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It’s possible if you’re not up-to-date on your Canadian politics the name Dennis Fentie might not sound familiar to you, but I can assure you he was a true leader in the Yukon for the territory, the community, and restorative justice. Given his humble nature, Dennis may not have ever fully appreciated how much his story is a perfect case study to demonstrate the potential of everyone given a fresh start.

Fentie was an approachable and down-to-earth politician and businessman, he was a tireless champion of Watson Lake and Southeast Yukon, especially the forestry and mining industry. He served as the Yukon’s seventh premier from 2002 to 2011 as leader of the Yukon Party. First elected in 1986, he served in Yukons’ Legislative Assembly for 15 years including stints as premier and the territory’s finance minister until he stepped down as leader of the party 2011. Fentie was a genuine political and economic figurehead in the Yukon. All these accomplishments followed a poor start as a convicted criminal.

Best known for his strong advocacy for the Yukon, he negotiated a fair healthcare deal specific to the needs of the North, established hospitals in Watson Lake and Dawson City, and instigated major improvements to industry in the territory. Fentie has been credited with helping transfer more power from the federal government to the territory and improving territorial formula financing arrangements. A man of his word, Fentie fought for the people in the North establishing himself as an invaluable representative. If Fentie had let his criminal background hold him back, these exceptional contributions could very well not have happened.

His career wasn’t without controversy, in 1974 Fentie was charged with drug trafficking and as a result, spent several months in prison. After serving his time and working hard to reclaim his life working in tourism, logging, mining, and fuel distribution, Fentie was pardoned in 1996. After the 2002 election, Fentie made it public that he had spent time in prison for drug trafficking, but it goes without saying Fentie proved to Canada and beyond that bad choices don’t limit your potential.

People like Fentie are a testament not only to everyone’s potential to start fresh and do something worthwhile after a conviction but to how the community, large and small, benefits from such fresh starts. 1-in-8 Canadians have a criminal record. That is a whole lot of potential that could be lost if restorative justice doesn’t prevail.

Getting a record suspension (Canadian pardon) was much more affordable before 2012 when the Conservative government raised the cost of a pardon from $50 to $631 a pop. Most individuals with a criminal record don’t have the means to pay their fines let alone a pardon. So that means we have a population filled with people unable to achieve success in the workplace or even find adequate housing to restore their lives and start fresh.

Starting over and putting one’s past behind them is something we all do on some level at some point, maybe even every day when we decide today will be the day we ask for that raise, commit to a healthier lifestyle, or even spend more time with our children. Just as in our daily choices to do better and be better, a criminal record should not stop someone from their right to make a difference.

The legalization of cannabis last year put simple cannabis possession records on the table for reconsideration and we waited with bated breath to see how the Liberal government would try to find a fair and equitable way to deal with cannabis criminal records. Their final choice, waive the $631 fee and zero wait times. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

Reclaiming your life through a pardon can be life-changing, just look at outstanding citizens like Dennis Fentie. Anyone can start fresh, no matter how far you fall, you can make a change, and then hopefully make a difference. Let’s all take a page out of Dennis Fentie’s book and not let our past dictate our future.

Looking for advice about a pardon, US or Canadian Entry Waiver? Contact AllCleared and begin again.