Question Period: Record Suspensions

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Ottawa River, Gatineau and the Library of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa

Hon. Brian Francis: Minister Mendicino, in 2019 we passed legislation to expedite and reduce barriers for the suspension of records for simple possession of cannabis. Not long ago, the CBC reported that, of the 10,000 people the government initially estimated would be eligible, only 484 suspensions have been granted so far. Minister, given the low uptake of the program after three years, is there any thought of revisiting the program to make criminal record relief more accessible, especially for Indigenous people as well as racialized and marginalized communities?

Hon. Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety: Thank you, senator. I would begin by saying that I am very open to that concept, and I have had conversations with a number of your colleagues in this chamber as well as with parliamentarians in the other place. As I said earlier, I feel very strongly that we have to look at ways to continue to reform our criminal justice system in a way that gives access to justice and ensures that inmates have every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.

I think one element of that is by looking at the pardon system that we currently have. In fact, I recently spoke with the Chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada, or PBC — just today, as a matter of fact — and this issue came up.

I assure you it is very much on my radar, but I don’t want to leave you or others in this chamber with the impression that we’re sitting idly by while we contemplate that. We’ve reduced barriers already.

For example, we reduced fees from what they used to be at $650 to $50. This will, we think, enhance access so that those who have fulfilled their sentence and obligations within our correctional services system have every opportunity to reintegrate into their communities, seek gainful employment and be positive contributors back in society. That has to be a pillar that underscores our criminal justice system.

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