Maxime Bernier supports NDP bill to expunge past pot convictions

A Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf flies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 5, 2004. On Oct. 17, 2018, marijuana use will become legal in Canada, prompting the NDP to call for expunging prior pot convictions. Photo from Getty Images.

It’s not every day that you see a former Conservative minister agree with an idea tabled by the NDP.

But that’s exactly what happened this week when Quebec MP Maxime Bernier threw his support behind a new bill tabled by the New Democrats.

The former foreign affairs minister tweeted Thursday that he agrees with the stance taken by the NDP on pot-related criminal convictions on the heels of legalization.

“Our criminal justice system should stop making life difficult for the half million peaceful Canadians with a record for simple pot possession, and should focus on real criminals,” Bernier said.

In August, Bernier announced he was leaving the Conservatives to start his own party: the People’s Party of Canada. And it appears this new political venture actually sees eye to eye with the NDP on at least one issue.

The private member’s bill tabled by NDP MP Murray Rankin calls for the federal government to create a pathway for Canadians with cannabis-related convictions to have their records expunged. The bill, known as C-415, was introduced in the House less than two weeks before marijuana becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

Rankin told the Commons “over 500,000 Canadians have a criminal record for cannabis possession” and it affects various aspects of their day-to-day lives.

“This bill would allow people to wipe from their records all cannabis convictions for things that will be perfectly legal within two weeks,” Rankin said. “This bill is about righting past wrongs, and it would help hundreds of thousands of Canadians to get on with their lives.”

Bill C-415 would also get rid of the costs associated with getting a pardon, which Rankin said starts at $631 just to apply “under the current broken pardons system.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also voiced his support for the bill, saying many Canadians continue to face “real hardship” for being associated with a drug that will soon be legal from coast to coast.

Simply put, Canadians shouldn’t be punished for what will soon be a completely legal activity,” Singh wrote on Twitter. “Too many people face unnecessary barriers for simple possession of cannabis – like finding a job or an apartment.”

Rankin suggested this should be the type of bill all parties should be able to get behind.

“It’s a question of justice, and I’m hopeful that the Liberals will see it in that way and not as a partisan issue,” Rankin told CTV News.