permits in Canada, but background checks also revealed a recent conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol, and was refused entry.

The man returned to the port a couple of days later seeking to obtain documents to apply for a pardon so CBSA officers explained that he was not eligible to apply for a pardon, but he was advised on how to properly apply from outside Canada once he became eligible. He then returned to the U.S.

border crossing djs615099700_highOn March 6, a commercial truck driver from Wisconsin arrived at the port of entry and a background check revealed the man had previous convictions including child abuse and three counts of battery and was refused entry into Canada.

On the same day, a North Dakota-based commercial driver was refused entry due to a serious criminal record that included theft of government property, obstructing police, and probation violation. He, too, was returned to the U.S.

On March 12, a South Dakota resident operating a commercial truck was referred for secondary examination based on his vague responses to a series of primary questions, reports the Estevan Mercury.

While examining the sleeper area of the transport truck, CBSA officers found a disassembled .40 caliber handgun. The gun was seized and the man paid a $1,000 penalty before returning to the U.S.

Several suspected cannabis products were located in a vehicle being operated by a Saskatchewan resident who was returning to Canada on March 18. The items included 226 grams of suspected cannabis spray, 453 grams of suspected cannabis balm, and 5.2 grams of suspected marijuana plant material. The items were seized along with the man’s vehicle. Following the payment of a $2,650 penalty, the vehicle was released.

On March 20, CBSA officers seized an undeclared stun gun from a Minnesota man who was attempting to enter Canada as a visitor, reports the Estevan Mercury.

The man paid a $500 penalty and was allowed to proceed with his trip into Canada.

border crossing-cars_line_us-canada_border_01On March 24, a Colorado man was refused entry due to having several serious offences listed on his record including sexual assault, assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, battery, and possession of cannabis. He was returned to the U.S.

A New York resident who had been refused entry into Canada on previous occasions was once again denied entry at the North Portal Port on March 26. Further checks revealed he had been convicted of such offences as sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment, introducing contraband into a prison, burglary, assault, and disorderly conduct. He was returned to the U.S.

Worth Pondering…

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching

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Happy Birthday Parks Canada!

The world may scratch its collective head when it comes to listing facts about Canada, but—at the very least—most know it’s a lot bigger than the spot they call home.

The Netherlands can easily fit into Lake Huron—with ample room to splash around.

Jasper National Park, Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s plenty to explore—Canada’s cities are new, dynamic, and evolving—but it’s the beauty of the massive forests, towering mountains, pristine lakes, and the land’s sheer breadth that enthralls many visitors.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada and Alan Latourelle, chief executive officer of the Parks Canada Agency, is inviting visitors from around the world—to enjoy the nation’s 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites, including nine canals, and four national marine conservation areas that stretch from British Columbia on the West Coast to Newfoundland on the East.

“Canada! We have more square feet of awesomeness per person than any other nation on Earth,” the beer commercial shouted over and over during last year’s Vancouver Olympics Games, to a steady backdrop of national park scenes. And the locals all raised their glasses, for Canadians love their national parks.

Much of the development of Parks Canada has taken place during the past two decades, and the intent of the parks system has expanded to embrace more and more land in the name of conservation—not necessarily visitation.

Today, some of the parks are home to animals which have become very rare or endangered in most parts of their natural range. For example, Elk Island National Park in Alberta is home to a genetically pure herd of rare wood bison. In March 2011, 30 of these animals were shipped to Russia. And most of us know about the transfer of grey wolves from Jasper to Yellowstone National Park.

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia (Credit: citypictures.org

Parks Canada has have restored bison and the black-footed ferret, thought to be extinct, into Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan.

The largest park is the Wood Buffalo National Park that stretches across Alberta and the Northwest Territories. At 17,000 square miles, it’s about the size of New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, combined.

The smallest park is the 3.4-square-mile St. Lawrence Islands National Park in Ontario.

The most visited park in Canada in 2010, not surprisingly, was Banff, with a whopping 3,132,086 visitors—and over 3 million cameras. On the other hand, Quttinirpaaq on Ellesmere Island had just two visitors. That’s a lot of per-person space, as the park measures 14,585 square miles. And about a dozen visitors found their way to Tutktut Nogait National Park, which is about 105 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

As Parks Canada celebrates its centennial, it also faces challenges.

