Canada eases entry rules for some offenders

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 1, 2012 - 8:46 PM

Americans with only one DWI or other misdemeanor conviction will be allowed to cross border, but just once.

Changes announced by the Canadian government this week will make it easier for Americans with a single drunken-driving or other misdemeanor conviction to enter Canada.

It should prevent hunters, anglers and others from being denied entry at the border when officials find a single DWI or other misdemeanor on their records -- something that has happened to scores of Americans, many of them Minnesotans.

But the new policy offers only a one-time break and still requires Americans with multiple convictions to clear legal hurdles to enter Canada.

Canadian tourism officials -- who have pushed for relaxed entry requirements for years -- say the tightened border restrictions in recent years have resulted in thousands of American customers being turned away at the border, costing Canada's businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue.

"It's the No. 1 hot-button issue in northwestern Ontario for the past 10 years,'' said Doug Reynolds, executive director of Nature & Outdoor Tourism Ontario, which represents 1,500 tourism businesses in the province. "It has cost many, many millions of dollars.''

The change in policy started Thursday, with the government calling it an interim measure. Reynolds said the changes will help, but he's hoping for broader, permanent changes.

"It will make life a whole lot easier for a lot of people this year,'' he said. "But a permanent fix may be a year or two out.''

Under the changes, Americans who are convicted of an offense -- including a DWI -- and receive no imprisonment and have no other convictions or charges could receive a free Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) -- which normally costs $200.

But the directive from Citizenship and Immigration Canada still leaves admission to the discretion of each border officer. And the free pass is a one-time exemption.

To read the new policy, see www.startribune.com/a1094. Also, Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario offers advice to those with criminal records who want to enter Canada; see www.startribune.com/a1095.

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