Pardon Services Canada has begun a partnership with the Ontario Truck Driving School, focused on helping Ontarians with criminal records pursue a career in truck driving.
Chuck Mercier, Vice-President of Pardon Services Canada, said this will offer a solution to the declining number of truck drivers, while also providing past offenders with a job opportunity.
Most Canadians who have criminal records are not in the high risk category, Mercier said. Often, he said, a criminal record reflects something a person did a long time ago such as smoking a narcotic in their teens.
As many as twelve per cent of the population, four million Canadians, have a criminal record he said.
In today`s world, having a criminal record often means less access to employment, volunteer opportunities and no possibility of crossing the border, Mercier said.
“A lot of industries are experiencing difficulties with attracting people to their profession because they are limited in their abilities to travel in the workplace,” he said.
Crossing the border
Truck driving often requires crossing the border into the United States, which has prevented many people with criminal records from doing this job. Those who managed to get a truck driving job with a record, were required to stick to local routes.
The partnership aims to help people applying for record suspensions or waivers. If a person could be eligible if they have maintained a clean criminal record for at least five years and demonstrate good conduct.
A record suspension will seal their records, providing them with new employment opportunities and U.S. waivers, allowing them to travel into the United States and apply for a accelerated border-crossing card.
Although the partnership plans to help many past offenders get into truck driving, Mercier doesn’t think it will create a negative stigma around truck driving, or lead people to believe all truck drivers are criminals.
He said there are also many tradespeople, as well as professional people who have criminal records.
“We shouldn’t be fearful of them for the rest of their lives – that’s just totally unwarranted,” he said.
He added that rehabilitation is the fundamental principle of Canada`s justice system.
“It’s worked very well and that’s why we have such a vibrant community and a low recidivism rate among offenders, and again because we treat people with dignity and respect and allow them to move on from their past,” he said.