What the 2012 Changes in Canada’s Record Suspension Policy Really Means

Prior to 2012, the Canadian government had made some significant reforms in the record suspension system of Canada. One of these changes included increasing the amount of waiting time before people could apply for their record suspension. These changes were made under the Harper Conservative government at the time.

There have been some speculations stirring up about these changes though. Some of the courts in Ontario and British Columbia have declared that these changes, particularly concerning the increased waiting time in order to apply for the Pardon, is in direct violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

How it was before 2012

There were two fixed waiting periods that depended on the severity of the crime committed. Minor or less severe crimes called “Summary Offenses” included possession of marijuana under 30 grams, DUI, theft under $5000, assault, impaired and fraud under $5000 offences. These crimes didn’t require a full trial in the presence of jury. Summary offenses had a waiting duration of three years, after which the person was eligible to apply for their record suspension. The fines for Summary offenses weren’t heavy either. All a person had to do was serve the relatively short sentence, pay due fines, complete probation and wait for three years in order to apply for record suspension.

On the other hand, the more severe criminal actions classified as “Indictable offences” included aggravated assault, manslaughter, sexual assault, fraud over $5000, theft over $5000, and drug trafficking. The sentences for Inductible crimes were comparatively longer and the trail had to be conducted in the presence of the jury to reach a final verdict. A person committing an indictable offense had to serve his sentence, complete probation duration successfully, and then wait for five years, after which the person could apply for the record suspension.

Post 2012 changes

Supreme Court Justice Heather McNaughton concluded in April 2017 that the changes of 2012 violated the rights of some people having criminal records. The changes of 2012 meant that people who had been waiting and expecting their record suspensions according to the old format had to wait additional years even after their supposed waiting period ended because the new changes applied to them too. Ricky Chu is one such case who was expecting a record suspension in 2014. However, the 2012 changes have now extended his waiting time to 2019 under the new law. The Supreme Court findings case means that Ricky can apply for record suspension according to the old law and not the current one.

There seems to be mixed opinions about this. Some don’t think the 2012 changes make much of a difference while others agree that the changes have insinuations far beyond of extended waiting times. Supreme Court Justice Heather MacNaughton’s judgment has brought re-examination of the record suspension system in order, as it is unjust to alter the timelines for people waiting to apply for their record suspensions prior to 2012. These insights have introduced new contentions and factors that are coming into play that are likely to hinder the 2012 reforms from completely taking over the new law as numerous cases like Ricky Chu’s have similar implications.



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