OTTAWA – With cannabis now legal in Canada, too many people with criminal records for simple possession still face real hardships that affect their opportunities with employment, their ability to travel, and as a result, their livelihood. On Thursday, the NDP’s Justice Critic Murray Rankin urged the Liberal government to erase criminal records for minor cannabis possession, and urged the government to support his bill, C-415, which is scheduled for debate on Friday.
“Instead of supporting a bill I introduced to expunge—that is, to completely erase—criminal records for simple cannabis possession, the Liberal government only committed to introducing a bill sometime next year that would create an expedited, free pardon system,” said Rankin. “But I don’t see how they will be able to pass legislation they haven’t even created yet by the next election. Cannabis has been legal for over a month, yet thousands of Canadians continue to struggle with the burdens of a criminal record. Why is this government insisting they wait even longer?”
The NDP is proposing an expungement process over a pardon process due to the historically unjust application of cannabis laws. Across the country, black and Indigenous people have been disproportionately burdened with criminal records for possession of small quantities of cannabis, making it more difficult to obtain housing and employment.
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that all Canadians are equal under the law. We have the right to equal protection and equal benefits without discrimination based on race. So why in Halifax were black people five times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession? And why in Regina were Indigenous people nine times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession,” remarked Rankin. “500,000 Canadians deserve freedom, not forgiveness.”