Hunting and fishing in Canada with a criminal record

Michael Schwartz, Matt Hendler
Published: July 23, 2021

With Canada opening its doors to American tourists in less than a month, many more people will be able to come. This article discusses the situation of one major tourist group.

On August 9, the Canadian border opens for non-essential purposes to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. These must be fully vaccinated and have waited at least two weeks since receiving their last vaccine. U.S. visitors to Canada will not have to all take a test at the border or afterwards. However, Canada may perform random inspections at the border.

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Hunters and fishers constitute a significant amount of discretionary travelers to Canada. Many people coming to Canada, including would-be hunters and fishers, have some criminal history. This past can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to come to Canada. Indeed, these situations often raise several particular and unique concerns.

About criminal inadmissibility

If a person commits or is convicted of a crime in another country, Canada will look at that country’s laws and compare it with Canada’s own. If an equivalency exists, Canada will then assess whether the crime was an "indictable offence" which is more serious, or a "summary offence" which is less serious.

Generally, committing a single crime that is an indictable offence in Canada or two crimes that are summary offences in Canada will render a person inadmissible. A crime that Canadian law allows for prosecution by either summary or indictment processes - known as a hybrid offence - is an indictable offence for the purposes of criminal inadmissibility. Operating a vehicle (car, boat, motorcycle, etc.) while intoxicated is a hybrid offence in Canada. It is also important to understand that even if a person was charged but not convicted of a crime in Canada, the mere presence of the charge can render that person inadmissible.

The three main solutions to criminal inadmissibility are the temporary resident permit (TRP), criminal rehabilitation, and a legal opinion letter. Each has different requirements, functions, and benefits.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

The TRP has the advantage that one can apply for it either at a designated Canadian visa office, or at a Canadian point of entry (POE), such as a border crossing. The latter option means that a person does not have to apply for a TRP in advance. There is no guarantee, however, that a request for a TRP — whether in advance or at the border — will be favourable. There is always a risk of being denied one.

A TRP application costs $200 CAD. Another factor to consider when discussing TRPs is that a TRP is generally only valid for the duration of a particular trip to Canada. As a practical matter, it is difficult for people coming to Canada to hunt or fish to obtain TRPs. A TRP that is not made at a point of entry typically takes 3-6 months to process. A TRP is, however, the only recourse available to someone who is inadmissible for criminality but for whom less than five years have passed since sentence completion.


This term refers to a process by which a person who was previously inadmissible to Canada becomes admissible again. It comes in two forms: individual and deemed.

Individual rehabilitation

Individual rehabilitation is for people with criminal records who are not currently eligible for deemed rehabilitation (see below), but who have passed more than five years from when they committed the act or completed their sentence – whichever came later. It is important to understand that the sentence is any judicial consequence resulting from a crime, including: jail time; probation; and payment of a fine.

Individual rehabilitation involves an application in which the applicant argues that at least five years have passed since they completed their sentence; that they are no longer a risk for criminality; and that their criminal conviction was an isolated event. In the event a person’s record contains more than one offence, the person may have to supply further explanations to show the Canadian government the person does not pose a risk.

Deemed rehabilitation

This rehabilitation form can be automatic, based on the nature of the crime and the time that has passed since conviction or commission. If a person has been convicted of, or found to have committed a crime that, in Canada, is an indictable offence, but 10 years have elapsed since completion of sentence, with no intervening criminal offences, that person is deemed rehabilitated and eligible to come to Canada. The exception is in cases where the person was convicted of a crime that in Canadian law is an indictable offence and that has a potential punishment of more than ten years. In that case, there is no deemed rehabilitation. Deemed rehabilitation also applies to some individuals who were convicted for two or more crimes, if both of these would be summary offences in Canada. In this situation, at least five years need to have elapsed.

An attractive element of rehabilitation is that once a person is rehabilitated, they retain that status from then on - unless, of course, they wind up in trouble with the law again. But, assuming they do not, they will have their criminal history resolved. Rehabilitation is usually the most appealing and recommended option for hunters or fishers otherwise inadmissible to Canada.

Legal opinion letter

Often, a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration lawyer can be helpful in the event you are planning on entering Canada with a pending charge. The lawyer can explain any underlying facts in the pending case, and explain why you should not be considered inadmissible.

Other Issues


A prospective hunter will have to demonstrate to Canada that, given his or her record, the hunter will not pose any danger to other people — be it through weapons or otherwise. Canada has strict gun laws, in general. Certain firearms that US law permits are restricted in Canada. It is imperative that someone seeking to enter Canada with any weaponry declare this weaponry at the border. They must fill out before or on arrival the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration Form. If seeking to bring in a firearm normally restricted or prohibited, they must also obtain, in advance, an Authorization To Transport (ATT). Failure to fill out the proper forms could lead to the weapons being confiscated and/or the individual facing criminal prosecution. There are also various options for foreigners to rent firearms in Canada.

Discretionary Nature of Visit

Hunting and fishing is generally considered non-essential travel. A person will have to demonstrate that the benefits that his or her trip brings to Canada outweigh any risks. All things considered, a longer trip - which involves a greater contribution to the Canadian economy - or a less severe or most distant criminal history will all work in someone’s favour.

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