Liberal Victory! What it means for pardons in Canada?

First off all of us at the National Pardon Centre would like to congratulate Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. An astounding victory was had last night. It went well beyond the expectations of, well, just about everyone.

But the dust hasn’t even settled this Tuesday morning after the astonishing Liberal victory that swept Stephen Harper away from Ottawa and we are already getting emails asking what we think it will mean for pardons.

So here it is in a nutshell; our intentions and what– if anything – it will mean for the pardon program.

  1. Yes, we plan to engage the Liberal government on the pardons issue.
  2. We hope the elements of Bill C 23-B will be repealed along with the user fee increase at the Parole Board of Canada.
  3. We do not expect any movement on charges relating to sexual offences involving a minor.
  4. It’s going to take some time.

The truth is we really don’t know what Trudeau’s position will be on crime. He has a lot to deal with after ten years of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper (possibly the least socially progressive politician in Canada) but the Liberal party has a long standing record on being at least sensible on crime. And since Trudeau has won such an overwhelming majority, it gives the party a lot of room to make changes the Conservatives would disapprove of.

If you want to provide a testimony of your experience under the new pardon laws and how they negatively affected your life please email me at

Be sure to check this blog from time to time. Any news on the matter will be posted.

Michael Ashby

514.842.2411 x 227

Comment (0)
anonymous / October 20, 2015

Although I am no longer in the backlog, I hope at at the very least, the first thing the new administration does is either provide more funding or establish more aggressive ‘performance targets’ for those who have been waiting for years. While nobody thinks that pardon applications should be rubber stamped, there is no rational defense for this backlog. Trust me. When the government wants something to happen, they can do so in a matter of days. Or, they can stretch it out for years.

Back when the insane omnibus crime bill was being “debated”, I think it’s important to point out that the Liberals were the only party that were against the new 5 and 10-year increase (I assume the Greens would be against it as well and not sure about the Bloc — they weren’t part of the debate).

Surprisingly — and very quietly in my view — the NDP, while opposing the fee increase, actually supported the new 5 and 10 year waiting periods.

I also personally feel that the NDP deliberately selected a rookie MP as their Public Safety Critic, who (as predicted) was absolutely no match for Vic Toews. In fact, it was a mockery…the NDP MPs credentials were (if memory serves) that he once worked for a career training institute that trained security guards. The NDP could have put Irwin Cotler in that position — and if so, what the Conservatives were proposing to do to the Canada Records Act (CRA) would, at least, be more publicized. Cotler is legit. But the NDP put him on justice…and basically in my view, decided that the changes to the CRA was not a fight they wanted to have. It would have made them look ‘soft on crime’…so they basically just pissed it away.

What irks me about this is that the myth of the NDP is that they are so married to their principles, that they can’t govern in a pragmatic way. Maybe that was true in the Broadbent years, but it all changed under Layton. They had a chance to really stand up for some very, very vulnerable and alienated people (which is supposed to be at the heart of the NDP vision), but they didn’t.

I’m sorry for sounding bitter here, but this has bugged me for years. I mean, seriously, do you recall any serious NDP opposition to the CRA-aspect of the crime bill? I don’t.

I hope that Marc Harmon, who was a champion of pardons, gets back in cabinet as the Public Safety Minister. If so, I think you will have an attentive audience, Michael. I hope so.

Michael Ashby / October 21, 2015

Hi Anon,

We’re all kind of holding our breath here waiting til the dust settles.

I agree about the NDP. When I met with the NDP (I think it was Jack Harris) he may as well have been sitting with the CPC on this issue. I was not at all impressed.

As for the Liberals did you mean Mark Holland? If so I am very happy he’s been elected. I met with him also during the “debates” and he had a very sensible position on all of this.

At any rate check the blog from time to time. I am going to start lobbying efforts as soon as I know who to lobby. After that we’ll see. But sadly I’m not holding my breath for any “real” change on this issue, at least not right away.

Kind regards,


anonymous / October 22, 2015

Hi Michael — yes, thank you, I meant Marc Holland.

If memory serves, the Conservatives *heavily* targeted his riding in 2010, pouring in all kinds of resources, because frankly Holland was such an effective critic. Defeating him in 2010 was seen as a major objective and eventually a key accomplishment.

Anyway, even if Harmon doesn’t end up back in Public Safety/Security, you may nevertheless find him to be an effective advocate — he is widely on the record having opposed the fee increase, as well as the other provisions of C23-B that (as we all know) had NOTHING to do with reducing the actual crime rate, and everything to do with playing to the Conservative base. As we are finding out now, targeting that base and getting them out to vote WAS the Conservative re-election strategy. And if the Liberals and NDP split the vote (which they seemed to be doing until about a month or so ago), it would have worked again.

I hope that you get some traction here. I wish you luck!

Michael Ashby / October 28, 2015

Many thank Anon. With the majority victory there is at least some hope.


