This week, Ralph Mastromonaco, a member of the Fresh Start Coalition’s Steering Committee, published an op-ed in the Montreal Gazette, making the case for transformational reform of Canada’s record suspension system.
While it may be tempting for politicians to resort to “tough on crime” rhetoric and policies, Ralph explains, such policies do not keep Canadians safer. Indeed, changes to Canada’s criminal record regime in 2012 have had devastating impacts on people with past justice system involvement. As Ralph explains:
“We live in a society that has become less forgiving and more judgmental. The stigma of a criminal record seriously prejudices the ability of people to rebuild their lives, even after they have paid their debt to society. A criminal record significantly hinders a person’s ability to secure employment, pursue studies, obtain housing, credit, insurance, to travel or volunteer. This prejudice is all the more acute for Indigenous and racialized people who are disproportionately convicted and incarcerated by our criminal justice system.”
The op-ed advocates for the introduction of a spent records model, where an individual’s criminal record would be automatically sealed after a defined period of time. This model would help Canadians with criminal records move forward and rebuild their lives. As Ralph concludes: “I am convinced that Canadians believe in the promise of a second chance. Our laws must keep that promise.” Read the full op-ed here.