W A S H I N G T O N, Nov. 3, 2000 -- Even if George W. Bush is elected president, he may need special permission to get into Canada because of his arrest for drunken driving.
The Republican candidate for president acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that he was arrested for driving under the influence on Labor Day weekend in 1976, near his family home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
According to Canada’s Criminal Code, Bush is deemed an “inadmissible” person, in violation of Section 19 (2) (a.1) of the Immigration Act of Canada.
In other words, he has committed a crime considered an indictable offense in Canada, and, because of that he is banned.
Alternative Entry Points
Luckily for Bush, if he is elected president of the United States Nov. 7 and is invited to any gatherings of heads of state in Canada, since his offense is more than five years old, there are ways for him to gain entry without breaking federal law.
“He is going to have to go through what’s called the rehabilitation process. The rehab takes a while and it would be somewhat demeaning for a president of the United States. He would have to go through a series of steps, including getting letters from friends saying he has cleaned up his act. If he wanted to come to Canada before completing the lengthy rehab process, he would need the permission of a senior immigration official,” immigration lawyer Colin R. Singer tells ABCNEWS.
Has He Reformed?
According to a “rehab check list” compiled by the Canadian law firm of Larson, Bryson & Boulton, the Canadian government considers several factors when determining whether a person wanting entry to Canada has truly rehabilitated themselves from their criminal offense and deserves entry, including: acceptance of responsibility for the offense; evidence of remorse; evidence of a change in lifestyle; and, evidence of stability in employment and family life.
If Bush wants to avoid any appearance of favoritism and skip the special waiver from a senior official, it is possible to speed up the rehab process by just paying a hefty “processing fee” at the border.
And a lot of Americans with DUIs on their records manage to get in to Canada without border computers catching their previous offense and without admitting to their criminal records.
Of course Singer doesn’t recommend that approach for Bush.
“If Bush comes to Canada or has ever been to Canada since his conviction and hides the fact that he has a prior conviction — no matter how far back — he could be excluded from Canada permanently and never allowed to return.”
An Influential Law
Canadian immigration experts say the law affects numerous Americans seeking entry to Canada every month, usually when computer checks do catch the old offense.
There’s even information on a Canadian fishing Web site explaining to visiting anglers how to cross into Canada with an old DUI charge. And according to Singer, “This affects professionals in the sports and entertainment industries more often than people think.”
Gore and Clinton Illegal Too Canadian attorney Darryl Larson maintains Bush has some notable company in the “inadmissible” category, contending that Canadian law bans both President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
“If you admit to having smoked marijuana,” Larson explains, “You have admitted to an unlawful act. That would allow reasonable grounds for our immigration officers to determine that you have broken a law that, if committed in Canada, would be subject to prosecution and therefore falls under this law. So this would apply to both Clinton and Gore.”
Larson and Singer say a president of the United States can expect to bypass the rehab process and be given special permission to enter fairly quickly.
But a special waiver is good for only 30 days.
“If George W. Bush wants to come to Canada for more than 30 days to vacation here, like President Roosevelt used to do, or if he decides he wants to live or work here,” Larson contends, “He’s going to have to go through the Canadian rehabilitation process.It’s the law.”