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What an impaired driving conviction can mean for immigrants

Facing criminal charges is always stressful. But as an immigrant in Canada, the consequences can be especially severe. Due to a new law that recently went into effect, Canadian immigrants have more to worry about than ever.

Canada has long enforced stiff penalties for immigrants who commit serious crimes. Non-citizens could face deportation if they are convicted of certain crimes, including:

  • Theft,
  • Assault,
  • Manslaughter and
  • Drug possession or other drug crimes.

A change in the law—effective December 18, 2018—now designates impaired driving as a “serious criminal offence.” Impaired driving refers to any incident involving the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. As a permanent Canadian resident, if you are convicted of impaired driving—either in Canada or abroad—on or after this date, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) can file a removal order against you.

Avoiding deportation

It’s worth understanding that being arrested for impaired driving is not enough to get you deported. A criminal charge alone will not jeopardize your residence in Canada. The important thing is to avoid a conviction. In such cases, having a robust defence team to advocate on your behalf is critical.

Will all impaired driving offences result in deportation?

The new law is not a hard and fast rule, according to the minister of IRCC. He claims that IRCC officers have some discretion in determining, on a case-by-case basis, whether to deem an offender inadmissible and initiate the deportation process. However, for permanent residents facing the possibility of having their lives uprooted, having their future rest a single officer’s judgment should provide little consolation.

What if there were no injuries or damages?

The new law finds all impaired driving convictions to constitute “serious criminality.” Therefore, impaired driving convictions for all non-citizens could result in deportation—even if the incident doesn’t lead to any accident or injuries, and even if the only sentence is a minor fine.

Is there leniency for first-time offenders?

Non-citizens who have a single, non-serious offence on their criminal record which makes them inadmissible to Canada are usually allowed a second chance through something called “deemed rehabilitation.” This states that after a period of 10 years from the completion of your sentence, your finding of inadmissibility will be waived—and you will be allowed to enter Canada again.

However, with impaired driving now considered a serious criminal offence, it even takes the possibility of deemed rehabilitation off the table.

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