Toronto man with pot convictions says a pardon isn't enough to clear his name

Toronto carpenter Kani Malale says his marijuana convictions have made it hard for him to travel or find work — and he's not sure a pardon will make it any better.

Kani Malale says the government should fully expunge people's criminal records

Kani Malale says the government should fully expunge people's criminal records. (Submitted by Kani Malale)
Listen6:37

Toronto carpenter Kani Malale says his marijuana convictions have made it hard for him to travel or find work — and he's not sure a pardon will make it any better. 

As cannabis legalization came into effect on Wednesday, the federal government announced it will waive the fee and waiting period for Canadians seeking pardons for simple pot possession convictions.

But Malale, 32, who has two convictions for possession under 30 grams, says his criminal record ought to be completely expunged.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.

What does that mean to you, that you will be pardoned?

A pardon, of course yes, it means that certain people can't see it. But I think what we're looking for is a full expunge of the charges.

I think everybody is entitled to the innocence of their name and I don't think that marijuana is or ever has been a crime in any sense of the word. I think it's something where we're just kind of catching up and rounding the curb and seeing, you know, our mistakes that we've repeated for a hundred years. 

Explain why expunging would be different.

Expunging gives you back your name. It gives you back your innocence. 

So only an expungement will actually erase the record?

Yes. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says legislation will be introduced before the end of the year to allow pardons for pot possession charges, and says there will be no waiting period and no fees. 1:52

Public Safety Minister Ralph [Goodale​] gives the example that records were expunged for people convicted of the crime at the time of homosexuality. ... He said the laws with respect to cannabis that have existed historically are out of step with current mores and views in Canada and that's why we're changing them, but it's not the same as the historical injustice of what happened to those convicted of the so-called crime of homosexuality. Do you see any distinction like that? 

I see a lot of similarities, actually,

When marijuana was first outlawed, you know, there was a lot of myths around it. Don't smoke marijuana because it makes white women sleep with black men, things of that nature. There were a lot of racial connotations to it, a lot of racial stereotypes that were attached to it, and therefore it was outlawed.

I don't see this as any different.

I participated in marijuana, but it's because I wanted to bring light to the fact that I don't think this is wrong. ... If I hadn't done that and many other people hadn't done that, I don't think we'd be where we are today now with legalization. 

Can you just tell us how the convictions that you have, how do they affect your life?

Imagine if every interaction that you have with a police officer is now looked at as a criminal interaction.

Every interaction I've had since my first arrest has been one where I've been searched. 

You can go for a job and you can apply for it, but you'll never know if it's the reason you have marijuana offences that's keeping you from getting that job.

I can go to the border and I can get turned back and I'll never have somebody say to me, "Well, it's because of weed that you're getting turned back." But I know that that offence is tied to my name. I know when certain authority agencies look me up in their systems, I know they can see that.

So I can only assume that these are the reasons why, but to be able to remove that assumption for me — to be able to remove that from my name, to be able to have the innocence of my name back — is a huge thing.

I don't think anyone in this country would like to have a criminal offence tied to their name if they don't have to. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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