Cannabis laws could have disproportionate effect on immigrants

  • January 16, 2018

The legislation to legalize cannabis in Canada comes hand in hand with proposed amendments to other laws and regulations, including the offences that could lead to inadmissibility under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

The CBA’s Immigration Law Section notes that offences in the Cannabis Act are broader than those in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which it effectively replaces, and that the potential impact on permanent residents and would-be immigrants is much harsher.

For example, the Bill C-45 introduces a new offence of promoting cannabis. “A person carrying a promotional flyer for the sale of cannabis while entering Canada could be found inadmissible for having committed an offence upon entering Canada,” the Section notes in its submission. Someone wearing a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf while crossing the border could likewise be found in violation of the Act, guilty of an offence which carries a maximum penalty of three years. “These enforcement measures would be excessive and not necessarily proportionate to the offence.”

The Section recommends that only those offences in the Cannabis Act which correspond to offences under the CDSA (trafficking, importing and production) be maintained, and that consideration of the danger a person poses to the public be based on those offences only.

Bill C-46, which amends the Criminal Code offences on impaired driving, could potentially have an even greater impact. The Section asks the government to carefully consider the bill’s “far-reaching effect on the criminal inadmissibility of foreign nationals and permanent residents who have been convicted of an impaired driving (or related) offence – regardless of how much time has passed since completion of the associated sentence.”

Driving under the influence offences would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years under the bill, which puts them in the category of “serious criminality” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, “which would make a foreign national and a permanent resident criminally inadmissible” – and could also affect their ability to make a refugee claim. It would also mean they could no longer be “deemed rehabilitated” after a period of time.

The measures proposed in the bill would also have a significant impact on Canadian Border Services Agency operations, the Section says, putting a strain on resources at points of entry.

“While we support the need to protect the Canadian public from the dangers of DUI, eliminating access to deemed rehabilitation for those, for example, with a single old DUI conviction, would cause excessive strain on government resources and significant hardship for affected individuals who have rehabilitated with the passage of time.”

For more on the CBA’s response to legislation to legalize cannabis, see also: Cannabis conundrum: If it’s legal, why treat it like the demon weed? in CBA Influence, and an earlier submission Bill C-45 - Cannabis Act

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