Good afternoon, everyone.
I am replacing our normal chair, . My name is Pierre Paul-Hus, and the best of luck to my colleagues in the governing party!
Today, we are continuing our study of motion M-161 on the record suspension program, introduced by Wayne Long.
In the first hour, we will be hearing from officials from the Parole Board of Canada and from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
I would ask Mr. Churney to begin his opening statement.
Good afternoon to the honourable members of the committee. I would like to thank you for the invitation to speak with you today in relation to your study on the record suspension program.
I would like to start by introducing myself and my two colleagues here with me at the table. I'm Daryl Churney. I'm the Executive Director General of the Parole Board of Canada. Joining me today are Brigitte Lavigne, who is the Director of Clemency and Record Suspensions at the PBC, and our colleague, Angela Connidis, Director General of Crime Prevention in the Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate at Public Safety.
We are pleased to appear before you today and to provide the committee with information about the record suspension program to help inform your study.
As you're likely aware, the PBC is an independent administrative tribunal that is part of the criminal justice system. It makes quality conditional release and record suspension decisions, orders expungement, and makes clemency recommendations.
The PBC contributes to the protection of society by facilitating as appropriate the timely reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens. Public safety is the primary consideration in all PBC decisions. Under the Criminal Records Act, the PBC may order, refuse to order or revoke a record suspension. A record suspension allows people who are convicted of a criminal offence but who have completed their sentence and demonstrated they are law-abiding citizens for a prescribed number of years to have their record kept separate and apart from other criminal records in the Canadian Police Information Centre, or CPIC, database. This means that a search of CPIC will not show that the individual has a criminal record.
However, that record does still exist and suspended records can be disclosed with the approval of the . For example, suspended records of former sexual offenders are flagged in the CPIC database, and therefore, if such an individual applies to work with vulnerable populations such as children or the elderly, that record may be disclosed.
Record suspensions fundamentally help to remove the stigma associated with a criminal record and assist individuals to reintegrate into society. They do this by assisting individuals to access employment, volunteer and educational opportunities. Record suspensions can also be ceased or revoked if the person is convicted of a new offence or is found to have made a false or misleading statement when applying.
Since 1970 more than 500,000 Canadians have received pardons and record suspensions, and 95% of these are still in force.
In 1994-95 the Treasury Board of Canada approved the introduction of a $50 user fee for the processing of a pardon application. That fee represented just a portion of the cost incurred by PBC and the RCMP to process such an application. Since the introduction of the user fee, the cost to the PBC to process a pardon application has risen. As an interim measure, a $150 user fee was adopted by Parliament and came into effect in 2010. The fee was further increased in March 2012 to $631, the present fee, based on a full-cost recovery approach that represented the cost of processing a pardon application following the coming into force of the Limiting Pardons for Serious Crimes Act. The $631 user fee also came with service standards.
In 2016 the board undertook an online consultation on the record suspension user fee and its related service standards. Stakeholders, including former, current and future record suspension applicants, advocacy organizations, indigenous groups and members of the public were invited to participate in that consultation. In 2017 PBC shared the results of this study. Their survey revealed that overall a majority of respondents, 63%, felt the current record suspension application process was long and complicated, hindering their access to the program. They also indicated that the time needed to gather information to support their application was too long and labour-intensive. This included having to deal with various police agencies and courts.
A majority of respondents, 80%, also indicated that the current user fee is high and represents a significant barrier as it imposes a financial burden that many applicants cannot afford. Eligibility periods were also seen as unfair and negatively affecting rehabilitation.
The current operating environment at the Parole Board is challenging due in part to recent litigation in Ontario and British Columbia as a result of court decisions. Changes made to the Criminal Records Act in 2010 and 2012 may no longer be applied retrospectively for applicants living in those provinces. As a result, applications must now be processed according to the legislative requirements in one of three versions of the Criminal Records Act. This means that the PBC must triage and process all applications it receives through three separate CRA schemes. Despite this challenge, the PBC continues to strive to ensure that the records suspension program is as accessible and as straightforward as possible for applicants.
Information on the application process is available on our website, including the official application guide and forms, an online self-assessment tool, a step-by-step video tutorial, a video on how to avoid common mistakes and a number of frequently asked questions. The board has also dedicated a 1-800 line for applicants, a walk-in service and a dedicated email address for applicants.
ln 2017-18, the PBC received 14,661 record suspension applications, about 75% of which were accepted for processing. The main reasons for not accepting applications at screening were that the person was found to be ineligible, a lack of payment or the wrong fee was remitted, and/or missing documentation. However, I would point out that service standards for processing were fully met for 99.9% of files.
Finally, I would like to thank the committee again for its invitation today. We look forward to answering your questions and helping inform your studies.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
What I can say is that the fee that is in place right now—the $631—falls under the umbrella of the Service Fees Act and that fee is set by order in council under the authority of the minister. As an administrative tribunal, we are obligated to charge that fee. We do not have discretion to waive that fee or to process it in installments.
I mentioned in my opening statement that in 2016 the board had undertaken an online consultation to solicit feedback on these kinds of questions. Some of the questions posed to individuals, the public and organizations were with respect to the structure of the fee itself and whether it should look like something else.
One such scenario was whether you could construct a scheme whereby there is an initial screening fee, so that the person pays a nominal amount to have their application received and vetted, ensuring that everything is complete and satisfactory. Then, if the board decides that it is such, the person would pay a second installment to finish out the process. That was one such scenario that was contemplated.
Certainly, there are other schemes that could be contemplated, but I would just reiterate that under the scheme we have right now we are obligated to administer the $631 in full.
That surprises me. That answer is actually quite shocking. Spending 35 years as a police officer here, it's the first time I've heard that there are records being held by courthouses in other jurisdictions.
I understood there was one central depository in Canada that had the records. You sent fingerprints there, because fingerprints had to be verified. Now you're telling me that a local community or department can say that you have a criminal record, when they don't even have the authority or the jurisdiction, I understand, in Canada to give you that. That really bothers me.
I want to continue on, following on the theme of Mr. Picard.
I am concerned. The fee you're asking people to pay is a sizeable amount but not unrealistic. As a former mayor of the city of Fort St. John, we charged for a criminal record check. If you wanted to get a criminal record check, you went to the local RCMP detachment. I imagine you did the same in your municipal police force. We charged you to get that record, because there were a lot of them coming in. We needed to recuperate our costs. I imagine that you are trying to do the same with your $631.
What really starts to irk me is that now you're saying to a local person that he has to get local police record checks within the last five years. If I'm an engineer and I work in construction, I may have lived in seven or eight places in the last five years. In every one of those places, if it happened to be a municipality in Canada, there's going to be a charge for me to get that record, for you to add on to this document. If I don't have that, this document is not going work and I can't put my application in. There's an additional cost. We're probably climbing to the $1,000 mark.
I'm really surprised at your comments about the local police record checks and why they're needed. I find that very alarming.
Now, is the $631 to recuperate your costs of doing the process?
Yes, it is. The $631 is based on a full cost recovery program.
When the assessment was done and when the legislative amendments were brought into force in 2012, the $631 was brought in at the same time. We had done an assessment to determine the cost of administering the entirety of the program. That includes screening, any investigation done by the Parole Board, decision-making done by the Parole Board member, related program support in terms of administrative services, any regional support, information services and technology that the board uses, internal services in terms of offsetting the cost of finance, HR, technology and communications, etc. It includes legal services and all of those components that go into running the full cost of the record suspension program.
The program is entirely funded by that $631 fee.
This is an important matter, and it is related to one of the questions that I wanted to ask. Here is my position, my political party's position. With first offences that are non-violent, and even with some minor crimes, there could be an automatic pardon or the record could even be automatically expunged. I am thinking specifically about a current issue, such as possessing a tiny quantity of cannabis for recreational use.
You listed the various factors that make up the cost. What would be the cost of expunging a minor offence, something along the lines of the example that Mr. Eglinski has just provided?
I understand that you cannot take a position on that, but, if there were a cost, would it be higher or lower than the current cost of administering the system?
I want to go back to pursue the whole process. You indicated that you review files, and depending on the file and whether it's summary or indictable, the seriousness of that file, you receive a copy of it. You basically read the investigation. You determine the seriousness of the file based on what the report says.
My question, though, relates to records retention policies. In all jurisdictions in this country, we have such policies, and if someone's applying for a pardon five and 10 years out, in a lot of those cases, especially in summary conviction offences, those records are gone from that individual organization. They're gone.
In that case, how do you make your determination and adjudicate those particular applications?
I can't really speak to the internal policy conversation of the government but I can say, from the board's perspective, that we are continually trying to look at what we can do within the jurisdiction and parameters that we exist with to make things easier for the applicant. There are a number of resources available online for the applicant, and we try to make sure those are up to date and current.
We are also taking a look to see whether we can explore something like an online application process for individuals. Everything is manual. That's, I would suggest, antiquated in some ways. We are in the 21st century. A lot of people do use computers and do run their lives on computers, so would there be a way for us to make the application process accessible online? We're starting to look at that. All of our IT services are provided by Correctional Service Canada, and therefore, anything we want to do we have to negotiate with CSC and determine the cost impact for that, and then find a source of funds to do that. That's one thing we're taking a look at.
We're also taking a look at internal mechanisms, such as the database the Parole Board uses, to manage the infrastructure of the program. Again, it's quite antiquated. It probably should be updated to something that's a little bit more current and expedient. Again, that's something we're looking at internally to see if that can help contribute to the process.
Thank you for welcoming me here today, particularly on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.
First, I would like to acknowledge our presence on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation.
I wish to thank Kassandra Churcher, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, and Sarah Davis, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, for asking me to appear on behalf of Ms. Churcher who is unfortunately unable to attend today.
I find myself in a liminal space, as I am not a member of the Elizabeth Fry Society, but before I became a nurse, I worked for the Parole Board of Canada as a record suspension officer from October 2012 until August 2016. I screened thousands of applications and investigated half as many summary level cases as, in general, the expectation was to screen 10 files per day and open five investigations.
From my experience as a record suspension officer, and as a nurse in a supervised consumption site, working with some of the most marginalized people in our society, I am well aware of the benefits of and barriers to record suspension. As was shared with you previously, 95% of the approximately 500,000 pardons and record suspensions that have been granted or ordered since 1970 are still in effect. Of course, I cannot break the confidentiality of my clients, past and present. However, I can speak generally of the experiences of clients who have applied or who are unable to apply for record suspensions.
To address the subject, I will ask that you do a thought experiment with me.
Recall a moment in your life when you made a social gaffe, something innocent but something you now regret. Let's call this X. If you have a spare bit of paper, feel free to make a big X on it. This X is your criminal record. In the now of social media, this gaffe will follow you wherever you go and be the first thing that comes up when anybody searches your name on the Internet. This is what my clients have faced whenever they have sought, for example, employment in the mainstream economy, to volunteer at their child's school, to gain admission to teacher's college or to travel to the United States. If they are able to apply for a record suspension, it's like being able to turn that page over. The X is still there, but they are able to pursue paths that were closed to them.
The palpable relief that I was so seldom able to hear from my clients when they received their record suspension was gratifying. I would often speak to my clients when they were seeking advice on their applications or when they were in the process of applying. The amount of distress that they were in was sometimes overwhelming. They were revisiting that X and all the circumstances that surrounded it, trying to navigate the justice system in the opposite direction, and trying to discern all of the very formal and legal language. They knew that they were going to be re-evaluated in the light of that X once again, and they wanted to get it right the first time.
Without going into specifics, I recall a client who was able to reach me who was waiting to have their file reviewed by a board member. There was quite a backlog at the time, and normally no exceptions were made. However, they told me that they had been accepted into a one-year professional program at a university on a full scholarship and that if they did not receive a record suspension that day, although they had applied with a lot of lead time—approximately six months in advance—their acceptance would be rescinded. I was able speak with a board member and I explained the circumstances. The board member agreed to look at the file and ordered a record suspension that day. Because this person received a record suspension, this person was able to go school and avoid losing the scholarship and having to go for four years.
Many of the people I work with now, especially women, would like to apply for a record suspension. However, because their income is so low and they live in precarious housing, even if they are eligible, they cannot even scratch together the approximately $85 to get fingerprinted and to request a copy of their criminal record. Indeed, the city of Ottawa is a place of privilege in comparison to others as these services are available in close proximity.
I would not want to be a single parent living in a rural area and attempting to apply, as the barriers to reach such necessary services as fingerprinting, courthouses, police and postal services would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming.
In my practice as a nurse, because of my background as a record suspension officer, I have been offering record suspension consultations to my clients. The most common barrier that I have encountered is that many of my clients have outstanding fines. They are shocked and saddened to realize that because they owe money, the five- or 10-year clock has not even started to tick for them.
On the other hand, when my clients have tried to research the process of applying for a record suspension, they've encountered unscrupulous agencies offering services that practically guarantee a record suspension at the end, only to be told that they must pay very high fees to even start the process. So there they remain at the margin, unable to pay their fines as they are on social assistance, unable to find a reasonably well-paying job to escape their precarious housing because of their criminal record, and unable to find a way to have a chance to apply for a record suspension.
I would like to thank the committee for its time today. I have provided copies of the record suspension application guide as a reference for your discernment. Should you have any questions, I would welcome them in English or in French.
It's a pleasure to be here. This is a subject that's very important to the John Howard Society of Canada.
We believe that, under the Criminal Records Act, the current regime for relieving the prejudicial effects of a criminal record is fraught with problems. In fact, we received a grant from the Canadian Bar Association's law for the future fund some time ago to conduct a study of the criminal record system, which really hinders the post-sentencing reintegration of so many with whom we work.
The John Howard Society is a charity committed to just, effective and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime, which has local offices in all provinces and serves more than 60 communities.
In the interest of time, I'll focus my introductory remarks here on how to improve the system and refer you to the study that we did, which I'm happy to send to your offices via email, if you're interested, so that I can just focus on these issues.
It is our belief that legislative reform of the Criminal Records Act is needed. The indicated in January 2016 that the government was prepared to amend the Criminal Records Act, but no amendments have been proposed to date.
We think that the focus of a new act should be to promote public safety by supporting the successful reintegration of those who have completed their criminal sentences and to achieve fairness and efficiency in the process. The object is not to forgive a person's past criminal wrong, but to recognize that the debt to society has been discharged by the completion of the sentence imposed by the courts and to allow the person to be restored to the community, as a contributing member without the continuing penalization of the past wrong. People should no longer be unprotected from discrimination in housing, employment, education and other areas of civil society because of a spent criminal record. This should be achieved through a fair and efficient process.
Some of the weaknesses that we have identified with the existing system include discriminatory application and results. As you have already heard, the $631 service fee is unaffordable for many and is a true barrier to many who deserve closure of their criminal record. The ineligibility is hard to understand, which denies the possibility of rehabilitation, due to certain types of offences and this is really not supported by the evidence.
For all of us at the John Howard Society, I think that when we see someone who had a serious criminal past change their life and lead a crime-free present and transition into a crime-free future, we say, “Hallelujah. This should really be rewarded.” Our concern—and this came up in the discussion—is that it should be for indictable offences, as well as summary offences, because those are the ones you really want to see change their lives around.
We think that the extended crime-free period is punitive and that, back in 2012, the rationale for doing that didn't seem to be based on any clear evidence, so there is no logical basis for the extension of those crime-free periods.
We consider illiteracy or cognitive impairments to be a real problem. The current process is complicated and requires significant literacy skills to wend your way through that process. People with marginalized and disordered lives are disadvantaged in a process that requires individuals to retain a lot of information about their past, so it's come up that those who move around have to go back to various communities. This is really difficult for people with unstable backgrounds, in terms of housing, addiction or periods of incarceration.
The one that I find truly concerning is that, once you receive a record suspension or a pardon, you're protected from discrimination in areas of the federally regulated sector, under the Canadian Human Rights Act and under provincial human rights acts. What you're having though is equally entitled people, who should get these types of human rights protections but who are not getting them, because they don't have the monetary resources to pay the fee. Therefore, you're denying people access to human rights based on wealth, which I think is a real fundamental concern.
As has been indicated by some of the previous speakers, the process itself is riddled with inefficiencies and unfairness, so it's a very complicated application process. This leaves people vulnerable to private interests that often profit from assisting people with applications, which has been mentioned.
As part of the current process, there are also peculiar things that you have to establish, like the measurable benefit of the record suspension. It relieves people from facing discrimination. Why you would have to prove that this is a measurable benefit to an individual is somewhat axiomatic and takes up a lot of time as part of the process. I think it's sort of clear on its face.
There is also a very onerous investigation process and often arbitrary criteria that the Parole Board is required to use. Whether someone has been of good behaviour—not whether they've incurred additional criminal penalties—is really subject to some varying judgments on what constitutes good behaviour. If we don't like the way they're recycling, does that constitute bad behaviour? If they're getting a lot of parking tickets, does that constitute bad behaviour that would deny them the benefits of a record suspension? Also, pulling the administration of justice into disrepute is also somewhat of a vague criterion. When someone has completed a crime-free period after committing the crime, why would closing their sentence pull them into disrepute?
There are also long backlogs with the current process that need to be addressed.
I only have one minute. The solution that we're looking at is an automatic closing of records once the sentence has been completed and the crime-free period has been met. This works now in Canada in the youth criminal record system. It avoids the costs, unfairness and arbitrary decisions of the adult record system. This would require removing the Parole Board as the decision-maker on these and involving the RCMP, which is the manager of the CPIC system. They would know whether there had been problems with the crime-free period in that intervening time. Their portion of that $631 administration fee is less than $50, so it would really cut down on your expenses.
We also need to define what's a criminal record. Police will want to share access to other types of investigatory records, but you really want this to apply to the conviction records and to be protecting people from that. You need some clear definitions of what you're talking about in criminal records. What we prefer in terms of nomenclature is “open” or “closed” records with possibility of reopening criminal records if there's subsequent criminal activity.
Just so you know, this is definitely new to me and you can probably tell I'm a bit nervous. Coming from where I'm coming from, and being in a room of this magnitude, set up in this form, is definitely intimidating, to say the least. It's my first time, and you're going to have to bear with me. It will take a minute to get rid of the nerves, but I'm sure that in due time everything will roll pretty smoothly, as I'm protected by the higher power, no question about it.
The first thing I wanted to speak about is the accessibility of the application process. Speaking from my experience, being from a low-income, marginalized community, I can say that the application is definitely not, generally speaking, accessible.
Now I had the gracious opportunity to go on to university. Many young people in my community just don't get that opportunity. In fact, most of us end up either in jail or, sad enough to say, dead. I'm here today to represent my membership, the 7th Step Society. Most of our core group members are ex-offenders, so I'm more than humbled to be here to speak not only on my behalf, because I have my criminal record suspension now, but for my fellow group members who, sad enough for them, don't have that.
Funnily enough, when I got the criminal record suspension, I didn't feel any different. In fact, it brought up old memories and it made me feel like a criminal again. It almost made me feel like asking, why did I go through such an arduous process?
I brought the application along. I remember when I first decided.... I waited extra long. I knew the time period was five years, and then 10 years for indictable offences, so I actually waited 15 years because I was too intimidated to even approach the process. I just didn't know how to go about it, and I definitely knew that I couldn't afford it, no question about it. The $631 was a deterrent, not even a thought, and I had to wait till I had actually saved up the money and had some support from friends who were willing to help me out during the time that I was getting ready to graduate from university and apply to law school. It was very important, obviously, that I had all my ducks in a row, so that I wouldn't meet some of the same issues that we heard here.
For me, the $631 is the obvious deterrent, because that's the application process fee, but what we didn't hear today are those other fees that are attached to this application. When I go through and look at the 10 steps.... I was very diligent in taking my time and going through each one, because I just didn't have the means to hire a lawyer. For me, getting the criminal record check, that cost money. Getting all the information that is actually required throughout this process costs money, and it adds up. When you don't have that money to spend, these things become deterrents for you.
Now, that's only one thing. The next issue is that you have a lengthy time period to wait just to get some of these documents to put the application together. I remember when I started my application. I started it because, just like I said, I wanted to be prepared to apply to law school. It took literally almost two years to put this application together. I remember when I first got it together. It's a pretty big document, and I remember just holding it. I was so happy with myself, because I had actually accomplished, you know, going through 10 steps of very scrutinizing....
I don't even know how to describe it, revisiting my past in a way that just brought up some old nightmares, to say the least. I'd changed my life for so long that it just brought up some old memories that I really didn't want to be thinking about.
I remember when I finally reached that 10th step. It's the checklist, and you actually have to go through the checklist. It's a part of your application; you have to put it in there. I was just so happy to put that stamp on there and put it in the mail. I was just extremely happy. Then I just remember waiting and waiting and waiting for so long that I actually forgot I had applied for a criminal record suspension, until one day I get home and I get this letter. I'm not going to read the whole letter. It would just take up too much of my seven minutes.
I will read the very bottom part of it for you. It says, “Accordingly, the Parole Board proposes to refuse your request for a record suspension. Please note that this is not the Board's final decision in regard to your application. You and/or someone on your behalf are entitled to make any written representations that you feel are relevant to this matter for the Board's consideration before a final decision.
I was broken. I was devastated. I was stressed out. It literally just took me right out of my current livelihood and brought me back 15 to 20 years. I didn't even know how to respond. I remember that when I first got it, right away, tears came to my eyes. I worked so hard—so hard—to prove that I was a law-abiding citizen. I worked so hard to pull my life together. I gave back so much time to my community, because that's all I knew growing up in my community. In fact, where I come from, we say that giving back is not a requirement. It's an expectation. That's what we do in order to support one another to come out of that marginalized situation.
What's so funny is that the organization I currently work for....
I'm here representing the 7th Step Society, as I'm an adamant volunteer in my community, and it's very important to me to support those who have been in the same position I have to reintegrate into society and to get to a place where they are very comfortable and happy with their lives.
I'm currently working for an organization called Common Good Solutions. We focus on social enterprise. You talked about the 2:1, and that's the lingo that we use, so you really made me feel comfortable. There's no question about it.
We're currently working on a project for Corrections Canada. That project is working towards an employment symposium, trying to figure out socially innovative ways to support that reintegration process, because at the end of the day, most of those people are having hard times finding jobs. Unless they know somebody, they are just not finding employment that is sustainable.
For the government jobs that can really hold us down, the ones that are sustainable and come with benefits, the first thing they ask you is, “Do you have a criminal record?” A lot of the major employers ask that very same question, and hence it creates a barrier.
This will be a question to both Louise and Catherine.
You both work in organizations that deal with not-the-average society of people, people who sometimes have problems. In their younger days, they may have committed a lot more than one offence, but they have changed and they have become strong people in the community. They're raising families, maybe, and stuff like that.
Again, I want to go back in your experiences. Do you find many of them reoffending? They've been away from it for 10 years, out of the element, away from the street gang. They're now businessmen and they're working in a career. Do you find many of them go back to offend? Can you give a percentage?
I do want to say on the record that I think that's a great question. You see on Facebook and Twitter these ads come up for these hack-job shops that deal with record suspension and parole, so thanks for that, Jim. I appreciate it.
I don't have many questions because I think a lot has already been said through your testimony. It's not a bad thing that we have less to say. It means it was straightforward.
Rodney, if I may say so, as my colleagues have said, you do us a service by being here and having the courage to talk about what you went through. Thank you for that. I really appreciate it.
It's sort of going back to the question that was just posed but maybe from a different angle.
Catherine, you raised this notion of something being automatic once there's been good behaviour, a fine paid or time served, depending on the circumstances. Our vision has always been if it's a non-violent crime, a first-time offence, a minor one or something like marijuana possession or any other thing you can think of—I use that example because it's rather current—is there a belief that...?
We could debate some of the details, but I think that's beyond where we are in this committee at this time. Perhaps a recommendation could be made that this needs to be looked at whether it means an automatic pardon, automatic expungement, or whoever is in charge putting those specifics aside and having something that would not require going through a process so that after a certain amount of time or behaviour or punishment served or whatever—I hate that term but for lack of a better one at the moment.... Is that something that should be looked at, something automatic so that you don't need to worry about it?
It's interesting, because it's obviously not your case, but the issue of literacy was raised. It reminds me of some of the issues we face with the CRA, when you get a letter and you have to flip through two or three pages and you're still left there. I'm an MP and sometimes if they say they want to audit a charitable donation I made or whatever, it's innocuous, but you read the letter and you think this could have been so much shorter just to tell me something that's way more straightforward than they're making it sound. You're reading that letter and it's almost as if you have to read three sentences before you understand that it was turned down and what the recourse is.
In doing the X exercise, you mentioned the age of social media. This is probably beyond the scope of this study and our committee's work. It's probably something more for the justice committee, but I'm wondering, and you alluded also to mental health treatment. It's probably particularly pertinent for those who don't serve any time but do get criminal records and would probably benefit from that.
Would it be worth looking at two things? First, I know we want maximum transparency for the public but it would be revisiting publication bans and how that works with regard to criminal records in the age of social media. I know it's not for us, but for another committee I think the question is worthwhile. Second, whether this should be more robust. How can I put it? I don't want to say “prescribing”, but it would be implementing mental health services for those who don't necessarily get time served but who are given a criminal record of some kind through the justice system.
I'll start with you, since you raised the issues, but hearing from the others with any time I have remaining would be great.
I'm going to be short for time again, am I, Mr. Chair?
I just have a couple of quick questions.
Mr. Small, you indicated that you had some struggles, and you ladies did as well. There are some individuals who apply for a pardon who might struggle with it, but I'm led to believe that in communities across the country, there are government-funded programs, like the eager and able to learn program, which will help individuals complete documents and forms. This is one of them. I've heard they do.
Is that not readily available? Mr. Small, you've never heard of it. Today is the first time you've heard of it. Those programs do exist.
I just want to get back to the other point. Ms. Dabrusin commented that before we used the word “pardon” and now we use the words “record suspension”. They don't mean anything different. That's the reality we're in, unfortunately. I have to disagree with the suggestion that the RCMP might be better able to manage a record suspension or pardon. In reality, as we heard from the Parole Board gentleman when he was here before, the record is removed from view. It is not removed.
Whether it's a young offender record or whether it's an adult record, it's still there.
I applaud you, Mr. Small, for the process you went through to get a record suspension. I personally like the idea of a pardon. It has a different connotation to it. It means more to the individuals who experience it and have to go through that.
In the time I have left, if you had a choice.... I know we heard your suggestion that the RCMP should be doing this. I think their resources are stretched far enough in doing this, but that's a different story.
Mr. Small, from your perspective, say you were to do one or two things to fix this. I don't know if you had a chance to read the motion proposed by Mr. Long on why we're here and why we're studying this particular idea. If you were to say, “We could do this, this and this to make this process work for the public safety side and to ensure that those who deserve to get a suspension get a suspension”, what comes to mind right off the top for you?