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.
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
Sergio Karas states that he is sure that there are going to be a lot of people facing potential deportation due to DUIs in Canada. He 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. 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,
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."
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Sergio Karas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org