Speech - Bill C-415 Expungement of Certain Cannabis Related Convictions
December 7th, 2018 - 3:33pm
Video Link: https://youtu.be/WbiOtOdAq9E
Madam Speaker, to answer the member's comment about a pardon versus an expungement, an expungement can be used, and should be used, when there is a historical injustice with respect to how a criminal record was obtained. A pardon can be used for any criminal record. However, a criminal record that has resulted from a historical injustice would require an expungement. I will talk about that in my speech.
I would first like to again thank the member for Victoria for bringing this important bill forward. I think it is something that Canadians want. It steps into the breach where the government has failed to go, even though it had plenty of time to get ready for this, as we have been planning for the legalization of marijuana for many years.
I will start off by saying that this is obviously true in many ridings. There are a lot of people in my riding who use cannabis and who used cannabis before it became legal. We all carry out some unofficial polling when we go door to door, and one of the things we noticed when we went door to door in my riding is how many people use cannabis. It is quite a popular thing in my riding. It is not everybody who is doing it. However, we noticed how many people do it. It is not just people of colour or indigenous people, it is everyone, including business people. The whole point of this bill with respect to expungement is that in the past the arrests for the simple possession of marijuana have been disproportionately handed out to marginalized Canadians. By far, young, black and indigenous Canadians are the people who have suffered the most for this. That is one of the reasons why expungement is much more appropriate than a simple pardon.
As other people have said, many people in Canada have a criminal record simply because they were found in possession of marijuana, something that we now say is completely fine as it is legal. That should not have happened before. Therefore, let us get on with it. We are talking about 500,000 Canadians, and some have suggested that it might be as high as over 900,000 Canadians. This is not something that is relegated to the dark criminal backwaters of Canada. Rather, it involves the bulk of Canadian society, and has left people with a criminal record. They cannot cross the border. They have difficulty finding work in many cases. They cannot even volunteer to work. A lot of times, if they want to coach a soccer team for their kid's school, a criminal record check is required, or they cannot do that. Therefore, it really affects the lives of Canadians, Canadians who we now say have really done nothing wrong.
As I said, the government has had a lot of time leading up to this to prepare its legislation. Other jurisdictions, such as California, Delaware, Vermont, and I think North Dakota is moving this direction, are bringing expungement provisions into their legalization legislation. However, the current government did not. We have been pressing it to have something like this since we began sitting in this Parliament. Now it is saying that it might bring legislation next year that will make it easier for people to apply for a pardon.
I want to go back to this point that it is really marginalized Canadians who have been hit hard. That is why the use of expungement is the way to go. As other people have said, indigenous people are nine times more likely to be arrested on simple possession in Regina and seven times more likely in Vancouver. Black people in Halifax are five times more likely to be arrested and three times more likely in Toronto. Therefore, these simple possession arrests disproportionately affect people of colour, indigenous people and young people.
I can quote what government members have said with respect to this.
The Prime Minister said, “People from minority communities, marginalized communities, without economic resources, are not going to have that kind of option to go through and clear their name in the justice system. That's one of the fundamental unfairnesses of this current system, is that it affects different communities in a different way.”
The Minister of Border Security said, “...the failed system of criminal prohibition has resulted in the criminalization of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and contributed to an unjust disparity and impact on vulnerable communities.” The Minister of Public Safety: “...the law as it stands today has been an abject failure...”. The MP for Hull—Aylmer: “We do know that black Canadians have been disproportionately charged with and are imprisoned for possession of small amounts of cannabis.”
Much of the cabinet is admitting that this is what has been going on, and it can only be justly dealt with through a simple expungement of all those criminal records so these people can get on with their lives, get work or cross the border. In Toronto, 15% of people on social welfare say that a need for record suspension is a key barrier to getting work. We all want those people to work and take part in this economy and society. However, that is the barrier they are facing, and only an expungement would help that.
I see I do not have much time left. The government says it is going to bring in pardons. I am running out of time. I will just say—I would like to thank the member for Victoria for bringing this forward. I hope that everyone supports it and we can send it to committee for further study.