Getting an impaired driving conviction is a big deal for anyone — but for permanent and temporary residents of Canada, it could soon mean deportation.
That’s because of a change one immigration worker says « violates basic Canadian values and human rights, » and which a permanent residents says leave him worried about his friends and family.
On Dec. 18, amendments to the Criminal Code come into effect that will increase the maximum sentence for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to 10 years from five.
The changes are part of Bill C-46, which was intended to update impaired driving rules in light of legalized recreational cannabis use.
But the increased penalties also mean convictions for impaired driving will fall under the category of « serious criminality » for immigration determination purposes.
That change, in turn, triggers a section of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act dealing with admissibility to Canada.
You make a mistake and you’re out.… I’m scared for my family. I’m scared for everyone now.– Mathew Joseph, IRCOM
It says a permanent resident convicted for a serious crime — an offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least 10 years — or who receives a sentence of more than six months imprisonment will be sent to a deportation hearing.
Under the immigration act, people convicted of those « serious » crimes also lose the ability to appeal any deportation order through the Immigration Appeal Division, although they can still ask to stay on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
The stiffer penalties also mean temporary residents who are convicted of impaired driving after Dec. 18 — including international students and foreign workers — may not be able to stay in Canada.
Refugee claimants who are already in Canada and are convicted may be ineligible to have their claim referred to a refugee board hearing under the new rules.
‘I’m scared for everyone now’
That worries some immigrant support workers and groups.
« You make a mistake and you’re out, » said 30-year-old Mathew Joseph, who is himself a permanent resident. He’s Sudanese and came to Canada in 2005 from a Kenyan refugee camp.
He is now studying business economics at university in Winnipeg and works part-time with young people at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM).
He’s been busy explaining Canada’s new laws on impaired driving to local teenagers — most of whom came to Canada as refugees.
Chantel Hakazimana, centre, says she worries some of her friends and family could get into trouble under the new, tougher impaired driving measures coming into effect on Dec. 18. (Trevor Brine/CBC News)
« After next month, if you consume it, you get high, you get pulled over and they test you, you will possibly be positive — and because of that, you’re subject to be deported if you’re a permanent resident, » he told a group of them at a meeting Wednesday evening.
Something as simple as a holiday treat could get them into trouble, Joseph warns.
« Holidays are coming up. Let’s say family members, [a] Canadian family offer me a cookie — I’m gonna have to refuse. I don’t know what’s in that cookie. If there’s weed in that cookie … I get in trouble with it, » he told the teens.
« I’m also subject to be deported.… I’m scared for me and I’m scared for you. I’m scared for my family. I’m scared for everyone now. »
The teens don’t think that’s fair.
The rules create « a double standard, » for those who live in Canada but weren’t born here, says 16-year-old Chantel Hakazimana.
She moved to Winnipeg from Tanzania when she was six years old. Although she’s a permanent resident, she feels as Canadian as anyone else.
« Of course I’m scared, » she said. « Weed is a big problem in Canada. »
‘We’re talking about banishing someone’
It’s why immigrant support groups are working hard to educate and warn permanent and temporary residents, including international students and foreign workers.
« We’re talking about banishing someone, » said Dorota Blumczynska, executive director of IRCOM.
« We’re talking about permanent exile from our community. We’re talking about separating families entirely. »
IRCOM executive director Dorota Blumczynska says the laws of the land must be respected, but says a DUI conviction is not enough reason to deport someone. (Trevor Brine/CBC News )
She’s concerned the stiffer penalties will further criminalize people who are already marginalized and racialized, and are often from low-income communities.
« Linking someone’s immigration status and their sense of belonging and permanency in Canada to being deported if they happen to make a mistake, which any of us could make naturally, is inhumane, » she said.
« I think it violates basic Canadian values and human rights, and in fact likely goes against many of our international obligations. »
The changes put judges in an unfair position too, she says.
