Federal

Bill C-415 Defeated in Landslide Vote, but Record Suspensions are still an Option

By Darren Nguyen, Student-at-Law | May 2, 2019

Long before recreational cannabis was legalized, cannabis advocates in Canada have been fighting to clear criminal records relating to past minor, non-violent cannabis possession convictions.

In early October 2018, the federal government announced that it planned to offer expedited Pardons (now known as “Record Suspensions”) to individuals who were previously convicted of simple possession of cannabis in Canada. The fee for this process is $631.00 and the waiting period is expected to be five years for a summary offence and ten years for an indictable offense. At the time of the announcement, other members of Parliament, such as NDP MP Murray Rankin argued that the plan to implement Record Suspensions would not help those most affected by the prior convictions, namely Indigenous People and racialized communities, due to the time period for the Record Suspension and the associated cost of the application.

Bill C-415

On October 4, 2018, as a response to what he felt was the government not doing enough, Rankin introduced a new private members bill into the House of Commons entitled Bill C-415, also known as the Expungement of Certain Cannabis-related Convictions Act (the “Bill”).  The Bill sought to give the Parole Board of Canada (the “Parole Board”) the power to expunge any criminal records for individuals who had been convicted of past minor, non-violent cannabis possession related crimes once possession of cannabis and certain cannabis related activities became legal as a result of the Cannabis Act. Under section 7 of the Bill, an individual who has been convicted of the charges referenced above would be able to apply to expunge such convictions from that individual’s record. The application would be free of charge and if approved by the Parole Board, would then be sent to the RCMP, who would then be responsible for expungement on an expedited basis.

Today, the Bill was defeated at its Second Reading. Out of 286 total votes, only 61 votes were in favour. The remaining 225 were against passing the Bill, with both the Conservative and Liberal party votes comprising the majority of the votes in opposition. Prior to the Second Reading, Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale commented that expungement is an “extraordinary” measure that is only intended to be used when the injustice is inherent in the law itself. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh challenged Goodale’s rationale, citing the history of a disproportionate number of cannabis convictions in marginalized, racialized, and Indigenous communities. 

What now?

Now that the Bill has been defeated, it appears that only avenue for individuals who were previously convicted of simple possession of cannabis is to apply for a Record Suspension. As of April 8, 2019, the federal government, through Bill C-93, will allow Canadians who have been previously convicted only of simple cannabis possession to apply for a Record Suspension with no application fee or wait period, once their sentence has been served.

It is important to note that a Record Suspension is not equivalent to the expungement proposed in the Bill. According to section 2.3(b) of the Criminal Records Act, a Record Suspension “requires that the judicial record of the conviction be kept separate and apart from other criminal records and removes any disqualification or obligation to which the applicant is, by reason of the conviction, subject under any Act of Parliament…”

In other words, a Record Suspension does not eliminate the fact that an individual was convicted of an offence; it merely seals their criminal record and erases any disqualification that may be imposed under Canadian federal law. If an individual was granted an expungement, as described in the Bill, the individual is deemed never to have been convicted of the offence. This distinguishing factor may impact an affected individual’s employment, travel, housing, or volunteer prospects due to the fact that an individual who received a Record Suspension would still be required to answer “yes” if asked if he or she has a criminal conviction. It is unclear whether Bill C-93 will alleviate the concerns put forward by the members of the NDP party, but only time will tell.


Comments (3)

  1. Jules:
    Dec 29, 2018 at 12:53 AM

    Fascinating article. Very in depth. My one question is: from where would Canada import cannabis? Are there countries currently exporting cannabis legally? Uraguay seems like the most economical source, although shipping costs could be an issue.

  2. miss lena:
    Feb 24, 2019 at 01:52 PM


    All labels will need to be plain, not appealing to children, and make no health claims. For edibles, there may be no dietary claims, and for topicals, there may be no cosmetic claims. For all of the new product classes, packaging and labelling must not contain any elements that associate the product with an alcoholic beverage, alcohol, or an alcohol brand.

  3. miss lena:
    Feb 24, 2019 at 01:52 PM

    All labels will need to be plain, not appealing to children, and make no health claims. For edibles, there may be no dietary claims, and for topicals, there may be no cosmetic claims. For all of the new product classes, packaging and labelling must not contain any elements that associate the product with an alcoholic beverage, alcohol, or an alcohol brand.






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