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A new message from the government of Canada is clear: you are welcome to enjoy newly-legalized cannabis in Canada, just don’t get behind the wheel and drive high. Impaired driving in Canada is about to become designated as a serious crime.

Under new impaired driving laws that came into effect on December 18, driving high or over the alcohol limit could make you inadmissible to Canada for serious criminality, and lead to your removal from Canada.

Under the new laws, removal orders could be directed at temporary residents, including foreign workers and international students, as well as refugee claimants, who, if caught driving over the limit or high, may not be eligible to have their claim referred for a refugee hearing.

But what has escaped the attention of some is that removal orders could be carried out on permanent residents who, as they are not Canadian citizens, could be ordered back to their country of citizenship.

Even if you have been a permanent resident of Canada for many years, even decades, you should be fully aware of the consequences of your actions while enjoying alcohol or cannabis in Canada. Because unless you treat Canadian laws and road users with respect, it could be the last time you get to enjoy these legal drugs within Canada’s borders.

Impaired driving in Canada

Let’s have a look at the new law, and its background, in more detail.

The Cannabis Act, which came into effect on October 17, made cannabis legal across Canada, though exactly who can procure the drug, and how, depends on the province in which it is sold.

However, under that same act, the government also introduced cannabis-related crimes including:

  • illegally producing, distributing or selling cannabis; or
  • illegally importing or exporting cannabis or cannabis-related products across Canada’s international borders.

Most cannabis-related crimes will have a maximum penalty of 14 years.

When the impaired driving penalties come into effect on December 18, most impaired driving offences will then be considered serious crimes in Canada. The maximum penalty for most impaired driving offences will increase from 5 to 10 years.

The impact of these new penalties on permanent and temporary residents, as well as people wishing to come to Canada, could be significant, because someone who commits what Canada considers a serious crime — meaning a crime that would be punishable by a maximum prison term of at least 10 years in Canada — is grounds for inadmissibility to Canada.

If you’re already here and commit a serious crime, you could face a fine, criminal charges or jail, or be removed altogether. Moreover, appeal rights for permanent residents and foreign nationals, including sponsored members of the family class, as well as economic migrants, foreign workers and students, could also be affected.

And if you’re outside Canada and commit a serious crime, you can wave goodbye to your hopes of coming to Canada (unless you can overcome your criminal conviction, but that’s a whole process unto itself).

“Our main message to permanent residents and temporary residents is — make sure you know and follow our laws, including our tough new rules for cannabis-related crimes and impaired driving. If you don’t, you could face serious legal and immigration consequences,” said Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

According to Hussen, the government has recognized there could be “disproportionate immigration consequences for non-Canadians” as a result of the amendments.

Should people should be barred from Canada, possibly for life, over one impaired driving offence? Whatever your personal feelings on the matter, we at Moving2Canada have some simple advice: know and respect the laws, because if the consequences are not deadly for other road users, they may be for your hopes of building a life in Canada.

If you want to come to Canada and have concerns about inadmissibility, you can book a confidential consultation with a Regulated Canadian immigration consultant here.

About the author

Hugo O'Doherty profile picture

Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
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