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Pardons for cannabis possession strikes reasonable balance: Conron

No-cost pardons and record suspensions are a step toward recognizing that criminal stigma is not warranted for cannabis possession charges, London criminal lawyer Carolynn Conron tells AdvocateDaily.com.  

"While it would be good to go further, I think the record suspension strikes a reasonable balance. The conduct was, unfortunately, illegal for a time, and people were criminalized for it," says Conron, principal of Conron Law Professional Corporation.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the government will soon bring in legislation to provide pardons for anyone convicted of pot possession before the drug's legalization last year, The Canadian Press (CP) reports.

In a Twitter post, Goodale said he is going to put the House of Commons on notice that a bill will soon be introduced to provide "no-cost, expedited pardons for simple possession of cannabis.''

The notice is a procedural requirement for the government to introduce new legislation.

The details of the bill won't be revealed until the legislation is officially presented to the House of Commons.

But the Liberals have already telegraphed what they plan do, says the national news agency.

In October, Goodale said the legislation would waive the application fee and five-year waiting period for Canadians seeking pardons for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana — an offence that was previously punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

But at the time he dismissed the idea of expunging criminal records — even though the Liberals legalized recreational cannabis use — because expungement was reserved for cases of past injustice involving Charter rights violations.

A pardon, or record suspension, means a person's criminal record is separated from other records and is only disclosed in limited circumstances.

So while a pardon doesn't erase a record completely, it can make it easier to get a job or travel.

"Under the Criminal Records Act, only the minister of Public Safety Canada has the authority to disclose information from a pardoned or suspended record," Conron tells AdvocateDaily.com. "This happens only in exceptional circumstances.

"If, for example, a subsequent serious criminal offence is committed the file may be re-opened. As long as you do not re-offend, no one will ever be able to gain access to your pardoned or suspended criminal record," she says.

The House of Commons will rise at the end of June, giving the Liberals until then to get their legislation through the House of Commons and the Senate.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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