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National Pardon Centre’s Expert Testimony On Bill C-23B

Nicole Levesque and I were invited recently to appear in front of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in Ottawa recently in order to provide expert testimony on Bill C-23B, a poorly constructed piece legislation proposed by the Conservatives back in May.

It was an interesting experience to say the least. In addition to the two of us, Sheldon Kennedy was there to testify as a victim of abuse and to request that pedophiles no longer be eligible to apply for a pardon.

It was very difficult to disagree with Mr. Kennedy’s testimony; and truth be told we did not. What I had to disagree with was the legislation being proposed, as it lumps all sexual offenders together, regardless of the circumstances of the arrest.

Due to the experience we have at the National Pardon Centre we know that a sexual offence is not just black and white. A considerable number of the sexual cases we have dealt with are of a relatively innocuous nature. They do not involve people in positions of authority and they do not involve young people.

Here is an example. Recently I spoke to a gentleman who had been to a “tailgate party” outside a football game. Obviously there was beer and they were drinking it. And at some point he made a very poor judgement call and decided to relieve himself where he probably shouldn’t have.

In addition to drinking in public, mischief and other charges, he received a sexual offence for exposing himself in public. And there you have it. He is now on the sexual registry for the rest of his life.

While I have no problem refusing pardons in the kinds of cases we hear about in the news, Bill C-23B did not even make an effort to address the various kinds of offences that count as a sexual offence. Therefore, as representatives of the National Pardon Centre we suggested the bill be defeated.

Our other concern with the measure in the bill that would refuse pardons to certain offenders was that it failed to recognize that allowing ex-offenders the opportunity to apply for a pardon is an opportunity to learn something about their behaviour. And since the Parole Board was no longer obliged to grant a pardon it didn’t deem appropriate, there was no harm at all in allowing these people the opportunity to plead their case.

Other parts of the discussion revolved around increasing the waiting periods required before a person became eligible for a pardon and the now infamous clause that would change the term pardon to record suspension.

As the session progressed it became increasingly evident that none of the expert witnesses supported the bill in its entirety. And as the questions continued it became increasingly difficult for anyone to support anything other than the most meaningless measures contained within the bill.

If Bill C-23B passes I will be further disillusioned with our legislative process. Watching committee members scroll around on their blackberries (not all but certainly more than one), while those of us who had taken time away from our families attempted to relay our message was discouraging. I was also a little shocked that some of the committee members took Mr. Kennedy’s presence as a chance to grab an autograph. I am sure Mr. Kennedy is used to it but it struck me as inappropriate.

However, Nicole and I were honoured to have an opportunity to help direct public policy in a positive direction. I don’t know what will happen with Bill C-23B but at the very least it should be amended to remove the reactionary clauses

I am fairly certain the opposition parties realize that Bill C-23B was not properly thought out. With a little luck it will be defeated.

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tom / December 11, 2010

I’m glad someone stood up for the pardon system. Sometimes people make mistakes. The system only punish people that got ‘caught’ or trialed as guilty, even though they may not be…

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Michael Ashby / December 13, 2010

Thanks Tom. The opposition is also trying to stand up for common sense legislation but the Tory tough on crime narrative is hard to counter. Let’s hope a more sensible version of the bill passes.

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Steven Yoon / December 15, 2010

1. Studies have consistently shown that former sex offenders have a far lower rate of re-offending than any other crime type. Of those few former sex offenders who do recidivate, the majority are convicted of NON-sexual offenses.

2. The current pardon system works: the vast majority of those who are pardoned never reoffend Thus, “automatic denial of pardons to sex offenders would unnecessarily curtail the liberties of the many ex-offenders who remain crime-free”. (http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/sum/cprs200003-eng.aspx)

3. Denying offenders the opportunity to eventually reintegrate into society may increase recidivism rates- thus making society LESS safe.

More Info: CanadiansForAJustSociety@gmail.com

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Michael Ashby / December 17, 2010

Excellent statistics. Thank you for the comment. I wish I had that information available at the Standing Committee meeting. I don’t think you will hear our current administration discuss this information.

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Steven Yoon / December 15, 2010

To put things in perspective let’s examine an individual who will be affected by these bills:

On June 10, 2010 a 17-year-old boy from western Manitoba was convicted of sexual assault for having consensual sex with a 13-year-old during a game of Truth or Dare (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/17-year-old-guilty-of-sex-with-girl-13-96034564.html). If Bill C-23B passes this boy will never be eligible for a pardon.

Are we really to believe that, denying this boy a pardon for the rest of his life, making it near impossible to get a good job, to travel, will actually do anything to make society safer??

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Michael Ashby / December 17, 2010

Thank you for the article. The issue of sex offenders is a difficult one to discuss publicly because it is such a loaded topic. My argument is always that these cases are rarely as black and white as the typical media stories portray. This one illuminates that fact quite well. Imagine this poor young man penalized for life just for being a young “human” male.

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Client / June 10, 2011

I am a client of the Pardon Centre. Have been since January 2009. My issues are from the 90’s and one included an order to pay $3000 in restitution in 1995 which I later received a breach of probation charge. The $3000 however was was paid in 1998. However we never kept the reciept that long and someone in the courts system, not only did not update their system correctly but lost the original docket that showed the 1998 breach was for the original 1995 charge. So the Calgary Courthouse says I owe $2600 and the Grande Prairie Courthouse (who lost the docket) has a different amount, with no information that states these are for the same restitution. Calgary states that their system doesn’t say that it isn’t owing either (no warrants or further charges), so I should be able to request a letter from Grande Prairie, however GP won’t do it. So we decided to wait until the limitation to provide proof of payment had passed. Bill C-23A squashed that. So now to get a pardon I have to pay what looks like two amounts totaling almost $6000. Something I don’t have. I wouldn’t worry about a pardon except my career is a truck driver and my company shut down, in 2 years I have not been able to get a new trucking job because everyone wants a records check. So, I have been working cash jobs to pay the bills and trying to save to pay this amount off. If bill c-23b passes though I will not get a pardon or record suspention ever because I have over 3 convictions. I am a good worker with a good employment history who wants a full time trucking job but I can’t get one. And all because I did something stupid 16 years ago.

I really liked the story above with the following paragraph because it shows just how easy it is to get a criminal record, and just because you don’t have a record, doesn’t mean you are not a criminal. I know a woman who abuses pot and cocaine; she is a correctionals officer at a Calgary prison. I also know a woman who abuses pot and cocaine, but who also steals, and manipulates people to get money and things for free. She is also in the habit of assaulting people when she has been drinking. She, is a Customer Service Mortgage Manager at a BANK’s Calgary call center.

From above:

Here is an example. Recently I spoke to a gentleman who had been to a “tailgate party” outside a football game. Obviously there was beer and they were drinking it. And at some point he made a very poor judgement call and decided to relieve himself where he probably shouldn’t have.
In addition to drinking in public, mischief and other charges, he received a sexual offence for exposing himself in public. And there you have it. He is now on the sexual registry for the rest of his life.

This is shocking to me, that someone taking a pee in public will be given the same consideration as offenders like Karla Homolka. The pardon system works as it is and I think in the cases of Homolka the legislation should be ammended to address the issues at time of sentencing.

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