Pardons and sentencing procedures
The legislation concerning pardons, Bill C-23B is still being debated although it has attracted little media attention. The Tories like to keep a number of crime bills in play as a part of their tough on crime agenda.
My biggest concern with the legislation is this idea that certain offenders need to remain unpardonable. The problem is that we already have a category of offender for that. That category is anyone who received a lifetime sentence. If we take the Karla Homolka story as an example then it is of course very, very difficult to argue a case that she deserves to receive a pardon for her crime.
The problem with the case of Karla Homolka is that she received a plea bargain. Had Karla Homolka been convicted of the crimes she committed she would still be appropriately rotting away in prison and the idea of a pardon would be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. But that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, she was convicted on a much lesser charge and because of that anyone with any knowledge of Canada’s pardon program understood that she would one day be eligible for a pardon. In other words there was no emergency situation that justified the hasty passing of legislation to stop Karla Homolka from receiving a pardon. There were years wasted when this should issue have been looked at and addressed.
This brings me back to sentencing. Since a lifetime sentence denies the possibility of a pardon perhaps the issue society should be looking at is sentencing procedures. Because it is my opinion that if a court of law hasn’t found a person to be beyond redemption at the time of sentencing then the possibility of a pardon should remain available. And if there are certain type of offenders who we do not want receiving pardons, then we need to accept that these types of offenders deserve a lifetime sentence.
Society needs to realize that Canada’s pardon program is not about forgiving criminals. It is rehabilitation. If we are going to accept that criminals are capable of rehabilitation then we must provide them the possibility of living without the consequences that come with a criminal record. We need to provide them with the opportunity to be pardoned.
Unfortunately Bill C-23B is a legislative contradiction. What the bill hopes to accomplish is contradicted by what a pardon is supposed to achieve. In other words you can’t rehabilitate people and punish them for life at the same time.
Let’s hope when it comes time to vote on this bill that cooler heads prevail.