(Canadian Press)

New pot, impaired driving penalties could bar newcomers from Canada

On Dec. 18, new impaired driving penalties take effect

The federal government is warning newcomers that stiffer impaired driving and cannabis-related penalties could lead to their removal from Canada.

The measures are part of the sweeping package of changes taking place as Canada becomes the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis use.

The Cannabis Act includes penalties of up to 14 years in prison for illegal production or distribution of cannabis and for taking it across the Canadian border. The same maximum penalty applies for giving or selling marijuana to someone under 18 or using a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence.

RELATED: ‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian Chiefs

On Dec. 18, new impaired driving penalties take effect, and the maximum penalties for most of these offences will increase to 10 years from five. It means they will fall under the definition of serious crimes for immigration determination purposes.

“The impact of these new penalties on permanent and temporary residents could be significant,” the Immigration Department advises in a statement.

People who work with immigrants and refugees agree that it will make things tougher for newcomers.

“The significance of this change from an immigration point of view is very high,” said immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.

RELATED: VIDEO – This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Immigration officials could rule that a person is inadmissible to Canada for “serious criminality,” even if an impaired driving offence took place in another country.

Under federal immigration law, a permanent resident or foreign national can be deemed inadmissible if they have been convicted of a Canadian offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or of an offence for which they have actually been sentenced to more than six months behind bars.

In addition, the same rule applies to those who have committed an offence in another country that, if committed in Canada, would carry a penalty of up to 10 years.

As a result, the department says, the new cannabis and impaired-driving provisions could mean:

  • Permanent residents might lose their status and have to leave the country;
  • Temporary residents — including visitors, international students and foreign workers — may not be able to enter or stay in Canada;
  • Refugee claimants may be ineligible to have their claim referred for a refugee hearing.

Moreover, appeal rights for permanent residents and foreign nationals, including sponsored members of the family class, could also be affected, the department says.

Under the changes, permanent residents convicted of impaired driving in Canada will have to worry about the prospect of deportation proceedings, Waldman said.

Impaired driving is an extremely serious matter given the danger it poses, Waldman said. ”But do I think people should be barred from Canada, possibly for life, over one impaired driving (offence)? No.”

He cautioned that it remains to be seen how strictly Canadian authorities will apply the removal provision.

Although criminality could always pose a barrier to entering Canada, a serious offence “makes your pathway into Canada much more complicated,” Waldman said.

“Because you have to go through a whole series of extra steps and the requirements to get an exemption — a permit to allow you to come in — are more stringent.”

Even now, Canada doesn’t meet its international obligations with respect to refugees, because Canada’s exclusions on the basis of serious criminality are much broader than the exclusions in the global refugee convention, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

She said that adding another group of people who will be denied access to a refugee hearing on the basis of serious criminality means Canada is “increasing the risk that we’re going to send someone back to face persecution in violation of our international obligations.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Town of Blackfalds holds Multi-Plex Open House

Designs for dual-arena, expanded library shown at public consultation

Lacombe’s Galactic Wranglers Robotics Club earns way to World Championships

Community donates over $18,000 for Houston trip in five days

Lacombe Rams Rugby off to promising start in 2019

Coach looking for right mix of veterans and new players

Kenney talks pipelines with Trudeau after election win, calls it cordial

Almost a year ago Kenney dismissed Trudeau as a dilettante and a lightweight

Lacombe Performing Arts Festival grows ‘dramatically’ in 2019

38th annual Festival runs April 29th to May 21st

‘Open for business:’ Jason Kenney’s UCP wins majority in Alberta election

The UCP was leading or elected in 63 of 87 seats Tuesday night

Three climbers presumed dead after avalanche in Banff National Park

One of the men is American and the other two are from Europe, according to officials

VIDEO: Trump tried to seize control of Mueller probe, report says

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed to a waiting nation Thursday

Short-circuit likely caused Notre Dame fire: police official

Investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral but can’t yet search charred interior

Alberta RCMP reminds Albertans how to be ‘egg-stra’ safe this Easter

Put away phone while driving, plan for a designated driver

B.C. awaits Kenney’s ‘turn off taps,’ threat; Quebec rejects Alberta pipelines

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday and the tone was cordial

Federal government extends deadline to make Trans Mountain decision to June 18

The National Energy Board endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Feb. 22

Precautionary evacuation for Red Deer, Alta., residents due to industrial fire

City officials are advising people to close windows and doors and to turn off air intakes into homes

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

Most Read