Pardons Canada – Bringing the administration of justice into disrepute

One of the more problematic changes to the pardon system brought about by Stephen Harper’s omnibus crime bill was granting the Parole Board the power to refuse a pardon for any reason whatsoever. Specifically – or vaguely depending on how you look at it – the Board can refuse to order a record suspension if it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. It doesn’t take a lawyer to recognize that the language is intentionally vague and that this aspect of the law requires clarification.

But up until recently the Board was operating as though it really could refuse a pardon just because the person reviewing the application felt like it. Fortunately a recent superior court decision by Federal Court Justice Patrick Gleeson ruled a lack of detail in one of the Parole Board’s refusals meant that it “lacks transparency and intelligibility and is unreasonable.”  This is excellent news.

We’ve complained about this problem before. See links below for more detail. But the bottom line has always been the same. We believe that if someone meets the criteria for a pardon as set out in the criminal code, then they should be given the chance.

Unfortunately the Parole Board has not agreed with this position and for past four years it has operated as though it had carte blanche to do whatever it pleased. But now, with this judgement and with the Liberal government planning to amend the pardon program it looks like we have a chance at getting the pardon program, and the Parole Board of Canada, back on the right path to success.

How the Parole Board Treats the Presumption of Innocence by Michael Ashby, Director of the National Pardon Centre:


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