Canada recently brought legislation to the House of Commons to make it easier and faster to get pardons for simple possession of cannabis convictions. In this article, we look at what this means and how it affects people with existing criminal records.
This is one more way that Canada’s new cannabis laws affect charges. While these pardons are beneficial for people with previous convictions for simple possession of cannabis. However, they are not automatic. Your criminal record does not go away on its own.
What The New Legislation Covers
The new legislation would not automatically remove records for simple possession of marihuana. But it does expedite the process.
First, it removes the 5-year waiting period. Normally, you are not eligible for a pardon (or Record Suspension) until 5 years after completing the sentence for a summary offence. For indictable offences, there is a 10-year waiting period. This new legislation would exempt you from this waiting period.
Second, the regular application fee is waived. The normal application fee is $631. Combined with other costs such as documents, records and fingerprinting, a record suspension can be expensive. The new legislation would make pardons for simple possession more accessible by making it easier and more affordable.
An important note is that this only seals the record so long as there are no other criminal offences. Any other offence on record can prevent people from benefitting from this new legislation.
Does A Record Still Exist?
In Canada, a criminal record is never truly erased. Instead, a record suspension seals the record, so that a conviction does not show up on public background checks. In some circumstances, the Minister of Public Safety can still access sealed records.
So, although the record is sealed, it is not destroyed. As a result, many people are arguing that simple possession records should be expunged instead of pardoned.
The Difference Between Pardons & Expungement
Both pardons (Record Suspension) and expungement serve to allow people with past convictions to reintegrate without the stigma of a criminal record. However, they are, in principle and process, very different.
A pardon simply seals the criminal record. Whereas expungement actually removes the conviction from federal records. Another difference is that expungement can be granted to the deceased, whereas record suspensions are only available to the living.
Expungement is only available for convictions that are considered a historical injustice. If someone has a past conviction for a crime that should never have been considered a crime, it may be eligible for expungement.
The argument some are making is that, in the wake of legalization, simple possession should never have been a crime since if the conviction happened now it would be incongruent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Can I Travel to the USA With a Record Suspension
The USA doesn’t recognize a Canadian record suspension or expungement. Still, depending on the specific circumstances travel to the US may be an option for a Canadian with a record suspension.
If you attempted to enter the USA prior to receiving the record suspension and the Customs and Border Agent discovered the criminal record, then the United States Authorities will have that record on file. They are able to use this record against you even after a record suspension.
However, if they don’t already have this information on file, it won’t show up when crossing the border after receiving the record suspension.
Another factor to consider is moral turpitude. A criminal record does not necessarily prevent you from entering the US. These restrictions are generally for convictions that directly contradict the community’s morality.
Unfortunately, the current US attitude towards drug offences could potentially mean even a simple possession conviction could prevent entry.
Hire a Toronto Criminal Lawyer for Drug Offences
If you or a loved one are facing charges for drug offences your first step is to hire an experienced criminal lawyer. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with a proven track record in defending drug offences.
Contact us now for a consultation.