Mental Illness, Criminal Offences, & Deportation

Tips for front-line workers

This resource is for front-line workers and advocates working with people who:

  • are not Canadian citizens,
  • have been charged with or convicted of a crime in Canada,
  • have or may have a mental illness.

If someone is not a citizen of Canada, a criminal conviction could affect their immigration status. Even a permanent resident who has lived in Canada for many years could lose their status and be deported with no right to come back.

Many people with mental illness come into conflict with the law. Often, there is a link between the illness and circumstances that lead to criminal charges.

In this resource, the term “mental illness” refers to a condition that affects how someone thinks, feels, or behaves and has a serious impact on their ability to function effectively. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Some examples of mental illness are depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder.

Addiction is also considered a mental disorder. When it occurs in combination with any other mental illness, it is called a concurrent disorder.

Diversion Someone with a mental illness who is facing criminal charges may be eligible for “diversion”. This means they are referred to mental health services and supports and may not have to go through the criminal justice system in the same way as others who face criminal charges. To find out if there are diversion programs in your community, visit the Mental Health Helpline website at, and search the Directory. You can also call the free health services information line at 1-866-531-2600.

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