Canadian Government Changing How DUIs are Treated

As part of their efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use, the Canadian government has recently introduced a bill in Parliament (“Bill C-46”) proposing to make several changes to existing laws relating to drug and alcohol offences. If passed, this bill would increase the maximum penalty for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), when impaired by drug or alcohol, from five years imprisonment to ten years.

While this change would affect the maximum sentence of those charged and convicted in Canada, it would also have an effect on those who have been charged or convicted outside Canada who wish to enter Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) is the principle piece of legislation governing Canada’s immigration system. IRPA considers foreign offences in light of how they are treated under Canadian law, regardless of the actual classification where the offence took place. Similarly, IRPA draws a distinction between offences with a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and offences with a maximum sentence of less than ten years. As a result of this change, DUI would become classified as “serious criminality”, like murder and sexual assault, which would cause increased difficulties to foreign nationals who have been convicted of DUI outside Canada who want to visit, work in, or immigrate to Canada.

Under IRPA, foreign nationals are inadmissible to Canada if they have been convicted of DUI in any jurisdiction. Currently, after ten years from completing their sentence, they would become eligible for Deemed Rehabilitation and become admissible to Canada without submitting any kind of formal application. However, as a result of this bill, foreign nationals with a conviction of DUI would become ineligible to be rehabilitated by the passage of time. Regardless of how long ago the DUI occurred, they would be inadmissible to Canada for the rest of their lives, unless they are approved for Criminal Rehabilitation or a Temporary Resident Permit. Moreover, as DUI would be considered a serious offence, officers are instructed to be more conservative when considering either of these applications. While any CBSA officer is currently authorized to issue a TRP to overcome DUI, only CBSA Superintendents would be authorized to issue a TRP to overcome DUI once it is classified as serious criminality. The application fee for Criminal Rehabilitation would likewise increase from $200 to $1000.

While Bill C-46 is not currently law, it is expected to pass and come into effect by July 2018, at the latest. Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party hold a majority in Parliament and are able to pass the bill without the support of other parties. The government has yet to clarify how they will treat cases in which the foreign national was convicted before the coming into effect of the bill, or cases where an application has been submitted awaiting review. With that said, it is unlikely that those who are approved for Criminal Rehabilitation before the bill takes effect will be impacted by the new legislation. In any event, it is advisable to contact a qualified Canadian immigration lawyer if you may be affected by this change.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.