Pardon The Agenda
The Conservatives not only want to send more people to jail more often and for longer periods of time, they want to make sure that those who finally get out will not work a decent job for as long as possible. They want to prevent people from obtaining a pardon. In this day and age job hunting with a criminal record is about as about promising as fishing without a hook.
There are many arguments to be made in favour of an accessible pardon program. The astonishingly low rate of recidivism is the most important. Since the program began more than 400,000 people have been granted a pardon. The number of people, who subsequently reoffend, most often for minor crimes, amounts to about 4%.
With success in the 96% range there can be no legitimate argument against the effectiveness of a pardon. To think that a social program aiming to rehabilitate offenders into society could do better is to live in a fantasy land where common sense has no place and evidence has no meaning. Canadians demand a better approach.
A pardon is obviously a powerful incentive. If you make a mistake with law you must pay your debt to society. But once that debt is paid, once the sentence is complete, the criminal justice system says that one day you will be eligible to have your criminal record sealed. In other words, if you stay out of trouble with the law, one day a pardon will allow you to look for a job with a hook on the end of your line.
The Conservatives want to take that possibility away for some people, and make the waiting period much longer for the rest.
The former approach fails in the face of common sense. If the debt is paid the punishment is over. But denying the possibility of a pardon and a decent job forever is obviously another form of punishment. And the Conservatives might consider that anyone who receives a lifetime sentence, as handed down by the courts, can never get a pardon anyway.
The latter approach fails due to an absence of evidence. Asking offenders to live a law abiding life before being eligible for a pardon does make sense. Few of us would argue with that. But there is nothing to suggest that the current waiting periods are inappropriate or ineffective. Nothing even close to an argument is being offered, let alone evidence that might support it. With a 96% success rate we have to wonder what it is the Conservatives are trying to accomplish.
Changes to the pardon program, therefore, must be for ideological reasons. It is impossible to arrive at any other conclusion because there is no argument being made and no evidence being offered to support the changes contained in the omnibus crime bill. The Conservative government is simply telling Canadians that these changes will make us safer, that they are the right thing to do. We just have to trust them.
The problem is the lives this will affect and the families that will continue to struggle. I have spoken to many people who are just about to get things back on track. They would become eligible in the next few months for a pardon after completing their sentence and having had no trouble with the law for quite some time. But when the omnibus crime bill passes the hopes of a pardon and a decent job go out the window, for quite some time. Why? We can’t say. It’s just because the Conservatives want it that way. Try telling that to someone struggling to find work.
The Conservative government needs to reconsider its position on pardons. It should try to understand that people really can change. But most of all the Conservative government, being the party of fiscal responsibility, should recognize what a decent job does for the life of someone trying to build a positive future.