Saskatchewan

'It's a big piece for reconciliation': Sask. NDP asks Ottawa for pot possession pardons

A Saskatchewan NDP MLA is asking the federal government to pardon people who have been convicted of cannabis possession.

NDP is hoping province's justice minister signs Ottawa-bound letter

The Saskatchewan opposition NDP is asking the provincial minister of justice to support its call for cannabis possession pardons. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A Saskatchewan NDP MLA is asking the federal government to pardon people who have been convicted of cannabis possession.

Regina MLA Nicole Sarauer has drafted a letter to send to the federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould. Sarauer is asking Saskatchewan's Minister of Justice Don Morgan to co-sign it.

In 2016, 821 people in Saskatchewan were charged with possessing cannabis -- a rate 51 per cent higher than the national average.    

"It's a real barrier for many folks, in particular, our vulnerable and Indigenous populations who have received these convictions and find it difficult to work, go back to school or travel," Sarauer said.

"We need to do the right thing."

Sarauer, a lawyer and the NDP's justice critic, said cannabis charges caused delays and headaches in the court system for "very little purpose."

"It's a big piece for reconciliation. The larger population of folks who have received convictions for simple possession of cannabis are Indigenous in this province."

NDP MLA and justice critic Nicole Sarauer said people with a criminal record for cannabis possession face barriers. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

In her letter to Wilson-Raybould, Sarauer wrote, "it is unfair and unjust for Saskatchewan people to continue to be burdened with criminal records for possession of cannabis for engaging in activity that will be legal and regulated a few months from now."

Sarauer said she will send the letter to Ottawa whether or not Morgan signs it.

Morgan will look at letter the but unlikely to support it

Saskatchewan's justice minister said he will look at the letter carefully but isn't ready to dip his quill into ink.

"I can't see that it's something our province would undertake at this time," Morgan said.

Morgan said the jurisdiction is the federal government's alone and it's "unlikely" they would look at it.

"To do some kind of a blanket pardon is probably not in the best interest of justice for the province."

Morgan said if someone wants to be pardoned they can apply on their own.

Federal government has not ruled out pardons

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he would not consider issuing amnesties or creating an expedited pardon program until after cannabis is legalized in July 2018.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has also said officials are examining "all the legal implications for possible pardons, or record suspensions, for criminal records for cannabis."

Quebec Liberal MP Greg Fergus has said he'll be seeking remedies for some of the 500,000 Canadians who he said have a criminal record related to simple possession of marijuana.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from CBC's Amanda Pfeffer