Here in Canada, it would be surprising if I came across someone who have not heard about Trayvon Martin, much less one who does not have an opinion to voice about the events that millions of people have been following over the past few months.
While I sympathize with Trayvon Martin’s family and friends, I cannot help but wonder why this particular case of violence has taken center stage. I read an interesting article by Actor Romany Malco where he outlines why he thinks there has been such widespread debate about Trayvon Martin. You can read it here.
The Trayvon Martin case is not the first time that gun violence has touched a community. One only has to Google “Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America” to see that violent crime is occurring on a daily basis. Just take into account Detroit, where statistics show that there is a 1 in 7 chance of becoming a victim of a crime. Where is the moral outrage? Where is the celebrity-led moment of silence?
Our prison system in America and Canada are disproportionately filled with minority men and women. Where is the moral outrage? Where is the national coverage?
In Canada, our Pardons (now called Records Suspension) process has been drastically overhauled. In the past, an individual who has been convicted of a summary offence could be eligible for a pardon after 3 years…today it has been increased to 5 years. For an indictable offence, it is now 10 years instead of 5 years.
In addition, the fee to apply for a pardon has been increased from $150 to $631.
There are many things that are wrong with these changes. In order to be able to apply for a pardon, one has to complete the full sentence.
Picture this, you have been charged with a summary offence and sentenced to 2 years in prison. At the end of your prison term, you are ready and eager to reintegrate into society. However, you have a criminal record and cannot easily acquire employment. You find out that you have to wait 5 years before you can apply for a Pardon (Records Suspension). What do you do for five years when you have no access to meaningful employment? As a human being, you have a right to food, clothing and shelter. However, because of a bad decision you made at one point in your life, you are trapped in a poverty-stricken environment waiting for the chance to untie the noose, that is your criminal record, from your neck.
If from sheer luck, you manage to survive for five years without resorting to crime, how can you afford to pay the application fee of $631?
All these barriers that are being placed in front of individuals who have criminal records are appalling. They have paid their debt to society by being locked away in a crowded prison. Why then are we continuing to punish them? We are only pushing them towards a life of crime.
Where is the moral outrage?