Quebec Civil Society Groups Join the Call for Federal Action on Criminal Record Reform

MONTREAL — The Fresh Start Coalition announced today that several leading Quebec organisations are adding their voices to a growing chorus of groups urging the federal government to meaningfully reform the way Canada deals with criminal records.

The coalition now includes 85 civil society groups from across Canada that have come together to call on the federal government to implement a “spent records” regime – a regime that would automatically seal a person’s criminal record if they have successfully completed their sentence and lived in the community without further criminal convictions. Adopting a spent regime would promote reintegration, foster workforce participation, and improve community safety.

The Canadian government knows change is needed. In 2016, it promised to reform Canada’s arcane criminal record suspension regime. Over five years later, Canadians are still waiting for meaningful change.

“Record suspensions should be automatic for those who have successfully completed their sentence and lived in the community for years,” said Abby Deshman, Criminal Justice Program Director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “The federal government has taken some positive steps, particularly by reducing the application fee from nearly $660 to $50. Yet these steps must be followed up with transformative change. People with criminal records face challenges and barriers far beyond the financial cost of applying for a record suspension. If the government truly wishes to live up to its stated commitment to eliminating obstacles to reintegration, we must go further.”

“More than 800,000 Quebeckers have criminal records that will not be erased until they turn 125 – no matter how minor the offence they committed. People with past justice system involvement are deeply affected by their criminal records whenever they look for work or housing, travel across borders, or try to access car insurance or home insurance. The ASRSQ is joining the Fresh Start Coalition to propose concrete solutions aimed at fostering the reintegration of people with criminal records and thereby promoting community safety,” noted David Henry, Executive Director of the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec (ASRSQ).

“It’s worth highlighting that most women caught up in the justice system come from marginalized backgrounds. We applaud this initiative, which seeks to address an unjust situation that has – for far too long – hindered the reintegration of the women we work with,” added Ruth Gagnon, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Quebec.

“Our government must enact transformational reform of our pardon regime. Our society believes in the promise of a second chance. Our laws must keep that promise,” concluded Ralph Mastromonaco, lawyer and member of the Steering Committee, Fresh Start Coalition.

This week, the following Quebec organizations officially joined the coalition:

  • Association des avocats de la défense de Montréal-Laval-Longueuil (AADM)
  • Association des avocats de la défense de Québec (AADQ)
  • Association des avocats et avocates en droit carcéral du Québec
  • Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec (ASRSQ)
  • Association québécoise des avocats et avocates de la défense (AQAAD)
  • Clinique juridique de Saint-Michel
  • Elizabeth Fry Society of Quebec
  • John Howard Society of Quebec
  • West Island Black Community Association

The full list of coalition supporters is available online at: https://freshstartcoalition.ca/the-coalition-for-change.

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