The Liberal government is considering ways to deal with Canadian criminal records for possessing cannabis. The fight is to have criminal records cleared for those convicted of simple cannabis possession charges.
Many critics have pushed for a pot pardons or record suspension. They believe people should not be criminally charged while the government brings its legalization plan into force.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed officials are examining “all the legal implications,”. However, he would not say how the government is likely to proceed.
“We’re in the midst of a major change here. I know there is a real anxiety for a bit of a play-by-play commentary. But I think the responsible thing is to do the analysis. See where the unfairnesses are and take the appropriate steps to correct those problems,” he told reporters in London, Ont.
“But we need to do it in an orderly way.”
‘Existing law remains’
While acknowledging “unfairnesses,” Goodale said, “criminal charges and prosecutions must continue until the law formally changes.” The government is aiming to legalize cannabis by July.
“We’re moving in an orderly fashion to change the law appropriately and get the job done. In the meantime, the existing law remains and people need to obey that law.”
Goodale said the change represents a “significant transformational change in the Canadian law.” In addition, he said any legal moves to address criminal records would not take place until after the laws are enforced.
NDP health critic Don Davies said thousands of Canadians continue to get arrested, charged and convicted for something that will soon be legal. Also, at a time the justice system remains clogged and under-resourced.
‘Devastating’ consequences for many
“Parliament is well aware of the devastating consequences of carrying criminal convictions. Especially for young people, Indigenous, and marginalized Canadians,” Davies told CBC News in a statement.
“It is illogical and unjust to continue this policy on the eve of legalization.”
Davies said the NDP proposed amendments to the pot legalization bill that would provide an expedited pardon process. This would apply for Canadians carrying convictions for cannabis offenses that no longer exist. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected. Many of these are from the number of raids arresting those 25 and under.
“We once again call on the Trudeau government to create a process to pardon and expunge the criminal records of Canadians with cannabis offenses,” he said.
Pot Pardons and Crime Prevention
Scott Bardsley, a spokesperson for Goodale, said anyone convicted of simple possession of up to 30 grams can apply for a record suspension. This would be done through the Parole Board of Canada, five years after the sentence is completed.
The government is now in the process of reforming the pardons system based on “evidence-based criminal justice policies” that support rehabilitation and crime prevention. Above all, he acknowledged pardons can be a significant barrier to employment because some positions require criminal record checks.