Automatic expungement falls short in Canada
The John Howard Society of Canada has a new post about a failed piece of Canadian legislation that would have provided automatic expungement of criminal records in that country. The post describes the effort to remedy the shortcomings of the current “one-at-a-time” record-clearing system, which it says is expensive (more than $600 to apply), bureaucratic, and “systematically works against poor and marginalized people.” As an example, it documents Canada’s serious “takeup” problem with its recent efforts to clear cannabis possession convictions: “despite the government’s claims of an enhanced process to grant pardons for cannabis possession now that it is legal, only a handful of the 250,000 or so Canadians with such records have received pardons so far.”
The post also discusses our report documenting U.S. expungement reforms in 2019, noting that while the problem of criminal records in this country is “much greater” than it is in Canada, we seem to be making better progress in dealing with it.
We reprint the introduction to the post below, and link to the piece.
Expunging criminal recordsFebruary 26, 2020
Last year Senator Kim Pate introduced a bill that would provide automatic expungement of criminal records in Canada. Under this bill, criminal records would automatically be sealed after a certain amount of time had elapsed following a criminal sentence unless there had meanwhile been a new criminal charge or conviction.
Expungement of criminal records is important because a criminal record has many harmful effects for a person’s entire lifetime, even decades after the end of their sentence. It is important to keep in mind that 3-4 million Canadian adults, or about 1 in 8, has a criminal record of some kind. Wherever you live in Canada, you likely have neighbours with a record. But, as another post on this blog showed, most people never commit a second crime, and this likelihood declines with every year that passes.
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