The recent news that the new Liberal government will be reversing the changes to the pardons Canada program was welcome to many of us working in this industry, not to mention the countless lives that have been put on hold from this misguided legislation. One of the changes was so pointless that it’s hard to find any reason for it that isn’t purely symbolic or clear politicking. This was, of course, changing the name from pardons to record suspensions.
As a result of this strange legislation Canada symbolically lost its pardon program and got record suspensions instead. Since this part of the bill never actually affected anyone’s life I never thought it was worth worrying about, as silly as it was.
The Conservative government of course felt differently. To them the very idea of granting a pardon was synonymous with forgiving criminals and that was clearly unacceptable to many on the politically right in this country.
One of the Tories’ talking points was that it was “not in the business of forgiving criminals” which is a terrible way to look at the pardon program.
I argued over and over that pardons were not about forgiveness. Pardons have always been about giving people the chance to live law abiding lives, which is the actually the goal of all criminal justice policy.
Still, Stephen Harper, Rob Nicholson and Vic Toews didn’t see it that way. They clearly believed that pardons were about being soft on crime and that the best thing for criminal justice was a “kick em when they’re down approach.”
That was how we lost our pardon.
But now the Liberal government has promised to reverse the changes brought about by a decade of misguided justice policy. And I was surprised that Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale even mentioned the possibility of reversing the name back to pardons.
So while the name of the program is ultimately unimportant, it would be nice to rid ourselves once and for all of record suspensions and get back to pursuing criminal justice policies that are based on more than some old man’s “feelings” about it.