Pardons sought by ex-inmates plunge

15 Mar, 2013

Tories Toughened Rules Last Spring

Applications for criminal record suspensions, formerly known as pardons, have plummeted since the Conservative government finalized tough new rules last spring.

Statistics released to The Canadian Press under the federal access-to-information law show 15,871 applicants between March 2011 and December 2012 down more than 40% on an annualized basis compared to 2009-2010.

A relatively small portion of those applications—8,6341— even got through the door for processing by the Parole Board of Canada. The board used to send back about 25% of applications for various reasons, but the ‘error rate’ in 2011 was more than 45%. The end result is a dramatic drop in the number of former inmates who are able to put their criminal past behind them and start anew.

The Parole Board says 3,693 record suspensions were granted from March 13, 2012 —when the new rules kicked in—to December 6th. Compare that to more than 24,000 pardons granted in 2009-10, the last full year before Ottawa began changing the system.

Getting through the door is now the challenge.

One private pardon service—the equivalent of tax preparation professionals— complains the parole board has become ‘almost obstructive’ towards pardon applicants.

And sharply restricting the number of former offenders who are able to bury their past has ramifications: a record suspension can help the recipient get a better job or travel abroad, and is considered a powerful incentive not to reoffend.

“If you are burdened with mistakes of the past on an ongoing basis, that in itself can contribute significantly towards further problems as you go through life,” Dennis Fentie, Yukon premier from 2002 to 2011, said in an interview.” It becomes a real challenge for individuals. They’re shunned. Certain doors aren’t open to them.”

Fentie speaks from experience. In 1975 he was convicted for his involvement in a heroin trafficking ring in Edmonton and sentenced to 3 years in prison. He served 17 months before being released on parole. Two decades later he received a pardon. “In my case, I went from the penitentiary to the premier’s office,” said Fentie, who rose to power as leader of the conservative Yukon Party.”

And the reason I got there was because I was able to achieve that full pardon and have a clean slate in my life.”

Source: The Canadian Press

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