Requiem for Expungement: A Parliamentary Post-Mortem with Murray Rankin

Article by Leaf News

Requiem for expungement: A parliamentary post-mortem with Murray Rankin NDP MP Murray Rankin wanted people's cannabis convictions to disappear from their criminal records. (Sean Kilpatrick)

Bill C-415, the private member’s bill from NDP MP Murray Rankin that would have expunged the criminal records of Canadians convicted in the past of cannabis possession, died quietly in Parliament this week.

Rankin’s bill was up against Liberal Bill C-93, which promises to mitigate the process of getting a government pardon for cannabis possession convictions. Rankin and his supporters argued that expungements are superior to pardons because they completely erase all traces of a criminal record and prevent that record from ever being reinstated.

“I wanted it to just be zapped from your record, then under the law you’re deemed not to have been convicted, so you can say truthfully to that employer or that landlord or that soccer team that you want to coach, ‘(I’m) happy to say I do not have a criminal record,'” explained Rankin in an interview Friday.

Rankin’s bill was defeated during a Wednesday vote by a margin of 225 to 61. All 34 NDP MPs present voted for Rankin’s bill, and they had some support from other parties: 11 Conservative MPs also in favour of the bill, along with 9 members of the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May. (Detailed vote results can be viewed online.)

Almost every Liberal MP in the House of Commons on Wednesday voted against Rankin’s bill, but four Liberals broke ranks with their party and voted for C-415. Rankin said he was grateful for the cross-party support for his late bill, especially from Liberals and Conservatives.

“I was delighted, and I’ve written each of those people a letter of thanks because I think it takes courage to stand up,” he said.

“One suspects that the Liberals were whipped, because so many more of them told me before that my bill was absolutely right, and they were embarrassed with their bill and therefore they were going to support me.”

The Liberal bill for cannabis possession pardons is still alive and well, but Rankin said he’s not sure whether he’ll support it.

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