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“These offers were all rescinded when it was revealed she had a summary offence on her record.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

Vis holding town hall meeting in Mission

Conservative Party candidate to speak on Thursday, March 28 at the Mission Leisure Centre

VIDEO: Mission fire crews extinguish brush fire behind Walmart

The CP Rail line had to be shut down temporarily in order to run hoses over the tracks

Angler reels in monster bass at Mill Lake Park

Jayden Kalmbach had been trying to land a prize bass for months at Abbotsford’s urban lake.

Teen who fires airsoft pistol into sports field prompts large police response

Takedown occurs Monday night on Trethewey Street in Abbotsford

Make a Difference auction raises $269,000 for Foodgrains Bank

Event at McClary’s Stockyard in Abbotsford crushes previous record

VIDEO: RCMP reveal five kids hit in deadly B.C. crash

The children range in age from six to 17.

Study: Why Canadian police should have a dedicated animal cruelty unit

People view fighting animal cruelty as a public responsibility

Convicted pedophile from B.C. raises fears after move to Ontario

Police have issued a warning about Madilyn Harks in Brampton

Mystery plane wakes up B.C. residents

An aircraft circled Langley City over the weekend after midnight for about an hour

Yellow snake spotted slithering in Greater Victoria neighbourhood

Police describe it as ‘large, pale [and] yellow’ suggesting the snake may be exotic

British Columbians are paying more for booze but also broccoli

Victoria’s inflation was 2.3 per cent, a tick above Vancouver’s of 2.2 per cent

UPDATED: IHIT investigating fatal crash in Surrey

Three people dead, investigators expected to be at scene ‘for significant amount of time’

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Most Read