Boomers heading for Canada for vacation, or to embark on an Alaska or Canada/New England cruise had better think back... Smoking marijuana for those who went to college in the '60s and '70s was the national pastime. “Getting busted” for it was part of the game. But that bit of youthful indiscretion may come back to haunt you now, in a most surprising manner.
You are considered “unfit” to enter Canada. “Criminally inadmissible.”
Ditto anyone who has been convicted of a DUI, shoplifting, driving dangerously, simple assault... or anything that can be considered a “misdemeanor” in the United States. It doesn't matter if it was 40-some-odd years ago. It doesn't matter if you've been going to Canada for the last 20 years with no problem. If you have a record, you won't get in now.
It isn't that the laws are any tougher than they have been over the last 40 years, it's the technology that's better. Canadian immigration officers can plug into your history in the same way that local cops can. This is the result of a post 9/11 agreement between the U.S. and Canada, and it's been very effective.
And guess what. If you're going on a cruise and get turned away at the border because you're “criminally inadmissible,” you won't be seeing a refund on your cruise fare. Even if you have insurance.
“We advise visa and passport requirements,” says Erik Elvejord, spokesperson for Holland America Line, which operates several Alaska cruises departing from Vancouver, and Canada/New England voyages from Montreal. “If a guest is denied entry into a country because of current requirements, it's unfortunate, but we don't provide refunds for it.”
Steve Dasseos, CEO of TripInsuranceStore.com, says that no insurance policy will cover it either.
“Every policy has a clause that excludes 'government regulation or prohibitions.' Every policy. It might be worded differently in each, but no policy will cover it.”
For example, TravelGuard's exclusion says: "In addition to the General Exclusions, this coverage does not cover loss caused by: ... (vii) any government regulation or prohibition..." TravelEx's policy, worded differently, says: "Benefits are not payable for Sickness, Injuries or losses of You, Your Traveling Companion, Business Partner or Family Member: ...k) resulting from a governmental regulation or prohibition..."
Even a “cancel for any reason” policy won't be of help here, because the terms require that you cancel a minimum of two days before your trip begins, meaning two days before you leave your home.
If you think you might be at risk, there are ways that you can “rehabilitate” yourself. It can, however, take up to 18 months; even fast-tracking it can take up to six. It requires going to a Canadian consulate, filing a ton of paperwork (including court documents, current police statements that you're “clean,” your own statement as to why you were convicted and three letters from “persons of standing in the community”). It can cost up to $1000 CDN, depending on the infraction.
For more information on the infractions considered serious enough to make you “criminally inadmissible,” and the steps you need to take to rehabilitate yourself, check http://geo.international.gc.ca/can-am/seattle/visas/inadmissible-en.asp.