Andrew Ward / December 27, 2015

I am not going to deny my spouse’s lack of discretion for refusal of a alcohol breathalyzer. We have both been seriously impacted by the conviction. I truly appreciate that others could have lost their life because of her illegal act.
We accept that she was fortunate that no one, including herself, was hurt or had any property damage as a result of her foolish actions. That being said, we have suffered emotional stress that manifested into a mental illness that she dealt with through therapy. We personally lost our home as a direct result of the action. The financial impact eventually caused us to go bankrupt due to the loss of the driver’s license. She/we have paid the fine, she has taken the alcohol/substance abuse counseling course. We are now looking into the Installation of the ignition interlock program. Then there is the provincial motor vehicle licence fees and some other minor fees/charges to pay. After all of these monetary costs there is the driver’s insurance fee increases for six years. The additional increase in the pardon processing fee was just another bad eye opening reminder of how serious a brief moment of indiscretion this was.
We appreciate MADD’s stance, we appreciate many will stand up and cheer our well deserved plight without a shred of empathy. But seriously, increasing the difficulty and expense of a pardon. Admittedly it was her fault and she brought it all upon herself, but is it right that her employability be made almost impossible? This situation could, I assume, even prevent foreign travel. Making the pardons more difficult and expensive has destroyed a person well beyond the punish should fit the crime philosophy.
We believe in justice, not persecution for one criminal act that caused no physical harm or property loss to anyone. At the risk of sounding self serving, I think she has paid her debt to society.
For the record, she won’t even take the religious communion wine, cook with any alcohol, gargle with regular mouthwash, toast a bride and groom, et cetera, et cetera since her conviction.

Michael Ashby / December 29, 2015

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for sharing. Hopefully the Liberals will soften the rules on pardons.


anonymous / January 26, 2016

I hope they can have some sort of changes to people with 3 or more indictable offenses or convictions relating to sexual offences involving a minor not being ever eligible to have a pardon granted to them. i do understand there are dangerous people out there and they abuse the rules but there are also some people out there that have made mistakes have got the help they needed to reintegrate into society and will never re-offend in any sort of crime. those are the people that suffer. In my opinion the previous government had what i can only call “Persecution Mania” i hope the liberal government realizes that people should be helped rather than hindered.

Shawn / February 6, 2016

I second Anonymous’ comment. Not everyone should be stiffed with the 10yr wait. If they’ve paid their dues, learned their lessons and have proven to society, and the judicial system that they’ve taken steps to redeem themselves. Hopefully this 10yr wait will be reverted back to 5yrs.

Wayne / April 25, 2016

Mr. Ashby,

Do you feel that the Liberal Government will repeal bill C23-B in the near future?

Michael Ashby / April 25, 2016

Hi Wayne,

I am confident that they will repeal the bill. I am not confident it will be everything in the bill nor that it will happen in the “near” future. This is politics after all.

But yes, I think significant changes are coming.

Kind regards,


Rose / April 28, 2016

When I was 21, only a year out of high school, (I graduated late as I had dropped out for almost 2 years due to depression), I ended up having
a very bad side effect from anti-depressants, which caused mania and psychosis. I wasn’t able to sleep for 10 days, I started hallucinating and became
insane. I was living with my boyfriend and his brother at the time who had a collection of swords. I ended up hurting my ex believing he was planning to kill
me due to the way they were teasing me thinking it was funny how I was acting strange. They didn’t do anything to help me or even tell anyone how I was unable to sleep and acting very strangely for many days. I ended up accidentally and non-intentionally injuring two men with a weapon and causing damage to property.
I would have been able to plead and most likely get Not Criminally Responsible (from drug induced insanity that lasted for about 2 months) but the fact
that I could easily spend the rest of my life in a hospital so I decided to just go ahead and plead guilty as the recommendation of a psychiatrist who knew that
what happened to me was just bad luck with medication. So I was sentenced 2 years, served 1 because I got 2 for 1 time in pre-trial custody. I am now 30 years old and still not able to apply for a “record suspension”. It was my first and only crime. I have never had mania or psychosis since or before that one time but that one time ruined my life. I struggle with severe depression and I have very minor brain damage that I still haven’t recovered from 100%. And the thought that I might NEVER be able to apply or receive a pardon for what
I unintentionally did, haunts me. My life ended before it ever began. I have 7 charges altogether for my 5 minutes of reckless, paranoid insanity and currently I am not even able to apply for a ‘pardon’ once the 10 years is up. I also have to pay $5000 in restitution and I can’t even get a job. How is it fair that i should be punished for the rest of my life for something that I did unintentionally due to psychosis caused from medication when I was 21 years old? I’ve already lost all of my friends and family over it, I struggled with guilt, shame, embarrassment for many years and now I can’t even apply for a pardon.

Michael Ashby / April 28, 2016

Hi Rose,

Hang in. Change is coming.


Markus / August 20, 2016

Is there any new information on any progress the liberals have made on the pardon system?

I was convicted of dangerous driving after running from a police officer for 6 minutes before coming to my senses and pulling over. I had no reason to run but I did as I have a general fear of police and severe anxiety. I have paid my fine ($2400) and served my one year driving prohibition. I lost my job because of this conviction and obviously can’t afford insurance for the next few years till the conviction comes off my driving record. I really do hope the liberals reverse the changes the conservatives made as I have learned my lesson and shouldn’t have to wait 5 whopping years to get a pardon for 6 minutes of fearful stupid thinking. I took full responsibility for what I did and am grateful nobody was hurt or killed in the incident. It took me 9 months to find a new job because of my conviction and that took a serious toll on my finances, I have pretty much lost everything because of one stupid decision.

I do believe the current system is to harsh, 5 year waiting period to get a pardon for my summary conviction and a 630 dollar application fee is overkill after everything the system has put me through.


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