When Stephen Harper was defeated in the last election many of us in the criminal justice community breathed a sigh of relief. For ten years the Conservatives had attacked Canadian crime law with a clear disdain for sensible, evidence based solutions.
Whether it was eliminating Pardons, killing the Faint Hope Clause, pushing mandatory minimum sentences or any other number of Conservative silliness, the Tories routinely ignored evidence in favour of ideology. In other words, when it came to criminal justice the last ten years has been more about politics than social justice.
Bill C23B brought in a number of changes that were detrimental to helping Canadians get back on their feet. By making pardons more difficult to obtain the Tories held thousands of people back and prevented them from obtaining employment.
The good news is that Stephen Harper and his gang of crime hawks are gone. And since Prime Minister Trudeau was elected the Liberals have announced plans to review all of the criminal justice measures introduced by the previous government; including the pardon program.
So far the Liberals have completed a public consultation on the user fee for a pardon application. So I think it’s safe to say that the first thing we will see change is to the cost of applying for a pardon.
Previous Filing Fee for a Pardon
Prior to the Conservative changes the filling fee for a pardon was $50. Then, under Stephen Harper the fee was increased to $150. Then it was increased again to $631. The change was meant to reduce the number of people applying for a pardon. Now that the Public Consultation is over we can hope that a more reasonable fee will be introduced and that more Canadians will be able to move on with their lives by obtaining a pardon.
Legislation Being Reviewed
Once the filing fee issue is resolved the Liberals intend to move on to the legislation in the Criminal Code that was adjusted under the Conservative government. The most destructive changes to the program were as follows:
- Waiting Periods – Under the Conservative government the waiting periods to file for a pardon were increased substantially.
- 3 Strikes Law – A law to prevent anyone with more than 3 indictable offences obtaining a pardon will hopefully be repealed.
While we can’t say for sure when these changes will take place we can say that the Liberal government appears to be sincere in its desire to fix the problems created by the previous administration. Under new leadership the Parole Board has finally started to deal with the last few thousand pardon application that are still left over from 2012. Those applications were filed just before the laws changes and they have been gathering dust ever since.
Word on the street is that the Minister of Public Safety intends to clear the backlog first, then move onto fixing the legislation.
Hopefully before the year is up we will have a bill presented to parliament but it may have to wait until the New Year.
In the meantime if you are thinking of getting a pardon in the future stay out of trouble, make sure your fines are paid, and get the application started early.