September is here, which means just one thing for Canada’s largest city of Toronto — it’s film festival time. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the most prestigious festivals in the global film industry and a showcase event on the Canadian social calendar, attracting some 400,000 attendees. Among them are around 4,000 industry professionals, including some of the world’s most renowned actors. But how does the Canada Border Services Agency deal in a case where a famous actor wanting to visit Canada for a showcase event is deemed criminally inadmissible resulting from a previous offence?
Each person travelling to Canada is subject to the same rules and regulations with regard to criminality. When Wes Bentley, who starred in American Beauty and The Hunger Games, attempted a trip to Toronto in 2012 to promote a movie during the International Film Festival, he was told that he would not be allowed to enter Canada. Mr. Bentley had a four-year old conviction for heroin possession. The door to Canada, even for this celebrated actor, was closed for the time being. Mr. Bentley thus joined a short list of celebrities — including hip hop artists The Game and Lil Wayne, as well as musician Bert McCracken of The Used — who have been told they cannot enter Canada.
Canada has strict and clear guidelines regarding what is known as ‘criminal inadmissibility’. Something as seemingly minor as an old DUI going back a number of years can result in being turned away at Canada’s borders. Even if the crime was minor in nature, and even if the person’s criminal record has been clean since it took place, Canada still has the right to deny entry. This is evidently an inconvenience to any number of potential parties, not least the person trying to enter Canada. An employer might need an employee to go to Canada to perform some short-term work, organisers of an academic conference might wish to invite a foreign professor to give a presentation, or an individual might wish to have a family member travel to Canada to attend his or her wedding or other family occasion.
For the person wishing to enter Canada temporarily, as well as their friends, relatives, or professional colleagues in Canada, it is always a disappointment for everyone concerned when an individual cannot enter Canada because he or she has a criminal record. But there are ways around this. The person may still be permitted to enter Canada, either by way of deemed or individual rehabilitation or through the issuance of a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). While the nuances of Canadian criminal inadmissibility are many and varied, this is what the individual attempting entry to Canada should know:
- If more than five years have elapsed since the completion of any sentence imposed and there have been no subsequent convictions, the individual can make an application for individual rehabilitation. Individual rehabilitation differs from deemed rehabilitation, whereby the simple passage of time since sentence was completed renders the person admissible. A lawyer can represent the person in an application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for an individual rehabilitation order.
- If less than five years have elapsed since the completion of any sentence imposed, the individual may be eligible to apply for a TRP. A lawyer can represent the person in an application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for a TRP.
- If the person was only convicted of one indictable offense or two summary offences and the equivalent Canadian offense does not carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more and more than 10 years have elapsed since the completion of the sentence, he or she is deemed to have been rehabilitated. No application is required, though we suggest the preparation of a legal opinion by an attorney to take to the border. Knowing Canadian offences and their equivalent offences in foreign jurisdictions is paramount before an individual self-assesses under deemed rehabilitation.
- Some sentences are not considered convictions for the purposes of Canadian immigration. Examples of non-convictions include deferred adjudication, conditional discharge, dismissed charges, and nolle prosequi. Sentencing, however, varies between jurisdictions, including the states that make up the United States. An attorney can let an individual know if the outcome of a case resulted in a conviction for the purposes of Canadian immigration, and prepare a legal opinion for the person to take to the Canadian border.
- A single summary offence may be ignored for Canadian immigration purposes.
“If Wes Bentley had known this valuable information before the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, he would have had a stronger case for entering Canada to promote his movie,” said Daniel Levy of Campbell Cohen Law Firm.
“Every day, people arrive at Canada’s border and are turned away, frustrated that they didn’t do their due diligence on criminal inadmissibility. For individuals, employers and families alike, the peace of mind that knowing you will be allowed entry to Canada gives you cannot be understated. Whether you’re Wes Bentley or not, having a well-informed legal team on hand can ensure that the door to Canada is not closed.”
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