Windsor

No more changes likely to cannabis pardons before federal election, says UWindsor prof

A University of Windsor law professor says the federal government has likely made all of the changes it will make to Canada's cannabis possession pardon system until the 2019 federal election.

'After October, it's anyone's guess about who the government's going to be,' says Bill Bogart

Bill Bogart says government could have allowed total amnesty, but didn't. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

A University of Windsor law professor says the federal government has likely made all of the changes it will make to Canada's cannabis possession pardon system until the 2019 federal election.

"I think that the government is saying, 'Look, this is as far as we're going to go,' certainly before the October election," said Bill Bogart, professor emeritus at the University of Windsor's Faculty of Law. "Of course, after October, it's anyone's guess about who the government's going to be."

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti unveiled Canada's new online applications system during a media conference on Thursday, which makes the application form available online. The form must be mailed to be submitted properly. 

According to Lametti, the new system will make it easier for minority groups to apply for pardons and will remove barriers for all Canadians looking to move on from previous cannabis possession convictions.

While Canadians with such convictions will no longer need pay the $631 fee or endure lengthy wait times to receive a pardon, some legal scholars are hesitant to say that the system completely wipes records clean.

Windsor-based immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri says Canadians with pardoned cannabis possession convictions should still be cautious when trying to enter other countries. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"Many activists would have preferred an amnesty, which is really an expungement of the conviction," said Bogart. "If you have amnesty, it's as if it's never happened."

Bogart said other commentators have suggested the federal government chose to avoid total amnesty for previous cannabis possession convictions because "this would be a more complicated and more expensive route."

Some critics have also expressed the concern that the pardon system won't necessarily make it easier for Canadians with pardoned convictions to travel abroad — including to the U.S.

"It's always important for any Canadian with a criminal conviction history to seek the proper advice about entry into the United States," said Eddie Kadri, a Windsor-based immigration lawyer. 

"Every country has its own set of rules, and certainly with respect to the United States, if the U.S. already knows about your conviction, then your expectation shouldn't be that this pardon will completely overcome your prohibition against entry."

Bogart added that the new system only pardons convictions in the Canadian Police Information Centre database. Databases in other countries likely won't be affected by a Canadian pardon.

"[If the] American officials somehow have a previous conviction in their database, they're going to know about it whether you've been pardoned or not," said Bogart. "The situation, we would hope, would be different with amnesty, but … this is a route that's not being taken."

With files from Afternoon Drive and Sanjay Maru

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