Monday, February 8, 2016

Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions

I recently went to a fund raising lunch at a Church. The lunch raised funds to help resettle in Canada refugees fleeing from civil unrest in Syria. This event got me thinking of the concerns that are sometimes heard about "foreign criminals".
Some who raise these concerns are asking in good faith, some, perhaps are motivated by racism, but regardless Canada has a very strong system ensuring that new arrivals in Canada who do commit criminal offences will not be allowed to stay. More to the point, perhaps, is the statistical fact that overall immigrants are less likely to commit criminal offences that other Canadians. That said, a "foreign criminal" in Canada will not be here long.
There are three categories of people in Canada:
Canadian Citizens;
Permanent Residents; and
Foreign Nationals.
Each is dealt with differently in the event of a criminal conviction.
Generally, Canadian citizens cannot be deported due to a criminal conviction. Some dual citizens may be subject to losing their citizenship in very rare circumstances but this is most unlikely to be seen as a practical matter. Canadian citizens can be extradited for crimes committed in certain foreign countries – so if you murder someone in England you may be sent there for trial – but that does not affect citizenship rights or your right to return to Canada after serving any sentence abroad.
Permanent residents are people who are not citizens of Canada but have been granted status to enter and remain in Canada permanently. They may apply for Canadian citizenship. A permanent resident may be removed from Canada if convicted of an offence for which the possible penalty is ten years or more or if sentenced to a term of incarceration of greater than six months. Broadly put permanent residents can be subject to removal only for serious crimes if:
- The permanent resident is sentenced to six months or more in prison;
- The permanent resident is sentenced for a crime for which the maximum sentence could be ten years or more, even if the permanent resident gets a shorter sentence; and
- The permanent resident is found to be a member of organized crime, such as gang activity or smuggling.
There is, in general, no appeal from a removal order. That said, if the offence is one for which the possible penalty is greater than ten years but the actual term imposed is less than six month the permanent resident can seek relief from the Immigration Appeal Board on the basis of humanitarian grounds or some legal or factual error. Otherwise there is no appeal.
Foreign nationals are temporary residents of Canada – visitors, students or people on a work visa – as well as convention refugees and refugee claimants. Basically, a foreign national can be deported on conviction for most criminal offences. Even a relatively minor offence can render a foreign national subject to removal from Canada.
As can be seen there is something of a ladder in terms of being removed from Canada for committing criminal offences. Visitors to Canada, even if they have a work visa or are here as students, are subject to being removed for virtually any criminal offence. Permanent residents have considerably more protection but are still subject to removal for all but minor offences. Canadian citizens are given almost total protection and cannot be removed except in quite extraordinary circumstances.

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