'It's a big piece for reconciliation': Sask. NDP asks Ottawa for pot possession pardons
NDP is hoping province's justice minister signs Ottawa-bound letter
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."
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.
Nicole Sarauer's letter regarding pardons for pot possession (PDF KB)
Nicole Sarauer's letter regarding pardons for pot possession (Text KB)CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content
with files from CBC's Amanda Pfeffer