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“These offers were all rescinded when it was revealed she had a summary offence on her record.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

Kootenay Lake ferry to shut down Saturday afternoon

Service to resume Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m.

PHOTOS: Nelson climate strike packs downtown to demand action

An inter-generational crowd staged a ‘die-in’ as part of the global strike Friday

Service is status quo at Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue

Lengthy review of the regional fire department is now complete

Kootenay-Columbia incumbent MP responds to Trudeau brownface scandal

Stetski proud of NDP leader Singh’s reaction, which focused on people not power

Mystery illness killing Kootenay bees

Samples being sent to laboratories for analysis

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

B.C. Lions hype-man marks 15 years of cheers

Crazy P cheers, chants, bangs his drum and spreads a message of love

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Most Read