Would We Let Justin Bieber into Canada?

A Primer on Criminal Inadmissibility

September 2014

Superstar Justin Bieber has gotten himself into trouble with the law… again. On August 30th, 2014, he was charged with assault and dangerous driving by the Ontario Provincial Police.  He allegedly smashed his ATV into a minivan driven by journalists trying to get photos of him and his girlfriend, Selena Gomez.  It is also alleged that when the driver of the minivan stopped the vehicle, an altercation ensued, which lead to the assault charge against Bieber.


Bieber isn’t just in trouble on this side of the border. He was placed on probation by a Los Angeles criminal court in July 2014 after pelting his neighbour’s house with eggs.  In August, he plead guilty in a Florida court to charges of careless driving and resisting arrest.

Justin Bieber, like many Canadian stars, lives in Canada for part of the year, and spends the rest of his time in the US and on international tours. He travels with an entourage made up of citizens of many countries.  In August, media reports stated that Bieber had bribed a border guard at the Niagara Falls USA-Canada crossing.  In exchange for back-stage passes worth $10,000, the border guard issued temporary resident permits that allowed two performers into Canada for concerts, even though they had criminal records. 

The bribery incident illustrates the difficulty of having a criminal record and being an international superstar – it is hard to get to concerts if you can’t travel internationally due to a criminal record!

Let’s pretend that Justin Bieber wasn’t Canadian, but like his buddies, he was an American citizen without any resident status in Canada. Would we let him into Canada?  That is, without a bribe, of course.

The answer is no.

We also need to pretend that he’s already been convicted of the assault and dangerous driving charges. These charges would make him be criminally inadmissible to Canada. 

Foreign nationals are inadmissible to Canada if they have been convicted of criminal offences in Canada punishable by way of indictment. Assault is a criminal offence punishable either by indictment or by way of summary conviction.  This is considered a hybrid offence.  For the purposes of immigration law, hybrid offences are treated as indictable, regardless of how the matter actually proceeds before the criminal courts.

Justin Bieber’s criminal convictions in the US would also make him criminally inadmissible to Canada. That’s because criminal convictions occurring outside of Canada are compared to their Canadian equivalent.  If the offence is an indictable one in Canada, criminal inadmissibility is the result.  However, any two offences, not arising out of the incident can also give rise to criminal inadmissibility, regardless of how serious they were.  Since Justin has criminal convictions in Florida and California, he would be caught. 

And it’s not just convictions that can get you in hot water with Canadian border officials. Even committing an act that would be a crime, without police charges or a conviction, can still make you criminally inadmissible.

So, how would our American Justin Bieber get into Canada to perform at concerts if he was criminally inadmissible to Canada?

You’ll have to stay tuned to next month’s newsletter for that answer.