Canadians were outraged by recent news that their phone could be searched while crossing the US Border saying this was a violation of privacy and that we were living in a nightmare.
As it turns out this isn't new and it's not only in America. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) have been searching people's phones for years, and not only US travelers but Canadians returning to the country as well.
While information on CBSA policies surrounding cell-phone searches is really hard to find, it is all legally allowed under the Canadian Customs Act. Section 99 of the Act says that agents can examine any goods a traveler has. The act also defines goods as any document in any form, including the digital records of your phone.
It is a very vague policy considering how much power it gives CBSA agents. While they have to have reason to suspect someone is doing something shady, they don't need a warrant to demand a search of your phone.
The worst part is there isn't really anything you can do about. If you say no or refuse to give them access, you will be fined by CBSA under code C026 of their penalty system, which covers the penalty for failing to present goods when requested by an officer.
The fines for your first offense are $500, second offense is $750, and then the third offense and every time after that it is a fine of $1500.
While it isn't clear exactly how long CBSA has been searching phones for it has been almost ten years. A man being investigated by police had his phone searched by CBSA in March 2009. In another case in 2015 a Quebec man was fined $500 after he refused to give CBSA agents his phone.