New Canadian gun regulations irk Taku River group

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2001

The Taku River Recreation Association is expressing "extreme concern" about tough new firearms regulations Canada implemented Jan. 1.

Visitors who cross into Canada with firearms in their possession and who don't have a valid Canadian gun license must declare their firearms by completing a nonresident declaration form and paying a $50 (Canadian) confirmation fee. A temporary license is issued that is valid for 60 days and may be renewed at any time during a 12-month period without paying an additional fee.

"This requirement is completely unreasonable and places an unnecessary financial burden on Alaskans," said Taku association President Cherie Rudolph in a press release. The association represents Juneau hunters, cabin-owners and others who use the Taku River area.

What irks the Taku River crowd is that as they wend their way upriver they cross into Canada all the time, with firearms. The border is just 48 miles from Juneau. And that means if they don't have the Canadian permit for that particular firearm, they now must make a personal appearance to fill out the forms and pay the fee at Canadian Customs in either Prince Rupert, British Columbia, or Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory.

It's either that or leave the gun at home.

"It's just unrealistic," said river association Vice President Errol Champion.

Until now, visitors taking the Taku and other wilderness routes into Canada had only to register their plans and firearms with Canadian customs by telephone, Champion said.

"The Canadian government needs to revisit this law and develop a common-sense approach to its implementation," Rudolph said.

To require Alaskans to obtain the license and incur the annual expense of making the initial entry into Canada at an existing customs station "makes a mockery of the long-established tradition and procedures for conducting commerce between Alaska and our Canadian neighbors," she said.

Telephoning in information has worked to ease Canadian customs regulations before, and might again, said U.S. Customs Port Director for Juneau Ken Koelsch. Alaskans flying into Atlin, British Columbia, were once cleared by the customs officer at the site, Koelsch said. And when that officer was declared redundant, Alaskans wanting to land in Atlin had for a time to report to Whitehorse to clear customs. "But for the last four or five years, anyone can land at any Canadian airstrip, basically," he said. "All they have to do is call in for clearance."

Koelsch said he thought communicating these concerns to Alaska's congressional delegation might help.

Champion, a former Juneau Assembly member, has already received three calls concerning the regulations from state legislators, he said.

"And I don't want to second-guess what they can do, but I would think U.S. Customs could do something. And then our side of the border wouldn't be so oppressed with this huge expense," he said.

Fernand Chandonnet can be reached at fchandonnet@juneau

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