How restraining orders impact immigration status in Canada

Inadmissibility because of a restraining order

Sameer is an international student from Pakistan. He has pursued his Master’s degree in Canada for over a year. Drawn together by shared classes and mutual interests, he and Maya, a fellow student, started a romantic relationship. As their relationship deepened, Sameer moved in with Maya. However, intense quarrels and misunderstandings began to strain their relationship over time. After one particularly heated argument, Maya felt overwhelmed. Consequently, fearing for her emotional well-being, she obtained a restraining order against Sameer. Now, Sameer grapples with the growing gap between him and Maya. He also worries about how the order could affect his study permit and future plans in Canada after graduation.

What is a restraining order in Canada?

In the Canadian legal framework, a restraining order is a court order that restricts or prohibits one person from having contact with another. Family law statutes across various provinces primarily contain these orders. They often protect individuals from potential harm or harassment from a family member, typically in domestic violence, threats, or fear of disadvantage.

The specifics of restraining orders can vary across provinces and territories. Generally:

  • Eligibility: Typically, to obtain a restraining order, an individual must demonstrate a genuine reason to fear for their safety or the safety of their children due to the actions, threats, or behaviour of a family member.
  • Duration: The duration of restraining orders can vary. Some are temporary (often pending a full court hearing), while others might be more long-term or indefinite.
  • Prohibitions: A restraining order might prohibit the subject from coming within a certain distance of the applicant, their home, workplace, or school. It can also restrict communication in any form.
  • Enforcement: Violating a restraining order can have legal consequences, including fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the province or territory.

Alternatives to a restraining order

Outside the family law context, individuals seeking protection from non-family members can often apply for peace bonds under the Criminal Code, which serves a similar protective purpose. However, other options are also available depending on the circumstances. Here is a brief list of potential alternative options to restraining orders outside family law.

  • Peace Bond: A court issues a peace bond, requiring an individual to maintain peace and good behaviour, usually for up to 12 months. This bond can include conditions, such as keeping the person from specified distances from homes, businesses, or other places. People seek peace bonds when they fear harm to themselves, their family, or their property. You must apply to a criminal court and demonstrate your valid concerns to obtain a peace bond.
  • Trespass Notice: For businesses or private property, you can issue a trespass notice to an individual, which warns them that they are not permitted on your property. If they return after being given notice, they can be charged under the provincial or territorial trespass act.
  • Civil Restraining Order: In cases where a peace bond isn’t applicable or doesn’t provide adequate protection, individuals might seek a civil restraining order, separate from the family law context. This would be done through the civil courts and would require legal action.
  • Injunction: This court order prevents individuals from doing something specific, like approaching your home or business. Obtaining a request is a more complex legal process, often used when other remedies are ineffective.

The laws governing restraining orders

As previously noted, restraining orders fall under provincial and territorial family laws. Below is a table outlining the relevant Acts on this topic.

Province/TerritoryAct Covering Restraining OrdersRelevant SectionsPenalties SectionMax Jail Time (Worst Case*)
AlbertaProtection Against Family Violence ActSections 4-10Section 2090 days
British ColumbiaFamily Law ActSections 183-190Section 23012 months
ManitobaDomestic Violence and Stalking ActSections 10-16Section 19(1)12 months
New BrunswickFamily Services ActSections 3-9Section 9(5)6 months
Newfoundland & LabradorFamily Violence Protection ActSections 5-11Section 2712 months
Northwest TerritoriesProtection Against Family Violence ActSections 5-8Section 2190 days
Nova ScotiaDomestic Violence Intervention ActSections 5-8Section 18(1)Six months
NunavutFamily Abuse Intervention ActSections 5-10Section 29Two years
OntarioFamily Law ActSections 34-40Section 40Six months
Prince Edward IslandVictims of Family Violence ActSections 5-10Section 13Two years
SaskatchewanVictims of Interpersonal Violence ActSections 4-10Section 25Three months
YukonFamily Violence Prevention ActSections 5-9Section 2524 months
NOTE: This table does not offer official advice and may point to the incorrect sections of the laws. Visit the text of the Acts to pick the correct provisions. Also, always consult with a licensed lawyer for legal advice.
*A typical fine or prison time is likely less than these maximums. However, we tried to show the worst-case scenario to explore inadmissibility in Canada.

Understanding criminal inadmissibility in Canada

We can divide criminal inadmissibility into two significant categories: Criminality and Serious Criminality. I have published another article that explores the differences between these two. The following people are vulnerable to criminal inadmissibility.

Does a restraining order result in criminal inadmissibility?

A restraining order is a civil matter and won’t directly cause criminal inadmissibility. However, consider the following:

  • The restraining order could be concurrent to a criminal offence, such as the following provisions of the Criminal Code in Canada.
    • Assault (Section 265): This section defines the various forms of assault, including simple assault, assault with a weapon, and aggravated assault.
    • Uttering Threats (Section 264.1): This section addresses individuals who convey threats to cause death or harm to another person.
    • Criminal Harassment (Section 264): This section pertains to stalking and other persistent unwanted attention.
    • Kidnapping and Forcible Confinement (Section 279) relates to kidnapping or unlawfully confining another individual against their will.
    • Sexual Assault (Sections 271-273): This covers various degrees of sexual assault, from simple sexual assault to aggravated sexual assault.
  • As the table in a former section of this article shows, violating a constraining order could result in criminal convictions.
  • The alternatives to restraining orders could result in criminal convictions in certain circumstances.
  • If the order belongs to a jurisdiction outside Canada, you must ask a Canadian lawyer to find the equivalency under Canadian laws.

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    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.