On December 18, 2018, Canada’s new impaired driving laws went into effect. Under the new laws, driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol is now considered a serious offense, placing it in the same legal category as murder, aggravated sexual assault, and drug trafficking.
Under the previous Canadian criminal code, DWI is considered an offense of “ordinary criminality” such that it carried a maximum punishment of five years. That meant individuals convicted of offenses of criminality in other countries, such as DWI, were deemed inadmissible for ten years. After five years one could apply for an “approval of rehabilitation” and prior to five years the only way to travel to Canada would be to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit.
Now that the new law has taken effect, the maximum punishment for a DWI conviction increases to 10 years as the crime is re-designated as one of “serious criminality”. This will have several impacts on those with DWI or DWI related convictions who wish to travel into Canada. No longer will one convicted of DWI be automatically deemed rehabilitated after ten years. They will still be allowed to seek “approval of rehabilitation” after five years but the designation of “serious criminality” means that the application and review process will likely become more difficult and restrictive. The same will be true for those seeking a Temporary Resident Permit.
If you or a loved one is considering a visit to Canada and have a DWI or similar offense on their record from after December 2018, these new rules could make it much more difficult for them to enter the country. While the new law will not be applied retroactively, anyone with an old DWI on their record should still be prepared to face increased scrutiny and questioning at the border. Even George W. Bush had to get a special waiver to enter Canada because of his 1976 drunk driving conviction. Without legal assistance, travelers with a DWI on their records from December 2018 or later will likely find themselves unable to enter Canada.