Parole Board of Canada and the Pardon Backlog

Is it ok to steal from a criminal? The criminals probably don’t think so. What about fraud? Is it ok to commit fraud against someone who has a criminal record?

Here’s another question: If a corporation can be found guilty of a crime, why not a government agency?

As recently reported by the Canadian Press, the Parole Board of Canada is both stealing and committing fraud against almost 7000 Canadians. At least that’s how I see it.

Under the leadership of Stephen Harper and the federal Conservative government funding has dried up for the backlog of pardon applications that date back to 2012 and at one time totalled 22,000 cases.

The Board slowly chipped way at all those old applications, until recently when it announced that 6,963 remaining files would only get done only as resources allow. Then it said the resources had run out.

Never mind the wasted years and the endless frustrations for these people who already paid their debt. Never the mind the lost job opportunities. Never mind that this is more about politics than criminal justice. If you were one of the people who’ve been waiting for so long you would probably be wondering where your money is right about now.

At $150 a pop the Parole Board has effectively stolen about $1 million dollars which puts this way past Mike Duffy territory. The money will not be returned under any circumstance. There is also no indication the files will ever be done, let alone in a timely manner. That money can’t even be put towards a new application which the Parole Board claims would come with a guaranteed turn-around time. The money is simply forfeit. If this isn’t theft or fraud I don’t know what is.

I’m fielding a lot of calls these days on the matter but everyone I speak to has the same question. “How can they do this?”

My answer is I just don’t know. If I ran my company this way I think I’d be in trouble. And yet somehow the Conservative government thinks it’s perfectly alright to take people’s money and do nothing at all, all in the name of looking tough on crime.

But this isn’t tough on crime, this is crime. If you don’t agree ask yourself a simple question. What you would think if someone took your money – in exchange for a good or service – but didn’t hold up their end of the agreement?

What if you needed that agreement fulfilled just to get your life back on track? What if instead of becoming a productive member of society you watched countless job opportunities pass you by instead? What if the criminal record affected your ability to take care of your family? What if that criminal record, by law, should no longer exist? Would you think a crime had been committed then?

I don’t think stealing is ok just because the victim is a former criminal or any other marginalized member of society. And I don’t know why a corporation can be charged with a crime but a government agency can’t. But if we ever needed a precedent here it is.

The Federal Conservative Government of Canada should be ashamed of its stance on criminal justice. Not only are the crime hawks in Ottawa lacking compassion they are focused solely on pandering to the electorate.

Amazingly, the pardon backlog is just one example of a government that routinely sees criminal justice as nothing more than an opportunity for its own ambitions.

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