Eight out of 10 Canadians now live in urban centers, and a growing number have never visited a national park.

In the last 10 years, there has been a decline in attendance at the parks. In 2001, 22.4 million people visited the parks, compared with 20.7 million last year.

The agency has begun to address that decline with new advertising campaigns.

The organization has a lot planned to help celebrate the centennial including two days—July 1 and 16—that will offer free, one-day admission to all parks and historic sites.

A Famous Forts Weekend will be held from August 19 to 21 featuring festivities at many of the forts under the agency’s umbrella. The weekend will feature music, dancing, food, and—of course—the signature 100-gun salute.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. (Credit: Parks Canada)

My Parks Pass, a Canada-wide program, will provide all Grade 8 students free access (for one year) to any national park, national historic site, or national marine conservation area administered by Parks Canada.

Considered an international leader, the agency is celebrating successes at the same time as it works to attract a new generation of Canadians.

Some citizenship ceremonies take place in national parks and historic sites to introduce new Canadians to them.

“How can we continue to have our places be meaningful and really have Canadians connect to them?” asks Campbell, “That’s our biggest challenge.”

Parks Canada is working on nine new parks. The goal is to represent Canada’s 39 natural regions through the parks system; to capture a comprehensive representation of Canada’s flora, fauna and geology.

Happy Birthday Parks Canada!

Just the Facts

National Parks by province/territory

British Columbia: 7

Alberta: 4.5*

Ontario: 5

Northwest Territories: 3.5*

Nunavut: 4

Newfoundland and Labrador: 3

Quebec: 3

Yukon Territory: 3

Manitoba: 2

New Brunswick: 2

Nova Scotia: 2

Saskatchewan: 2

Prince Edward Island: 1

* Wood Buffalo National Park straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border

For more information visit parkscanada.

Worth Pondering…
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…
— John Muir

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The World’s First National Parks Turn 100

What was the first country in the world to establish a national parks system?

Jasper National Park, Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you guessed the United States or a European country such as Austria, Switzerland, Norway, or Sweden you would be wrong.

This year, Parks Canada, the first national parks service in the world, celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Banff was discovered accidentally in 1883, when explorers fell through the roof of a cave into a warm, sulphur-water spring below. Sixteen miles around Sulphur Mountain and the Cave and Basin, were set aside as a National Park in 1885, predating Parks Canada by 26 years.

Other sites were added until 1911, when the Dominion Parks Branch of government was formed.

In 1911, when J.B. (Bunny) Harkin was appointed Canada’s first commissioner of national parks, he thought “the word park seemed a very small name for so great a thing.”

The number of visitors to the Canadian Rockies at mountain parks now known as Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes was increasing and the federal government felt it needed to protect the magnificence of the region.

Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta. (Credit: Parks Canada)

“Wonder, reverence, the feeling that one is nearer the mystery of things—that is what one feels in places of such sublime beauty,” wrote Harkin.

Today, Parks Canada administers 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites, including nine canals, and four national marine conservation areas.

More than 4,500 wardens, guides, scientists, and interpreters employed by Parks Canada oversee more than 145,000 square miles of federal land.

One hundred eighty countries now have national parks. The first, in 1872 in the United States, was Yellowstone National Park, which was “too big and too beautiful to belong to any private individual,” according to one of its proponents.

The Parks Canada mandate has not changed: “Dedicated to the people of Canada, for their benefit, education and enjoyment … to leave unimpaired for future generations.”

The national parks were direct results of Canada’s first national railroad, the Canadian Pacific.

Visitors arrived by rail and stayed in hotels built by Canadian Pacific Railway.

“The idea was not conservation, it was tourism,” says Jonathan France, director of the historical research branch of Parks Canada. “The main objective was an economic one, to show a return on the significant public investment in building a transcontinental railway.”

Born in 1875 in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Harkin worked as a journalist and a political secretary before being named parks commissioner, which he remained until 1936.

Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta. (Credit: Banffnationalpark.com)

He promoted national parks for outdoor recreation and as a source of valuable tourist dollars. He built roads for public access. But Harkin also developed the idea of conservation, noting that man “is constantly changing the face of nature, cutting and burning the forests, plowing up the wildflowers, killing off the wild animals and birds, damming and polluting rivers, draining and diverting lakes.”

