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May 2nd, 2019

Liberals Reject Expungement and Opt for Flawed Process to Address Criminal Records for Cannabis Possession

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s Liberals voted against NDP MP Murray Rankin’s (Victoria) Private Member’s Bill C-415 that would expunge criminal records for cannabis possession despite agreeing that black Canadians and Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by drug laws.

In Vancouver, Indigenous people are nearly 7 times more likely than white people to be arrested for simple possession of marijuana and 9 times more likely in Regina. In Toronto, black people are 3 times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people despite equal rates of use and 4 times more likely in Halifax.

Instead of eliminating criminal records for something that is now perfectly legal, the Liberals have proposed a record suspension program that requires a complicated application process and doesn’t erase the records.

“It is beyond disturbing that the Liberal government is only doing the bare minimum for people with criminal records for something that is now perfectly legal,” stated Rankin. “Not only is the government refusing to expunge records, they are proceeding with an application process they know to be ineffective.”

NDP MP Matthew Dubé (Beloeil – Chambly) has been pushing the Liberal government to unburden those with criminal records so they can gain meaningful employment, volunteer in their communities and find suitable housing.

“The Liberal government already has an expungement process for other offences that is done by application. They know it is not a real solution: only seven people out of 9,000 have actually applied. Considering that data came from the government, surely, they know asking people to apply is an incredibly flawed process,” said Dubé. “It's pretty apparent that Canadians who are already marginalized might not be in a position to take advantage of this process. If the Liberals are serious, they need to expunge these records automatically.”
“In San Francisco, only 23 of 9,400 people took advantage of their opportunity to seek pardons for cannabis possession when they were forced to apply,” added Rankin. “It isn’t difficult to see that an automatic process is required.”