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30+ year old minor drug charge keeps Canadian contest winner from Super Bowl

davidwr (791652) writes | about a year and a half ago

Canada 3

davidwr (791652) writes "It's not "your rights ONline" but a Canadian who won an all-expenses-paid trip to New Orleans couldn't get past US Customs because he got busted with 2 grams of pot back in 1981, when he was 19 years old.

With Toronto and other Canadian cities having tech hubs, this "zero tolerance" is probably already having an impact on technology companies who have employees or contractors with ancient criminal records and who can't send them to US industry events."

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3 comments

Goose and Gander (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#42781575)

My understanding is that Canada has similar zero-tolerance rules for foreign visitors too. I don't know if it is 9-11 overreaction or if they were doing this stuff before, but it certainly is ridiculous.

Re:Goose and Gander (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#42936533)

It may be post-9/11 or it may be a reciprocity thing, but in the 1990s Europeans with certain felonies that would bar entry into the United States could get into Canada much easier.

Then again, it could have been the crime itself. What is felony drug possession in the USA might have been a misdemeanor in Canada and not a bar to entry.

Canada also has, or at least had, an internal policy whereby most felons could get a "pardon" and have their record sealed to the general public a few years after their sentence was complete, provided they behaved themselves. Again, as of 10-15 years ago, if a Canadian committed a mid-level felony, served his time, behaved himself, then applied for and was granted such a "pardon" he could come into the USA and as far as Canada was concerned, he could tell American customs that he had no criminal record and it's my understanding that Canada wouldn't tell the USA authorities anything different. Of course, if the USA authorities found out using their own means, such as a newspaper search, your previous visa application that was denied, or just your being honest, they could use that against you.

I use the term "pardon" in quotes, these were not at all like a full, unconditional "presidential pardon" is in the United States. Canada has those too, but they aren't routinely granted to most felons. These "pardons" are designed so ex-cons can get on with their lives and not be blackballed from jobs or housing merely because of a criminal record.

Oh, one more clarification (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#42936571)

I learned about this about 10-15 years ago, and it was from someone who was familiar with the US visa rules and with the pardon rules as they were before 9/11.

I did leave out an important point:
Certain professional licensing authorities and presumably certain "sensitive job" employers would have the ability to flag people who had "sealed records" in certain situations. For example, a person who had such a "pardon" for a decades-old child molestation conviction could probably not get a teaching license in Canada back then.

I don't know the current rules, but I understand that since 9/11, certain offenses which used to be "pardonable" no longer are, or that the waiting period and other requirements (letters of recommendation, etc.) are significantly stiffer.

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