Black Communities In Ontario Seek Cannabis Amnesty

Earlier this week, the Canadian government announced a C$10 million mental health service aimed at Black communities. A welcome move, but it fails to address the racial disparities in cannabis arrests, say some community leaders.

In the face of the highly-publicized Black rights movements in the US, racism in Canada can often be overlooked. Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says she hopes this new mental health funding for programs in Black communities will help those facing such problems.

"We recognize that black Canadians face specific obstacles that others don't," Petitpas Taylor told Ottawa Citizen. "Many individuals certainly recognize that those are obstacles to receiving services that they need."

While this new initiative is being welcomed by some communities, many are left wondering when the racial disparities seen in cannabis-related arrests will be addressed. Some Black-rights activists like Richard Sharpe, who represents an organization called 613-819 Black Hub, are calling for amnesty from previous cannabis convictions.

"It seems like it would be the right thing to do for this government to move this along," said Sharpe. "Criminalizing and jailing our children is really silly, it is unjust and we should take the steps to rectify things."

And while a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the Canadian government will look into "how to make things fairer for Canadians who have been previously convicted for minor possession offenses" there have yet to be any real programs announced.

The Canadian government has taken little action in regards to previous cannabis convictions and the current Cannabis Act doesn't include any mention of pardons for past offenders.

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