(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

Surrey hunter fined $10,000 after shooting a bull moose and leaving it to die

The man was convicted for three Wildlife Act offences after shooting a bull moose not in season

Tonight’s Surrey RCMP Classic final: Cloverdale and South Surrey school teams to battle

Elsewhere, Holy Cross boys team aims to win another BC Catholics championship on home court

Surrey RCMP asks for public’s help in finding missing 14-year-old

Police say Ali Al-Shai was last seen on Jan. 16

Province to pass $1.25-million repair bill for South Surrey overpass on to ICBC

152 Street overpass was struck by overheight truck on Dec. 4, 2017

Ex-Mountie who investigated ‘Surrey six’ murders gets conditional sentence

Derek Brassington pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Lower Mainland-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Most Read