July 13, 2010

Pardon Me Please? Canada's Newly Passed Pardons Legislation

This guest article was written by Lesley Atkinson, an employee at Canadian Pardon Service who has been following the pardons legislation closely since its introduction on May 11, 2010.

On June 29, 2010 the Governor General brought revised pardons legislation known as the Limiting Pardons for Serious Crimes Act into force. This meant that the National Parole Board (NPB) immediately began processing all new pardon applications under the new guidelines. But what are these new rules? How will they impact individuals with criminal records who are trying to get pardons? What exactly IS a pardon? Read below to find out!

What Pardons Do

A pardon is a government document that is granted to individuals who have been convicted of criminal offences and wish to rehabilitate themselves into society. Getting a pardon is critical for these individuals as it removes many of the barriers a criminal record can present in daily life; such as finding employment, travelling, volunteering, and even adopting or applying for Canadian citizenship. A pardon does this by removing and permanently sealing an individual’s criminal record from all federal databases. This means that for all intents and purposes, the criminal record ceases to exist, and the difficulties it created disappear along with it.

The New Rules

The pardons legislation underwent many dramatic changes at the last minute before being passed, with the result that many people are confused about what exactly made it through the vote. I will now outline the major changes in the new rules:

• Individuals who are convicted of serious personal injury offences will now be required to complete a 10 year crime-free time period before they are eligible to apply for a pardon

• The NPB must be able to verify that granting a pardon to the above individuals would indeed provide a measureable benefit and would assist in their rehabilitation into lawful society

• Granting the pardon would not bring the administration of justice (the reputation of Canadian law) into disrepute (when deciding this the NPB will be able to look into the details and circumstances surrounding each criminal conviction)

• The above individuals will be required to provide evidence that getting the pardon would provide a measureable benefit to them and assist in their rehabilitation

Overall, these new rules will increase the ineligibility period for certain pardon applicants and will give the NPB more power to consider additional factors when deciding whether to grant a pardon for certain offences. It is important to also note that this bill is the remnant of an original bill that was split. The remainder of the bill (discussing the changing of pardon terminology, permanent ineligibility, and further powers for the NPB) will be brought up again when parliament reconvenes in September. I hope this helps clear a few things up!

For more information on pardons and the new rules, please visit Pardons.ca Blog: All About Pardons in Canada.