Can celebrities with criminal records enter Canada?

Singer Chris Brown appears in court with his lawyer on January 15, 2015.
Singer Chris Brown appears in court with his lawyer on January 15, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Many of us remember the brou-ha-ha that ensued last winter when American recording artist Chris Brown was denied entry into Canada due to criminality in the United States.

Brown was scheduled to play concerts in Montreal the day he was turned away at the border and later on in Toronto. The cancellation left behind thousands of disappointed fans and Brown vowed, “I’ll be back this summer and hopefully see all my Canadian fans!” Well, he wasn’t back this summer, was he?

Henry M. Goslett, a well-known immigration consultant, co-founder of the Business Immigration Law Group and co-author of The 2015 Annotated Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada told

“The people most likely to be let in are those with no serious criminality,” Goslett goes on to say that one of the biggest considerations for whether someone with a criminal record will be let into Canada are public safety concerns, “is she [or he] going to be a danger to the Canadian public?”

He points to s. 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is the section dealing with foreign nationals and serious criminality.

S. 36 is divided into two sections: sub-section one deals with those who are inadmissible to Canada on grounds of serious criminality and sub-section two deals with those inadmissible to Canada due to criminality.

Section one says that if a foreign national has been convicted in Canada for an offence which is punished by at least 10 years in prison, or the person has gone to prison for a minimum of six months, then they’re not admissible.

If the offence was committed outside the country, then they look at what kind of offence it would be equivalent to, and if the offence was punishable by at least 10 years in prison.

The second subsection deals with criminality as a whole, it says that a person is inadmissible if he or she has been convicted in Canada for an indictable offence or two offences in separate incidents.

If committed outside Canada, the subsection looks at whether the offence committed would constitute an indictable offence in Canada, or if the two offences committed on separate occasions would be criminal offences under Canadian law.

An indictable offence is considered a serious criminal offence and is often equivocated to its American counterpart which is the felony offence. Meaning Chris Brown is definitely inadmissible, since one of his crimes is considered serious as he was convicted of a felony in the past.

Brown has a lengthy criminal record. In 2009, he was arrested and convicted for domestic assault on his then girlfriend, Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, and received a sentence of five-year probation for the felony assault.

Then in 2013, Brown was once again in legal trouble and this while he was still on probation. He was arrested for felony assault again, though it was later changed to a misdemeanor.

Just last year, Brown was in jail for three months for breaking probation. Between those times there were rumours of altercations with other recording artists and being kicked out of rehab – as well as being ordered to spend 90 days in anger management.

So, not only was Brown charged with a felony and a misdemeanor, and spent time in jail, but he is publicly known as someone who is violent and gets into fights.

Given his last crime was committed only two years ago, and that he was jailed only last year, it is no surprise he wasn’t let into Canada.

What will it take to get Brown back into Canada to play his shows?

“Time...without getting into trouble and evidence of rehabilitation,” says Goslett, “all of the paperwork must be in order and you should apply before you try to enter Canada.”

He references Martha Stewart’s case to show when a foreign national is going to be let in despite having gone to jail and earning a criminal record. Stewart was convicted and served time for a white-collar crime back in 2004/2005, and hasn’t re-offended since.

Obviously, Brown is no Martha Stewart. He committed violent crimes, and has re-offended not that long ago. She is probably not a danger to the public. Those are likely the reasons why Canada sees him as someone who may be a danger to the Canadian public – whether a celebrity or not.

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