Donald Trump can no longer enter Canada

I am often contacted by individuals from different countries, who have been convicted of a crime and who are seeking to enter Canada. These people have a variety of charges or convictions, and they all want to know the same thing: can we enter Canada?

Well, this is a complicated question, which depends very much on several factors, including when the crime was committed, what the nature of the offence was, what sort of a conviction was received, and the terms of the sentence. Some people have convictions for driving under the influence, which today does likely render you inadmissible to Canada. Some have less serious or more serious offences, but this can often cause issues when you are entering Canada.

It is important to understand what the authorities consider when it comes to foreign criminality, and how it can be used to prevent you from entering Canada.

The Law

According to section 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the legislation that governs Canada’s immigration laws, foreign nationals may be inadmissible to Canada for “having been convicted of an offence outside of Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.”

What this means is if the offence you were convicted of abroad is determined to be a serious enough offence when considered against Canada’s criminal statute – the Criminal Code of Canada – you may in fact be determined to be criminally inadmissible here.

Understanding that admissibility is the first stage, and overcoming it, is the second.

Example

Let’s use former US President Donald Trump as an example.

On May 30, 2024, President Trump was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. This is an offence pursuant to paragraph 175.10 of the New York Penal Law.

It is still unclear, at the time of writing, what the outcome of these convictions will be. He has not yet been sentenced, and he will certainly appeal. However, for all intents and purposes, he has now been convicted of a scheme to falsify business records in pursuit of a crime, which is a felony in New York State.

Now that we have established the underlying crime, let’s imagine that Mr. Trump decided to hop into his private jet tomorrow, and make his way to Pearson International Airport in Toronto. He wants to see the CN Tower before either embarking on his campaign trail, or reporting to prison.

Determining inadmissibility

Upon arrival, he would speak with a customs official, who may ask him whether he has ever been convicted of a crime. If Mr. Trump were to tell the truth (easier said than done), he would note that yes, he has been convicted 34 times in New York State for falsifying business records. The officer would consult the criminal background materials he may have on account of information sharing between Canadian and US officials, and he would confirm the same. He would then need to assess whether the convictions in the US would be sufficient to bar Mr. Trump from entry into Canada.

Flipping through the Criminal Code, it appears that Mr. Trump’s convictions may be akin to the offence set out at sections 366 and 367, “Forgery and Offences Resembling  Forgery:”

Forgery

366 (1) Every one commits forgery who makes a false document, knowing it to be false, with intent

(a) that it should in any way be used or acted on as genuine, to the prejudice of any one whether within Canada or not; or

(b) that a person should be induced, by the belief that it is genuine, to do or to refrain from doing anything, whether within Canada or not.

Making false document

(2) Making a false document includes

(a) altering a genuine document in any material part;

(b) making a material addition to a genuine document or adding to it a false date, attestation, seal or other thing that is material; or

(c) making a material alteration in a genuine document by erasure, obliteration, removal or in any other way.

Punishment for forgery

367 Every one who commits forgery

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Use, trafficking or possession of forged document

368 (1) Everyone commits an offence who, knowing or believing that a document is forged,

(a) uses, deals with or acts on it as if it were genuine;

(b) causes or attempts to cause any person to use, deal with or act on it as if it were genuine;

(c) transfers, sells or offers to sell it or makes it available, to any person, knowing that or being reckless as to whether an offence will be committed under paragraph (a) or (b); or

(d) possesses it with intent to commit an offence under any of paragraphs (a) to (c).

Punishment

(1.1) Everyone who commits an offence under subsection (1)

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

 

Now, though the assessment, known as undertaking an “equivalency assessment” is a bit too dense for a blog, let’s just say that if it is determined that the offence of forgery in Canada is akin to the offence of falsifying business records in New York State, then Mr. Trump may be inadmissible to Canada. This is especially so because of the punishment, that “everyone who commits an offence…is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years.”

Given that the potential sentence for this crime in Canada is a term of not more than 10 years, conviction and sentencing under this provision would, in fact, lead one to be criminally inadmissible.

Overcoming inadmissible

Now at this stage, Mr. Trump has a decision to make. When the customs officer returns to tell him that well, in fact, he is criminally inadmissible to Canada, he can do one of two things:

  • Turn around in a huff, get back on his plane, and head down to Florida; or
  • He could ask to be issued a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).

A TRP is a special instrument offered by Canadian immigration rules, that allows someone who may otherwise be inadmissible to Canada, to gain entry. They would have to show a significant need however to enter Canada, and that they do not pose a corresponding risk to Canadian society. In Mr. Trump’s case, given his profile, and depending on his reason for entering Canada, he may be determined to meet that need (so long as he stays away from any Canadian business records). On the other hand, for people who do not have his profile, who are not able to demonstrate that they have a significant need to enter Canada, they may not have that same option, and may in fact be turned away.

Conclusion

Understanding criminal admissibility is important. Unfortunately, many people have made errors in their lives, that have led to them having convictions on their records. Some are for more serious offences, though many are for minor offences. It is critical however to understand your rights with Canadian immigration if you have any criminal history, given that you have options. Those options may include a TRP, or even an application for criminal rehabilitation. In some cases, depending on how long ago the offence took place, you may no longer be inadmissible at all.

It is for all those reasons that it is important to consult with immigration counsel before coming to Canada if you have a criminal record. The last thing you want to do is spend time and money traveling here, only to be turned away at the border. The team at Hummel Law is willing to help answer any questions you may have, and in fact specializes in this area of Canadian immigration law.

If you are, however, calling from Mr. Trump’s team, we will require our retainer paid fully upfront.

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