Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Canadian 'Justice': You Call This Rehabilitation?

Good morning Cyberspace. It has been some time since I've had the time necessary to sit down and write a blog. To fill you in briefly, my bid for City Council did not end with my election. Although I did manage to garner a respectable 11% of the vote for my District! I am looking forward to 2016 when I will be more prepared and more established for a better result. However, if that is to happen, I have to find a job and that what has spawned this post: my job search.

As some of my readers are already aware, I have a criminal record. I was charged with Driving Under the Influence under the Criminal Code of Canada in 2006 when I was still suffering from my substance abuse addiction. In fact, it was that accident that ultimately set me on my course to overcoming my addiction and raising myself out of the abyss. It was no easy task and not one I could have accomplished without a strong support network of family, friends and community; I truly am fortunate for not every addict I have met along the way has had my good fortune. 

Over the last year, the Harper Conservative majority government passed a crime Omnibus bill. Included, in particular, in this bill was the removal of the official Pardon process for people who have a criminal record into what is called a Suspended Sentence. Although this will be a very general statement, I encourage you to find out more about Suspended Sentences; you can easily Google the information. Basically a Suspended Sentence is just putting your file in a different pile than those with criminal records who have not been given a Suspended Sentence. It is not a Pardon. In fact, anyone who is no longer eligible for a Pardon (such as myself) can NEVER go to the United States because their law does not even recognize the Suspended Sentence. So how does this tie into the blog theme? Let me rant.

You see, I just graduated from my program in Advanced Public Relations and received top honors with an Achievement Award of Excellence for my program for the year. I am very well skilled in my field, even prior to attending the college, but am aware of the obstacles facing a recent graduate when seeking employment; not always the easiest search. With a loss in the election, I must find employment to afford to remain in the great Halifax Regional Municipality; if I don't, it's back to Yarmouth, with my parents, trying to struggle to get by.
Achievement Award of Excellence in Public Relations

So what's my beef? Well, Canada claims it's criminal justice system is based upon rehabilitation and not incarceration; that we work to re-integrate those who've faced troubled times, made bad decisions but are ready, willing and able to get the help needed to return to being active members of society. I call absolute bull shit on the system. It's a lie and it's a sham; I can prove it because I'm living it.

I am having difficulty finding a job in my field because I am inexperienced on paper; I am struggling with getting jobs that I am essentially perfectly qualified for because they require a criminal background check; I cannot get hired for a job that I'm overqualified for that pays above minimum wage (even though my skills, training, experience and education say I should be earning above that) because that requires a criminal background check; I am now back to looking for a job that pays minimum wage, if I'm lucky it's not a three month entry level training wage.

How is this rehabilitation? How is this restorative? In what way is this going to encourage me to remain a productive member of society? I made a mistake; a big one which I have paid dearly for but I paid my dues; I served my time; I paid back my debt to society both morally and legitimately through the legal system. I have remained clean; I have stayed out of trouble; I've committed no crimes; I have followed all the rules and yet, here I sit, writing this.

I want to share something with you, this, what I am facing, this is what turns people back to that lifestyle; this is what keeps criminals, criminals; what keeps the poor living in poverty; what spurs on substance abuse and violence; it is a complete disregard for the humanity of really good and decent people. I want to tell you something, fuck the justice system; I am a GREAT person and I do not deserve to be treated in such a manner. Why is it that I continue to suffer despite having done all that was asked of me to pay for my mistake?

If I declare bankruptcy (regardless of the amount owed, dollars to thousands to millions), my record is clear in five to seven years; five to seven years! I could owe people hundreds of thousands of dollars and opt out on it, declare bankruptcy and regardless of my behavior, in a few years it will be as though it never happened. I understand why we maintain criminal records but this is far too counter-productive to be called rehabilitation. I may not be in jail but I am hardly a free man.

Unless we do something to correct this, every good person who finds themselves in a situation where they have a momentary lapse in judgement and make one poor decision will forever struggle their entire life through unless, through some miracle of chance they are given an opportunity; that's what I'm looking for, my opportunity but the government, the justice system and Stephen Harper obviously do not believe I deserve to  have that. Why doesn't my criminal record become 'silent' or 'ghost' after five to seven years if I remain out of trouble, remain a productive member of society and continue to follow the rules? Why should it be a monkey on my back, regardless of getting a Suspended Sentence, for the entirety of the rest of my existence? Why did I plead guilty? Why did I pay my fine on time? Why did I get help? Why did I bother with any of it when I was just going to be slapped in the face for doing it? If I were the man I was a few years ago, I'd already be off down that dark path again given the difficulties in simply finding a decent paying job; even one I'm highly overqualified for.

So, what are my options? Why should I be forced to work a minimum wage job, live in poverty and struggle every day of my life to make ends meet for a mistake I have long since payed for both figuratively and literally? I'm sharing this so you know because most people who will read this know me and think highly of me and my abilities. I have gained their respect through persistence in good, noble actions and by being respectful of them. I have earned the right to have the freedom to pursue my dreams; my future; my desires; yet I don't.

Rehabilitation? No. Preparation for a life of crime, a life of poverty or a life of struggle. I'm tired of struggling. I have worked extremely hard and faced many trials over the last six years to arrive where I am today. I have fought many battles and come out, scarred, but ahead. I have earned the right to pursue my own happiness regardless of my past mistakes; why then, am I being forced back down into the abyss?