Prison Bars

Consider making some pardons automatic: MPs

A criminal record can hinder a person’s ability to get a job, find housing, go to school or travel, committee members say in a report

A panel of MPs wants the federal government to look at making criminal pardons automatic for some offenders who have served their sentences.

The House of Commons public safety committee also suggests lowering the $631 fee for a pardon and simplifying the often complex process for applicants.

A criminal record can hinder a person’s ability to get a job, find housing, go to school or travel, committee members say in a report tabled without fanfare just before the parliamentary holiday break.

Under changes brought in by the former Conservative government, lesser offenders — those with a summary conviction — must wait five years instead of three before they can apply to the Parole Board of Canada for a pardon.

Offenders who have served a sentence for a more serious crime — an indictable offence — must wait 10 years instead of five.

In addition, the application fee quadrupled to $631 from $150 to ensure full cost recovery, and the name for a pardon was changed to the more neutral-sounding term “record suspension.”

Wayne Long, the New Brunswick Liberal MP whose motion prompted the committee review, told the MPs that sometimes, often early in life, mistakes lead to criminal records.

“As a society, we need to be able to provide deserving citizens with a second chance,” he said. “Unfortunately, for many Canadians, especially those in low-income situations, the criminal justice system often fails to provide a second chance.”

He spoke of a single mother with an excellent work record who was offered five well-paying jobs over a six-month period.

“These offers were all rescinded when it was revealed she had a summary offence on her record. She stole a pair of jeans in 1998 — her one and only offence. Now Susan cannot find quality employment, and she cannot afford the cost of a criminal record suspension,” Long said.

“To somebody living in poverty, $631 is an insurmountable amount of money.”

Conservative MP Jim Eglinski, a committee member, questioned the notion of the government absorbing all costs of pardon processing, suggesting instead that only people of limited means receive assistance.

Ultimately, the committee recommended the government review the fee structure. It also called for consideration of measures to make the process “more accessible,” as well as another look at the term “record suspension,” given that some offenders appreciate the significance of being pardoned by society.

The MPs also recommended the government examine “a mechanism to make record suspensions automatic in specific and appropriate circumstances.”

They did not provide examples of such circumstances. However, during the committee hearings, the John Howard Society of Canada proposed the idea of automatically closing a criminal record once an offender had completed their sentence and a crime-free period had passed.

Such a system would eliminate the costs and unfairness of the current system, said Catherine Latimer, executive director of the charitable organization, which presses for criminal justice reforms.

The Liberal government said two years ago it would review the Conservative changes that made people wait longer and pay more to obtain a pardon.

(Canadian Press)

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Local Cowichan youth shines in national writing contest

Cowichan Tribe member Danika Smith places fifth in her category in Indigenous Arts & Stories contest

Child hit and killed in driveway in Cobble Hill

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Cobble Hill’s Price sprints to first Dirt Cup championship

Robbie Price’s first win on the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series… Continue reading

Cowichan police warn of cryptocurrency scam

More than $64,000 in losses so far

Campers hailed heroes in rock face rescue at Cowichan Provincial Park

The campers quickly noticed the man in distress and jumped into the river to swim across.

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Most Read