Part of the Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill was legislation that changed the laws governing pardons in Canada. Among many measures, including changing the name from pardons to record suspension, was a strange one that allows the Parole Board of Canada to refuse to order a record suspension if it would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”
What this really means is that the Parole Board can refuse to order (or revoke) a record suspension for any reason whatsoever. And we’ve been seeing quite a lot of that lately so you want to make sure your pardons application (record suspension) is done as well as possible.
A current example of this was the revocation of Raed Jaser’s pardon before he was convicted of any crime. This seems to violate the section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees we are all innocent until proven guilty. If that section is upheld in this repsect, Mr. Jaser should not have had his pardon revoked, since he has not been proven guilty of anything. His lawyer is currently challenging the decision in Federal Court so check back for the judgement on that if you’re curious. With luck we might see some changes (for the better) to the pardons program in Canada.
While it’s obviously on the defensive, the Parole Board’s position is that it’s not bound by the Charter. There is an explanation for why but it doesn’t make any sense to me. Just because the Board is not a court of law should not allow it to circumvent the Charter whenever it sees fit.
Considering this new power given to those in charge of granting pardons you will want to make sure that your application for a pardon is done as well as possible if you hope to have it granted. If the people involved in reviewing your case want to deny your pardon, they will. And they don’t have to come up with much to justify the decision.
For more information consider reading the following summary on the pardons legislation: