Ottawa urged to automatically seal criminal records for people without new convictions

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Dozens of civil society groups are urging the federal Liberals to fundamentally revamp the criminal pardon system by automatically sealing a person’s record once they have completed their sentence and lived in the community without new convictions.

The Fresh Start coalition, which brings together over 60 groups, says the reforms would promote the reintegration of people with criminal records into society, boost workforce participation and improve community safety.

The coalition includes the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Indigenous Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and the John Howard Society of Canada, as well as many smaller community organizations.

They say the current pardon system is expensive, cumbersome and ultimately prohibitive for many people, making it difficult for them to get on with their lives.

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High application fees, eligibility restrictions and a complicated process discourage or disqualify many from even applying for a pardon, now officially known as a record suspension.

The Liberals have promised to improve the system by making it easier and less expensive.

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