(Canadian Press)

(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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Three Generations Ribbon Skirt” sewn by Melody Cardinal and photographed by Darlene Hildebrant. (Photo submitted)
Ponoka and Maskwacis women share meaning of ribbon skirts

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Indigenous ribbon skirts have become a… Continue reading

File photo
New skate and ski trails in the City of Wetaskiwin this winter

Outdoor skating rinks open in the City and County of Wetaskiwin.

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. (File photo)
Wolf Creek and Wetaskiwin school boards ‘reassured’ by letter from LaGrange

Boards urge the Alberta government to honour commitments to Indigenous peoples

Loki’s Car Club hosting its first annual holiday toy drive. File photo.
Loki’s Car Club hosting its first annual holiday toy drive

Local Wetaskiwin businesses set up as toy drive drop off locations.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Judge finds former Alberta Mountie not guilty of sexually assaulting colleague

Jason Andrew Tress, who is 34, was stationed in the northern Alberta community of Faust at the time of the alleged assault

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Alberta set to retire coal power by 2023, ahead of 2030 provincial deadline

In 2014, 55 per cent of Alberta’s electricity was produced from 18 coal-fired generators

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Lacombe Police and RCMP have charged four people and seized three loaded guns and a small amount of methamphetamine following a traffic stop on Dec. 2. (Photo contributed)
Lacombe Police and RCMP arrest four people after joint investigation

The operation resulted in multiple loaded weapons seized and 116 charges

Longtime central Alberta politician Judy Gordon has passed away. Photo courtesy of the City of Lacombe
Former Lacombe Mayor Judy Gordon passes away

Gordon also served as MLA for Lacombe-Stettler before retiring from politics in 2010

Most Read