« I think it is the role of government to step back and say … we need to be able to enforce the rule of law and Canadian law upon anyone here under the authority of our laws, but those people should not be subjected to that double punishment of losing their status and losing their home. »
‘It’s not automatic that if the person engages in certain behaviours, that they will be deported,’ Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
Border Security Minister Bill Blair has previously said the intent of the Criminal Code amendments is to deter everyone from driving high.
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says no one will be deported without due process.
« It’s not automatic that if the person engages in certain behaviours, that they will be deported, » he said in Ottawa Wednesday.
However, permanent residents who are convicted will lose an important avenue of appeal.
Hussen’s department is looking into the implications.
« That analysis is ongoing but at the same time, we have to educate people of the consequences of the law as it is today, » he said, acknowledging he’s getting a lot of pressure from immigrant and refugee advocates, who say the new measures are unfair to newcomers.
Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas says new impaired driving provisions are an unfair double-whammy for permanent residents in Canada. He worries there will be many people facing deportation because of DUI convictions after Dec. 18. (Joe Fiorino/CBC News )
« The ministers, especially Mr. Hussen, have a lot to explain, » said Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas.
« This is ridiculous, what they’re doing with DUIs. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of people facing potential deportation due to DUIs in this country. »
Karas hopes judges will take an offender’s immigration status into account — while still imposing sentences fit for the crime.
But he knows that courts of appeal could overturn those sentences, and possibly even increase them.
Manitoba appeal court overturns sentence
That happened last month when the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned a reduced, « artificial » sentence handed down by a judge who acknowledged that a longer punishment would trigger a deportation hearing for the 23-year-old permanent resident.
Karas has two pieces of advice for permanent residents.
« As soon as you’re ready to become a citizen because you’ve fulfilled the requirements of the citizenship legislation and you have put in the time in Canada, please apply for citizenship, because that will save you a lot of problems, » he said.
« No. 2 would be for permanent residents to be very much aware that they’re not citizens of this country and any type of criminal offence may trigger deportation proceedings. »
Getting an impaired driving conviction is a big deal for anyone — but for permanent and temporary residents of Canada, it could soon mean deportation. 2:33
Cirque du Soleil’s decision to go ahead with more performances in Saudi Arabia next month despite international outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is creating a malaise within circus ranks, The Canadian Press has learned.
Following stops in Italy, Germany and Croatia, the Quebec-based troupe will pitch its tent in Riyadh from Dec. 17-29 in a visit that has been in the works for about a year.
Daniel Lamarre, the Cirque’s president and CEO, is scheduled to be in the Saudi capital for the show “Toruk,” inspired by the James Cameron film Avatar.
But in light of recent events that have sparked an international political crisis, some artists are asking why the Cirque is sticking to its schedule.
“The approach is dogmatic, and the message sent by the company is, ‘We are a business, we want to make money and we are an apolitical company,” one Toruk employee, who asked not to be identified because she fears losing her contract with the Cirque, told The Canadian Press.
She and another employee decided to share their displeasure after Cirque founder Guy Laliberté last month expressed his own discomfort with the decision to perform in Saudi Arabia last September.
The Cirque put on a show in Saudi Arabia on Sept. 23 to mark the country’s national holiday, which was before Khashoggi was killed but during a diplomatic quarrel between Ottawa and Riyadh.
The Cirque artists said they tried many times to approach the managers of the tour with their concerns, but they got nowhere.
WATCH: Trudeau says Canadian intelligence has heard audio recordings of Khashoggi murder
In recent weeks, the kingdom has faced intense criticism over the death of Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2. Saudi Arabia first insisted he’d left the consulate, then said he’d been killed in a fist fight inside the consulate before finally admitting his murder had been premeditated.
Turkish officials say a 15-man Saudi hit squad — including at least one member of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage — tortured, murdered and dismembered Khashoggi.
One of the Cirque’s four pillars, according to its web site, is to “act as a responsible agent of change in the community.” But the second employee who spoke to The Canadian Press said the operation can no longer boast of being a change agent.
