Position Paper: Eliminate Record Suspension

 POSITION: Eliminate Record Suspension

Women’s Wellness Within: An Organization Serving Criminalized Women asks for the elimination of Record Suspensions in Canada.

The Conservative Government under Stephen Harper introduced the Tough on Crime Omnibus Bill C-10 in 2012, which made it more difficult for criminalized individuals to apply for and be granted a Pardon/Record Suspension. Bill C-10 increased the wait times to apply for a Record Suspension from 3–5 years to 5–10 years and increased the fee from $150 to $631. In addition, the applicant is responsible for covering the cost of fingerprinting and obtaining court and police records, which brings the actual cost closer to $1000.

Many employers, landlords, volunteer organizations, and Government social service agencies (for example, applying to foster or adopt children who may or may not be family members) require a Criminal Record Check.

Additionally, Stephen Harper gave the US government access to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and they do not recognize Record Suspensions, so even if granted a Record Suspension, criminalized individuals are not eligible to visit the US.

Criminalized people are vulnerable and marginalized people. Having a criminal record is stigmatizing. The principle behind the Canadian criminal justice system is to punish an individual for their behaviour and to correct that behaviour through rehabilitation once they have served their sentence and debt to society. However, in reality, having a criminal record under the current Record Suspension system becomes a life sentence of discrimination, restriction, and oppression due to the barriers of time and money.

The increased wait times to begin an application for a Record Suspension are too long. Waiting 5–10 years to begin the application process in effect adds this length of time to a sentence. The increase in cost is prohibitive. It is too high and thus discriminatory to marginalized and oppressed people. It is not reasonable to expect a criminalized person to produce an extra $1000 while at the same time restricting their ability to get a job.

The actual application process also presents a barrier due to its onerous list of steps and requirements. The individual must have access to a computer, and is required to navigate difficult bureaucratic government and law enforcement departments and processes. They must fill out complex forms in an exacting manner and rely on the very system that charged, convicted, and jailed them for support if needed to get through the process.

Further, allowing the US Government access to CPIC, knowing that they do not recognize Record Suspensions, is unacceptable. In fact, it hands our Canadian criminalized individuals a life sentence of restricting their movements and violates their earned right to freedom.

Decades of research has shown that a key factor to reducing crime and recidivism is to make a positive and healthy integration back into the community as easy as possible. Eliminate the need for Record Suspensions. Once someone has served their sentence, they should be free and treated as any other citizen in Canada.

In lieu of eliminating Record Suspensions, we ask the government to rescind the changes to the process created by Bill C-10:

  • Eliminate waiting periods and application fees, which perpetuate the criminalization, stigmatization, and victimization of our most vulnerable and marginalized members of society.

  • Rescind permission and access of CPIC to the US Government. They are using the information in a way that further criminalizes and stigmatizes Canadian citizens in a way that violates their human rights.

Being criminalized and stigmatized does not just effect the individual — it affects their families, their children, and their communities. The research backs this up. Criminalized individuals need support and compassion to integrate into society in a positive and pro-social way.

Canada needs to be and can be a model for treating all citizens with compassion and fairness.

PDF Version.

Grace Szucs