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“These offers were all rescinded when it was revealed she had a summary offence on her record.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

Winter night’s delight at festival this Friday

Annual Snowflake Festival at Kinsmen Beach January 18th

Hurtling down the world’s mountains

Invermere’s Ben Thomsen having a stellar ski season

Mountainfilm on Tour returns

Event runs two nights this year, Feb 8-9th

Students lobby for a rainbow crosswalk

Council agrees to proposal for painted crosswalk at 13th Ave. and 13th St. intersection

Home values rise in Columbia Valley

30% rise in Canal Flats; 10% in Invermere

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

B.C. woman planned to donate a kidney to her husband, then found out she has cancer

Richard Stuart needs a kidney, his wife Tracy has been diagnosed with cancer

Rookie Demko backstops Canucks to 4-3 win over Sabres

Young Vancouver goalie makes 36 saves to turn away Buffalo

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

Most Read