Waiting Periods for a Pardon – What happened?
Since the legislation from Bill C23B came into effect as a part of the Conservative’s omnibus crime bill, Bill C10 I have been getting a lot of frustrated people expressing their views on the topic on this blog. I just want to say that I understand and sympathize with all of you. For the sake of morbid curiosity here is a breakdown of the events that led to the new waiting periods.
In its original form Canada’s pardon program demanded a 3 year waiting period for summary offences and 5 years for indictable offences. The business man in me thought that was good enough and didn’t want to see any changes made at all. But another part of me spoke to people from time to time who had done some fairly nasty things and I had trouble seeing how they should be treated the same way as someone who had written bad cheque or grown a few plants. The law makes no further distinction between summary and indictable offences but perhaps it should.
When the Conservatives got their hands on Canada’s pardon program it introduced Bill C23 which would have changed the waiting periods to 5 and 10 years. With a minority government the Tories were unable to get the bill passed. But politics is an interesting beast (one that I am going to stay away from now that this debate is over with) and when the media gets involved things can happen quickly.
As Bill C23 was being debated it was â€œdiscoveredâ€ that Karla Homolka would soon become eligible for a pardon (anyone working in criminal justice understood this years ago the same day she was sentenced). No sensible person believes Karla Homolka should ever be eligible for a pardon under any circumstances but the nature of her plea bargain meant that she would. Some changes had to be made.
The NDP then split bill C23 and introduced Bill C23A which contained a measure to prevent Karla Homolka from being pardoned. It also re-distributed the waiting periods from 3 and 5 years to 3 and 5 years plus 10 years for serious personal injury offences and sexual offences. No one involved in criminal justice had an issue with this. 3, 5 and 10 years made sense.
But Bill C23A had left out a couple of the more punitive measures from Bill C23 and it was all left to be debated in Bill C23B, a debate which I took part in at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It was a total waste of my time, but that is another story.
When the Conservatives obtained its majority status the omnibus crime bill was introduced and in it the new waiting periods for a pardon contained in Bill C23B. Waiting periods for a pardon would now be just 5 and 10 years.
It is not clear why the Conservative’s felt the 5 and 10 years criteria is superior to 3, 5 and 10 years but that is the way it is.
If all of this is confusing and doesn’t seem entirely clear don’t worry. I participated in this debate from start to finish and I hardly get it. But one thing is clear. Any government that thinks a social program with a 96% success rate needs to be fixed is living in a strange world indeed.
Below: Rob Nicholson Justice Minister arguing in favour of the Omnibus crime bill which passed by a Conservative majority government.