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Even Celebs Can’t Enter Canada With A DUI

Criminal Inadmissibility and DUIs: Celebrity Edition

Anyone with a criminal record can be found inadmissible to Canada, even if they have work to do in the country, and even if they boast the money, fame, agents, and PR handlers that accompany celebrity status. National border security trumps all of those factors in the eyes of the Canadian government, as many world-famous individuals have found out the hard way when past offenses like drug possession or DUIs have kept them from crossing the border.

Celebrity DUIs

From athletes to actors, celebrities are as prone as anyone to being barred entry into the country, with no special treatment from Canadian border services. This is no surprise given the number of high-profile criminal charges—particularly DUIs, which have garnered tabloid infamy over the past decade for such diverse figures as pop star Justin Bieber, film actor Shia LaBoeuf, socialite and reality television star Khloe Kardashian, basketball legend Charles Barkley, and Academy Award winner Mel Gibson.

Twenty-nine year-old Olympic swimmer and gold medallist Michael Phelps has already had two DUIs: the first in 2004, for which he avoided conviction as a first-time offender, and the second in October 2014, for which he has been suspended for six months by USA Swimming. With his trial postponed until December, it remains to be seen whether he will be convicted and therefore unable to compete in such countries as Canada.

Criminally Inadmissible Celebs

For household names like Phelps, a criminal record alone means considerable PR attempts at damage control. But criminal inadmissibility is an especial source of publicity woes, since it prevents celebrities from travelling to perform or promote their work. The following list highlights five celebrity offenders who have made headlines for being denied entry to Canada within the past few years.

Russell Brand (2013)

The outspoken British comedian and ex-husband of Katy Perry claimed that he ran afoul of Canadian customs officials when an earlier drug conviction denied him entry into the country in October of 2013. The purported border snafu forced him to postpone a show for an audience of over 5,000 at Casino Rama in Orilla, Ontario. However, it turns out that the whole situation may have been a tall tale, as other sources suggest that Brand was actually delayed by technical issues with his flight.

Wes Bentley (2012)

Having previously been convicted for drug possession in 2008, the Hunger Games and American Beauty star was denied entry to Canada in 2012 amid plans to promote his movie The Time Being at the Toronto International Film Festival. The actor has spoken openly of his recovery from heroin addiction, but despite the concerted efforts of his handlers and film festival officials, his criminally inadmissible status could not be overcome.

Terry Jones (2012)

An American pastor, Jones first gained notoriety for his plans to stage a public burning of the Qur’an on the 2010 anniversary of September 11 attacks, sparking protests in Asia and the Middle East that resulted in several fatalities. However, the Islamophobic controversy was not the reason that Jones was denied entry to Canada in October 2012. Instead, he was found inadmissible on account of criminal fines that he incurred for falsely using the title of doctor while working as a missionary in Germany nearly two decades earlier. Jones had been scheduled to attend an inter-faith debate outside the Ontario legislative building.

The Used (2012)

This alternative rock band from Utah scrapped all of the Canadian dates on their 2012 summer tour on account of frontman Bert McCracken’s criminal record, which includes minor offenses, such as trespassing, that date back to the early 2000s. Consequently, the band is unable to perform in Canada for ten years, when McCracken can be deemed rehabilitated. Until then, the band has quipped to Rolling Stone that they would like to cater to their fans from Canada by performing border tours, on which Canadian passport-holders will be able attend the shows free of charge.

Lil Wayne (2011)

Although rapper Lil Wayne has never officially been barred entry to Canada, he pre-emptively cancelled his two Canadian tour dates in April 2011 after the authorities cautioned that his criminal record would render him inadmissible. Previously, Lil Wayne had been forced to cancel his European tour on account of his past offenses, which include drug-related charges and possession of a weapon. But the popular rapper has his staunch supporters. During his incarceration in 2012, fans launched an online campaign called “Free Weezy.”


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