A Canadian MP wants to be “one of the first” to help thousands of Canadians revoke their marijuana convictions and clear their criminal records soon after legalization, CBC News reported on Monday.
“I will be one of the first people at the door saying…let’s start getting busy and sharpening our pencils to try to figure out how we can best deal with this,” Greg Fergus, the Liberal MP for Hull-Aylmer in Quebec province, said.
So far, there are about 500,000 Canadians who have criminal records related to simple possession of marijuana. While a nationwide legalization is on the horizon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not consider issuing amnesties or creating an expedited pardon program only after marijuana is officially legalized this summer.
But for Fergus, it is not only about clearing records. He hopes for discussions to open over why there is a disproportionate number of people convicted of marijuana possession from black and Indigenous communities.
He said research has shown that high convictions rates for small amounts of marijuana possession “leads to the uncomfortable conclusion.”
“There’s something systemic at work where more black folks are charged, remanded and convicted.”
He says that there should not be different laws for different Canadians, “I just want people to understand how we got here,” he said.
“But if there is systemic racism which caused these people to have criminal records, it seems we’re only perpetuating the discrimination that would [end with them] not having the same economic opportunities. So it’s not an easy situation.”
Meanwhile, Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt said he has been receiving calls from people wanting to clear their criminal records as legalization is looming.
“There seems to be no interest from this government to work on the pardon issue, despite the promise of a review,” Spratt said.
On top of the slowness of the process, the Canadian parliament in 2010 passed a legislation that doubled the waiting period for a pardon, making a person who is charged today wait until at least 2023 before being able to apply for a pardon on a simple possession charge.