“We no longer think that Saudi Arabia has taken steps to modernize,” he said.
“This is a business decision. The Cirque is from now on just a business.”
The employee said the decision to perform in Saudi Arabia contrasts with the 2016 cancellation of Cirque performances in North Carolina to protest a law limiting protections offered to the LGBTQ community.
“How do we justify that we are not going to this country, but we are going to other markets where, potentially, there are other issues that are just as serious?”
The employees who contacted The Canadian Press said they will accompany the troupe to Riyadh because they do not want to have their contracts cancelled for the rest of the tour, which concludes in London next June.
“For artists who live on contracts, it is hard to know what will be our next job,” one of them said. “And for those who hope to work long-term with the Cirque, this situation could have repercussions on their relationship.”
Canada has not included the United States in an upcoming meeting aimed at saving the international trading system because it doesn’t share the views of the 13 invited countries, says the new Canadian trade minister.
Canada will host senior ministers from 13 “like-minded” countries for a two-day discussion in Ottawa later this month to brainstorm ways to reform the World Trade Organization, said Jim Carr, Canada’s newly appointed international trade diversification minister.
Carr said the group of countries he’s convened ultimately wants to persuade Washington of the continued usefulness of the WTO, but for now the best way forward is without the U.S. in the room.
“We think that the best way to sequence the discussion is to start with like-minded people, and that’s whom we have invited and they’re coming,” Carr told The Canadian Press.
“Those who believe that a rules-based system is in the interests of the international community will meet to come up with a consensus that we will then move out into nations who might have been more resistant.”
Asked what his message to Americans is in the meantime, Carr replied: “That a rules-based system is good for them too.”
The WTO is one of a long list of international organizations and agreements derided by U.S. President Donald Trump and his protectionist administration. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has at times branded the WTO as ineffective and simply “broken
WATCH: Trump claims WTO has not treated U.S. ‘fairly’ due to members abusing trade rules
In the case of the WTO, the U.S. has moved beyond hostile rhetoric and blocked the appointments of new judges to its dispute settlement body, which is threatening to paralyse the organization and prevent it from making decisions.
“The impasse of the appointment of the appellate body members threatens to bring the whole dispute settlement system to a halt,” says an eight-page Canadian discussion paper that has been circulated among the 13 invited countries.
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the paper, which has not been publicly released.
Carr said Canada is keeping an open mind on finding new ways to settle international trade disputes.
“But the main point is, we believe the WTO, reformed and refreshed, is the best way to re-establish a rules-based system.”
Carr said efforts to persuade the Americans to see that point would have been “a lot harder” if Canada hadn’t preserved dispute resolutions mechanisms in the newly renegotiated continental free trade pact, renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“You want your major trading partners to admit that you need a dispute settlement mechanism.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told an Edmonton radio station last month that independent dispute resolution mechanisms, which the U.S. wanted to scrap, needed to be preserved because Trump “doesn’t always follow the rules as they’re laid out.”
Canada is inviting Australia, Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland to two days of talks on the WTO starting Oct. 24 in Ottawa.
WATCH: Freeland says Trump tariffs illegal, challenging them at WTO
The Canadian discussion paper lays out three broad themes for the discussion: safeguarding and strengthening the dispute settlement system; improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the WTO monitoring function; and modernizing trade rules for the 21st Century.
On the latter point, the paper acknowledges that “aging trade rules need to be updated urgently to respond to the needs of the modern global economy,” but notes “there is a divergence about the priorities.”
The paper doesn’t single out the U.S. by name, but it makes clear that international trading institutions are “increasingly fragile.”
“The challenges facing the multilateral trading system cannot be attributed to any single cause or any single country,” the document says.
“However, the combination of disruption and paralysis has begun to erode respect for rules-based trade, and the institutions that govern it, paving the way for trade-distorting policies.”