Last month marked the ten-year anniversary of the Safe Streets and Communities Act – the omnibus tough on crime bill that was driven by a punitive political agenda. The bill enacted a slate of punitive, politically-driven changes to Canada’s criminal justice system, including new mandatory minimum sentences and increased prison time for cannabis-related convictions. It also overhauled the Criminal Records Act, putting in place longer wait times and stricter standards for accessing a pardon (which it renamed “record suspension”). It introduced broad ineligibilities, entirely foreclosing the path to record suspensions for people found guilty of certain crimes, no matter their individual circumstances or how long ago their sentences had ended.
Coalition member Samantha McAleese marked the dark anniversary in a recent op-ed – and outlined the path that needs to be taken to undo the harms of the bill and introduce truly transformative change for individuals and communities. Read the full op-ed here.