The federal government will be introducing legislation later Wednesday to “provide no-cost, expedited” pardons for Canadians convicted of possession of small amounts of pot, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted Wednesday.
The move — coming on the same afternoon that former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould broke her silence regarding allegations she was pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin — has been in the works for months.
Ottawa announced last October that it would introduce legislation by the end of 2018 to allow the thousands of Canadians with criminal convictions for simple marijuana possession to apply for pardons.
“Now that the laws on cannabis have changed, individuals who previously acquired criminal records for simple possession of cannabis should be allowed to shed the burden and the stigma of that record,” Goodale told a news conference last fall.
“This will eliminate what are disproportionate consequences and break down barriers, which could mean greater access to job opportunities and education and housing and even the ability to simply volunteer for a charity.”
It came as Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
A pardon means a person’s record won’t show up in government searches, but it still exists and may still cause trouble at the U.S. border — and the federal government can, under certain circumstances, revoke it.
The end of prohibition — and the increasing expectation that the Trudeau government will expunge the records of all Canadians with minor cannabis possession records — is all well and good in principle.
But making it so could end up being a logistical nightmare, given the nature of police record-keeping in Canada.
Estimates vary — and if Ottawa has an official tally it has never been made public — but the widespread belief is as many as 500,000 Canadians carry the weight of a minor cannabis conviction.
More to come