Pubdate: Wed, 30 Dec 2015
Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Chatham Daily News
Page: A4


When someone is charged with a crime, the laws in place at the time 
of the offence dictate how that individual will be punished if 
convicted. The exception is outlined in Section 11(i) of the Charter 
of Rights and Freedoms, which states: "Any person charged with an 
offence has the right . . . if found guilty of the offence and if the 
punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of 
commission and the time of sentencing to the benefit of the lesser punishment."

The Charter says nothing about granting amnesty to a convicted 
individual whose offence later ceases to be a crime. That's why, if 
marijuana is legalized in Canada, the legislation should not come 
with an amendment that allows all those previously convicted of 
possession of marijuana to be pardoned and have their criminal 
records expunged.

The number of Canadians charged with possession each year runs into 
the tens of thousands. Pardons would have to extend not just to the 
citizen caught with a small amount, but to notorious suppliers and 
dealers as well.

Proponents of legalization argue a marijuana possession conviction 
can play havoc with an individual's life, including gaining 
employment and travelling across the border into the U.S. That's 
unpleasant, but these are adults who knew they were breaking the law. 
They should face the consequences of their behaviour.

When asked about the possibility of pardons, Justice Minister Jody 
Wilson-Raybould remained vague, but dropped one hint that would 
suggest she may be considering it. "We will certainly look to have 
more to say about how we're going to move forward. But that includes 
actually having conversations . . . with different levels of 
government and ensuring we speak to Canadians who have been impacted."

Canadians "who have been impacted" will no doubt speak up with one 
voice demanding amnesty.

A good precedent for handling a change in the law was set with the 
faint hope clause, which allowed prisoners with life sentences to 
apply for parole after 15 years behind bars, 10 years ahead of 
schedule. That clause was repealed in 2011, but those who had been 
imprisoned before then are still eligible to apply, even though the 
clause no longer exists. Anyone sentenced to life after the repeal is 
not eligible. What was in force previously stayed in force when the 
law changed.

The federal government should not equate existing marijuana 
convictions to innocence.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom