The Pathways to Pardons project is a pilot project to test and refine plans for a community-based program that supports Jane Finch residents who are seeking criminal record suspension. Jane Finch residents have experienced a high degree of criminalization, and a disproportionate percentage of residents have criminal records. Despite the fact that many community residents qualify for a record suspension (also known as a pardon), there are severe barriers that inhibit successful completion of the process. The record suspension process can be difficult to understand, the timeline is long, it requires complex coordination of documents and/or testimonials, it is expensive, and there is no assurance that applications will be successful. Additionally, many have experience with unethical “consultants” and “legal experts” who charge high fees in exchange for misleading information and empty assurances of a record suspension.
For many residents, the convictions that they carry are from a different life stage or for matters that are no longer even criminalized. These criminal records present unnecessary challenges to those who have not yet acquired a pardon. For instance, records can limit travel, reduce employment options, inhibit housing options, and can present problems in family court proceedings. A criminal record can be a source of indignity that reduces confidence pride in oneself. Many community residents are entitled to move on without a record but need support navigating the system.
Supported by a grant from the YUFA (York University Faculty Association) Community Projects, this pilot will enable a coalition of community groups to design a community-based program for record suspension that is specific to the Jane Finch context. Through this project we will:
Learn about the full range of options for people who are seeking a record suspension, with a view to developing a clear and accessible fact sheet suitable to circulation in the community
Assemble a series of three workshops with representatives from key groups to explore options for developing a community-based program around record suspension
Test the process by supporting two residents through the application process for record suspension
Develop a template for a more comprehensive program around a community-based program for record suspension.