Our business is helping people get record suspensions (formerly known as Canadian pardons) and entry waivers into the US or Canada. For the past year, we have been following the legalization of marijuana and the effects it would have on restorative justice. Unfortunately, the liberal government legalized marijuana without a plan for those with non-violent cannabis criminal convictions under the antiquated cannabis drug laws. Eight months after legalization, the government opted out of the fair and just idea of expungement and opted for a Cannabis Record Suspension (pot pardon) system.

Over 250,000 people were thought to have prohibition-era records for simple possession of marijuana and were expected to utilize the new pot pardon system but as of September of this year, only 71 people have applied and only 44 have received pardons. This is a tragically low number that comes as a surprise for most but only confirms how uncommitted the government is to restorative justice. To better understand the very reasons for this astronomically low number, we need to look past their promises and see the realities.

Although cannabis record suspensions were touted as free and without wait times, it isn’t entirely true. Yes, the government kindly waived their $631 fee that normally is associated with a record suspension, what they didn’t factor in is the cost of collecting records and fingerprints. Furthermore, records usually have to be acquired in-person, that could require costly travel—especially if someone has moved across the country from where their record/s reside, add in two convictions in two different cities and there is a whole other layer of difficulty and cost.

Record collection can also be troublesome depending on when the conviction occurred. The record/s might not be digitized and that means they could be residing deep down in an archive room somewhere or worse, a record no longer exists on paper, but the possession conviction does, trying to prove it could require a specific level of expertise to navigate.

For 30 years, we have been compiling all the necessary documentation for our clients. We know that this is no easy feat, in fact, most applications that are completed without expert help are returned by The Parole Board of Canada designated incomplete—time and money wasted. Pot pardons are no different. The Parole Board of Canada reports of the 71 applications only 44 have been granted with the balance of applications either under investigation or may have been returned to the applicant as incomplete or ineligible. The entire process is cumbersome and complex.

It’s extremely unfortunate with the legalization of cannabis that we still have thousands of Canadians living with cannabis convictions that should not exist under the new legalization law. Certain convictions should not follow a person for their entire life, especially a non-violent simple possession of marijuana conviction. What most people don’t appreciate about a criminal record is the negative impact it has on not only a person’s life but the bearing it has on an entire community. The more income someone earns, the higher the taxes paid, the better programs afforded by entire neighbourhoods.

Criminal records stop people from obtaining gainful employment and in some cases put individuals in a position of reoffending. Setting people up for success is our only option. It’s clear to me and many other concerned Canadians that the current cannabis record suspension system does not work. In reality, it has wholly failed Canadians with outdated and antiquated criminal records and most detrimental of all is it has failed Canadian taxpayers, the ones who foot the bill for the entirely new and disastrous system. Even more disconcerting is the fact that we are tied to this noncommittal government for another four-year term.

Lift the Burden Canada

AllCleared has been helping people clear their record since 1989 and additionally we founded ‘Lift the Burden Canada’ to protest the exorbitant cost increase the Harper government slapped onto the price of getting a record suspension. Having a criminal record limits schooling opportunities, housing availability, and employment possibilities. Without affordable record suspensions, 1-in-8 Canadians have fewer means for success and will struggle their entire life paying for a mistake they made many years ago and in many cases, their youth.