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Bill S-212: Vancouver Rape Relief’s submission to the Senate Committee on Legal And Constitutional Affairs

By Laurel McBride
June 1, 2023


We emphatically support the aim of Bill S-212: to promote community integration by removing barriers to essential needs such as housing and employment. In recognition of the class and race inequities that are rampant in our criminal legal system, the bill’s intention to shift the burden of obtaining record relief away from individuals who’ve been criminalized is laudable. 

Reinforcing what others have raised, what we hear from women who have histories of criminalization, is that they do not have the resources to navigate the cost and complexities of seeking a record suspension and because of that, do not get the benefit of it.


We are pleased to see a provision that will disallow the disclosure of convictions in criminal record checks for offences that are now decriminalized. Our criminal code rightly no longer (for the most part) criminalizes women who are in prostitution. However, as a result of our previous laws, many were unjustly saddled with criminal records that continue to interfere with their ability to exit the sex industry, find meaningful employment and contribute to their communities through volunteering. We are part of The Women’s Equality Coalition and we have been calling for the expungement of all records of convictions under Criminal Code articles 210.1 and 213(1)(c), which have since been repealed. 


When we examine the crisis of femicide in this country, it is clear that the state’s approach to violent men is faulty and leaves women vulnerable to homicide by their male partners. 

We agree with Senator Pate that “criminal record checks alone will never be an effective means of protecting people from harm.”  

We see time and time again that men are charged with assault and uttering threats, and released back into the community with no meaningful oversight to ensure they do not make good on those threats. Last year in B.C., five women were murdered by a current or ex-male partner that were released on conditions to stay away from these women. These orders did not protect them. We desperately need robust mechanisms to ensure that women and their children are protected from men who pose grave risks to them. 


Further, the state’s response to women who report incidences of sexual assault against them is abysmal. 

Less than 5% of sexual assault cases recorded by police in Canada result in a trial

Only 3.5% of sexual assault cases recorded by police in Canada result in a conviction of the perpetrator. [1]

It is evident that the state fails to hold men who choose to rape or sexually assault accountable in any genuine way, with women bearing the brunt of that decision. 

We have long held the belief that men can change. That the misogyny that permeates our social relationships and institutions is not inherent and can be altered with sufficient political and individual will. The criminal legal system must be transformed to deliver justice, to deal with the frequency and pervasiveness of men’s violence and to finally send the message to those who would commit such acts against women that it will not be tolerated.  


We appreciate that the bill makes an “exception to permanent and definitive expiry of records.”

Women routinely tell us that their motivation for reporting a sexual assault to the police is to protect other women from their attacker. They are told by the system that even if their efforts do not result in a conviction, it will not be in vain because the fact he’s been investigated for sexual assault will be available to police should another woman report too, and this may result in police taking a complaint more seriously knowing this is not the first time. 


Issues of public safety are currently dominating the public discourse. While the causes of violence are complex and multi-factoral, there are many public policy responses that CAN improve the lives of many Canadians and decrease the prevalence of violence in our society:

The implementation of a robust social safety net that includes Guaranteed Livable Income; safe, affordable and long-term housing; on-demand voluntary substance use treatment programs and mental health support; concrete support for and recognition of the right of Indigenous women to parent their children; and an end to the detention and deportation of migrants.  

A paradigm shift is needed in Canada. Our current austerity-minded policies trap people in poverty and often, criminality, rather than giving them a hand up. With costs of essential goods rising at extraordinary rates, more and more are pushed into economic precarity. Programs that respond to their realities are not exorbitant luxuries that would be nice to have – they represent the minimum requirements for a healthy society that values everyone. 

[1] Based on the most recent 3 years data available in Statistics Canada: Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, police services in Canada and Adult criminal courts, number of cases and charges by type of decision.

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