Article by Denise Balkissoon, Globe and Mail
Annamaria Enenajor has got a fact-check for Canadians: The federal government is not pardoning people who have criminal records for cannabis possession.
Widespread use of the word “pardon” in news stories about the Liberals’ approach to dealing with possession records is misleading. First of all, the term “pardon” isn’t officially used in the Canadian justice system.
Second, a full erasing of criminal records, as the term suggests, isn’t what’s happening here.
“What they actually are is called “record suspensions,’” said Ms. Enenajor, director of the advocacy group Cannabis Amnesty and a partner at the firm Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe, about the justice system’s procedure. “They kind of put your record in a filing cabinet until you misbehave again, and then they can pull it out.”
She points to Canada’s “very disorganized” records, which aren’t in one database, but scattered between various courthouses, police forces and the RCMP. That makes it extremely likely, she said, that a supposedly suspended record will mistakenly pop up at an unexpected time, like during a custody hearing or employer background check.
And it’s mostly likely Indigenous, black or other racialized people who will suffer the consequences. Ms. Enenajor has seen first hand that they’re far more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted for cannabis offenses than white people.