Over the years, I’ve heard of many people who routinely cross the Canadian border with criminal records. Because the individuals aren’t particularly noteworthy, they were never referred for secondary inspection and their records were never detected. At primary inspection, the officers did not have the ability to run criminal records. This is in stark distinction to US Customs and Border Patrol agents who had full access to not only the US criminal records (“NCIC” records) but also Canadian criminal records (“CPIC” records).
Things are changing. Starting in 2013, the organization representing CBSA agents has been lobbying to have more information. They maintained an unsuccessful lawsuit to the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals. After loosing this suit, they started a media offensive which worked. After a CBC broadcast on the “hole” in their system, Canada started providing CPIC records to Canadian agents. According to CBC, this has resulted in hundreds of new detentions and exclusions at the border. No one can official confirm whether the CBSA has access to NCIC records at primary, but it is only a matter of time before US records are available to them as well. The US and Canada already share this data and it has been available to Canadian officials at secondary inspection points for years.
A 2015 Canadian Senate Report has called for additional screening measures at primary inspection points. The Canadian Job Growth Act of 2012 provides for the biometric screening of all foreign nationals (except US citizens) entering Canada. It seems like this extra screening is only a matter of time.