Introduced originally as Bill C-23 and now part of Bill C-10 that combined nine pieces of legislation, the amendments extend the waiting period before an application can be made for a criminal record pardon. The waiting time has been increased to 10 years from five for serious personal injury offenses. The application waiting period was extended to five years from three for any other offence prosecuted by indictment.
These changes seem to be in conflict with the overall purpose of the pardon system.
Pardon legislation was instituted to give a second chance to individuals who had paid their debt to society.The rationale behind providing the service was to remove the barrier to employment that accompanied a criminal record.Once the time for eligibility for a pardon is lengthened the suffering of the individuals who have already paid their debt to society will increase. It will mean that their job prospects will be hampered for a longer period.
Asking persons who are attempting to lead a law-abiding life to wait five or 10 years before applying for jobs without the fear of discrimination seems to fly in the face of logic. These amendments won’t help to reduce the reoffending rates, which was the reason for putting the pardon system in place.
We had already struck a balance between providing a second opportunity for persons with a criminal record and protecting the wider society with the current application waiting periods. This is the reason I am surprised at the move to amend the pardon laws without the statistical data in support of change.
The Criminal Records Information Management Service controls over 2.8 million criminal records. These records show that since 1970, 400,000 Canadians have received pardons. Approximately 96 per cent of the pardons granted still remain in place today. This means only four per cent of the persons granted pardons reoffended. A four per cent reoffending rate is not significant enough a number to warrant changes to the pardon system.
In 2008 to 2009 about 39,628 pardons were granted, while in the last five years a total of 111,769 pardons were granted. These figures represent the approximate numbers of people that could be affected by the changes to the pardon regulation. The government really needs to re-evaluate the social implications of these changes.
The amendments will also phase out the use of the term “pardon”, and replace it with the term “record suspension”. They will also affect how the National Parole Board conducts and reports its activities.