In 1915, the agency designated three pronghorn antelope sanctuaries in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and in 1917 the Migratory Birds Protection Act was passed. This established protection of wildlife on federal lands as part of Parks’ mandate and led, among other initiatives, to the creation of Point Pelee National Park in southern Ontario.

In the 1920s, Harkin was often in conflict with business interests that wanted to exploit coal, timber, and water in parks, leading him to enshrine their inviolability in the 1930 National Parks Act.

Foreign emissaries began visiting Canada to study Harkin’s methods. By the time he retired in 1936, Harkin had built a system of 13 protected areas that touched nearly every province.

Recognized internationally as the Father of National Parks, he remains little-known in his homeland. A 16-page booklet, containing excerpts from Harkin’s notes, was posthumously published in 1957. The Origin and Meaning of the National Parks of Canada, a seminal and lyrical gem, closes with this: “Man is a restless animal. He is constantly changing the face of nature. Even the face of Canada has seen many changes in the last 50 years. What will it look like a hundred years from now?”

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Canada’s National Parks and its 100th anniversary.

Worth Pondering…
Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
— John Muir

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Tornadoes: The What, When & Where

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.

A sequence of images showing the birth of a tornado. First, the rotating cloud base lowers. This lowering becomes a funnel, which continues descending while winds build near the surface, kicking up dust and other debris. Finally, the visible funnel extends to the ground, and the tornado begins causing major damage. This tornado, near Dimmitt, Texas, was one of the best-observed violent tornadoes in history. Image courtesy Wipikedia

People, recreational vehicles, cars, and even buildings may be hurled aloft by tornado-force winds—or simply blown away. Most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris.

A tornado is a vertical funnel of violently rotating air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.

The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 miles (400 kilometers) per hour or more and can clear-cut a pathway in excess of one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide and 50 miles (80 kilometers) long.

Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas!

These violent storms occur in many parts of the world, but the United States is the major hotspot with over 800 tornadoes reported every year. “Tornado Alley,” a region that includes eastern South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, and eastern Colorado, is home to the most powerful and destructive of these storms. U.S. tornadoes cause 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries per year.

Canada gets more tornadoes than any other country with the exception of the United States. Tornadoes are relatively common in Canada, but only in specific regions: southern portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Tornado season in Canada extends from April to September with peak months in June and July, but they can occur at any time.

Tornadoes’ distinctive funnel clouds are actually transparent. They become visible when water droplets pulled from a storm’s moist air condense or when dust and debris are taken up. Funnels typically grow about 660 feet (200 meters) wide.

Tornadoes move at speeds of about 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 kilometers) per hour, although they’ve been clocked in bursts up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour. Most don’t get very far though. They rarely travel more than about six miles (ten kilometers) in their short lifetimes.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Image courtesy Seymour

Tornado forecasters can’t provide the same kind of warning that hurricane watchers can, but they can do enough to save lives. Today the average warning time for a tornado alert is 13 minutes.

Tornadoes can also be identified by warning signs that include a dark, greenish sky, large hail, and a powerful train-like roar.

What causes tornadoes?

Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes.

Tornadoes in the winter and early spring are often associated with strong, frontal systems that form in the Central States and move east. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur with this type of weather pattern.

During the spring in the Central Plains, thunderstorms frequently develop along a “dryline,” which separates very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Tornado-producing thunderstorms may form as the dryline moves east during the afternoon hours.

Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains, in the Texas panhandle, and in the southern High Plains, thunderstorms frequently form as air near the ground flows upslope toward higher terrain. If other favorable conditions exist, these thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.

This extremely dangerous tornado occurred on June 22, 2007 in the town of Elie, west of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The winds in this storm were rated to be between 260 and 320 miles (419 and 512 km) per hour, the most powerful tornado possible! The rare combination weather features converged this day in June, allowing for the most powerful tornado in Canadian history to be recorded. Image courtesy Steinbach Weather

The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.

Frequency of Tornadoes

The meteorological factors that drive tornadoes make them more likely at some times than at others. They occur more often in late afternoon, when thunderstorms are common, and are more prevalent in spring and summer. However, tornadoes can and do form at any time of the day and year.

In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while peak months in the northern states are during the summer.

Note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series on tornadoes

Worth Pondering…
There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness, and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.

—Leo F. Buscaglia, advocate of the power of love, 1924-1998

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