By now you have probably heard that the Harper government pushed through Bill C-23A last week. And while the law has yet to receive Royal Assent, it is more or less a certainty that the pardon system will see some major changes. Understandably you will want to know how these changes will affect you.
The new law is complex, but I will simplify the main points as best as I can.
If there is one piece of good news it is that if your pardon is already being reviewed by the Parole Board at the time that the new law takes effect, it will be evaluated under the old pardon eligibility guidelines.
Anyone whose application has not yet been received by the Board will be subject to the following rules:
Sexual Offences: Anyone with a conviction for an indictable sexual offence against a child now has to wait 10 years from the completion of their sentence before they become eligible to apply for a pardon. Anyone with a summary sexual offence against a childÂ on their record must now wait 5 years. We have to contact the courts to confirm that an offence was indictable but as a rule only VERY minor offences are summary.
Violent Offences: If you were sentenced to serve a jail term of 2 years or more for a violent indictable offence, you will now have to wait 10 years from the completion of your sentence before you become eligible for your pardon. This also applies to offences where the threat of violence was used or where the victim was likely to experience â€œsevere psychological damageâ€.
In order to clarify here are some examples:
EXAMPLE: Pauline has an indictable aggravated assault conviction and was given a 3 year jail sentence. She has to wait 10 years from the date that her sentence ended before she can apply for her pardon.
EXAMPLE: Richard has an indictable aggravated assault conviction and was given a 1 year jail sentence. He only has a 5 year waiting period.
EXAMPLE: Nathan has an indictable sexual assault conviction against a child and was sentenced to 6 months in jail. He will have to wait 10 years before becoming eligible for his pardon.
EXAMPLE: Beth has a summary sexual assault conviction where the victim was a childÂ and was placed on probation for 2 years. She now has to wait 5 years before she becomes eligible.
The Parole Board has also been given the right to refuse to grant a pardon if doing so would â€œbring the administration of justice into disrepute.â€ This is the clause that the government included to prevent Karla Homolka from getting her pardon. I think that the Board will be very careful in exercising this power and that this new provision should NOT affect the vast majority of pardon applicants. However, we will have to see how this plays itself out.
The law is obviously more complicated than what I have outlined above. If you have any doubts about your eligibility, then please contact a counselor at the National Pardon Centre so that we can discuss your case with you.
If these changes have affected you or someone you know, you should write to your Member of Parliament and tell your story. Find out who your MP is by clicking here: