Record Suspensions Are Coming

 Record Suspensions – Why Now?

With a Conservative majority government the crime bill is certain to be one of the first measures to be pushed through parliament. Although the pardons / record suspensions issue is not at the forefront of the crime push it is still important. I have been following Bill C23 since it first appeared in the house so here are my expectations on what we can expect to see in the Tory crime bill. They have pledged to pass this legislation within 100 days of achieving a majority.

The chances are good that the pardons side of the new bill will read exactly as Bill C23-B currently does. If so we know exactly what to expect. This will not mean the end of pardons / record suspensions but it will exclude a fair number of people from the program.

But there is an alternative possibility. With a Conservative majority it is possible that Harper could soften his approach slightly and make some amendments to the crime legislation. If that is the case the following is what I would expect from the new crime bill regarding pardons.

I am fairly confident about the following changes to the pardon program will take place even if the details of Bill C23-B are amended.

*The term pardons will be replaced with record suspensions (this is purely symbolic and not very important, people will continue using the term pardon)

*Sexual offences involving children will be ineligible for record suspensions

*Serious criminals will be ineligible for record suspensions (how they will define serious criminal is still up for grabs but the 3 strikes rule might remain and that would be the definition)

*Fee increase is certain to happen. The fee is currently $150 but will be increased to $631 (so if you need a pardon get going NOW!)

The following are some items that could perhaps be amended if theTories decide to take a more moderate approach.

*Changing the waiting periods from what they are now to 5 and 10 years (it is remotely possible that the waiting periods will be left alone, but I am not confident about this)

*The 3 strikes rule (it is possible this will be amended as there were even Conservatives who opposed this measure)

With a little luck we might see a softer approach now that Harper doesn’t have anything to prove. He is PM, for the next four years with no risk of a hasty election.

The bottom line about the Tory majority is that if you need a pardon get it started ASAP. Nothing is guaranteed anymore and there is a decent chance that if you start a pardon today we could get it into the Parole Board before the changes take place.

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Client / June 13, 2011

The Canadian Criminal Justice Association has presented a postion on Bill C-23B, dated June, 09 2010. You may wish to take a look. I will just quote their conclusion to the brief:

Conclusion:
In our estimation, the Bill before the House has some merit. It proposes to alter the term from “pardon” to “record suspension” which more adequately matches the intent of the Bill. Secondly, granting the National Parole Board the means to contend with grievous cases like James and Homolka should put Canadians at ease. However, the extensive restrictions analyzed above (Offences as per Schedule 1 and 2; 3-strikes provisions; and doubling wait times) are not in line with Canadian rehabilitative and societal integration philosophies. Rather than dismantling a progressive law that has merit and which has proven effective, , parliamentarians should consider retaining the status quo with respect to who can apply, and bolster the National Parole Board’s ability to exercise discernment in granting record suspensions when the gravity of the offence so warrants.

http://www.ccja-acjp.ca/en/c23en.html

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Michael Ashby / June 14, 2011

Thank you for your comment. I appreciate that people are reading this blog and following this issue. However, the position you linked to addresses bill C23 which should be clarified. Bill C23 was subsequently split into two seperate bills. C23A was passed easily while Bill C23B was left for review.

You might want to take a closer look at Bill C23A which has already given the Parole Board of Canada “discretion” to refuse pardons in cases like Homolka and James. Bill C23B proposes to give the Parole Board “absolute discretion” which essentially amounts to the same thing and is therefore unnecessary. Furthermore, the purely symbolic nature of the term record suspension is a change that can’t possibly have any effect on the Canadian public which is why we think it is unnecessary. However, since it does not affect the rights of Canadians we are not necessarily opposed to it. Based on the usage of the term “demande de pardon” in French Canada vs. the correct legal term “demande de réhablilitation” (of which the public is largely unaware) it is clear that the people will continue using the term pardon. As a Quebecer I am, perhaps, extra sensitive to the difficulties of regulating language.

With luck the new majority government will accept the criticism of this bill and make amendments to remove the more contentious schedules, particularly those measures that would prevent certain individuals from ever completing their rehabilitation completely.

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