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How Eligibility for a Criminal Pardon in Canada is Changing

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The law in Canada is currently and drastically changing. Although
only ten percent of the four million Canadians who held a criminal
record last year applied for a criminal pardon, the Harper government
has still been working to make that number smaller. In this post-9/11
climate of hyper-security and harsher political stances on every issue,
the public and interest groups have been calling for a reform of the
criminal law, specifically in regards to punishing criminals. In the
past few years, the government has slowly been obliging, with Bill C-23
being the first major change. Bill C-23 was split into two parts, part A
being passed last June and part B currently under deliberation in
parliament. It changes the Canadian criminal pardons part of the law
into the Canadian record suspension law. Although Bill C-23A has already
passed, let’s look at what is necessary to be eligible for the current
pardon system in Canada before Bill C-23B is fully passed.

The Canadian criminal pardon system as it stands now is
largely non-judgmental when it comes to distinguishing between offences
to be pardoned. No one is ineligible based solely on the nature of their
past offence (with some noticeable restrictions being applied to
pardons in the case of sexual offenders); if a person has been convicted
of an offence under the federal law, they are eligible to apply for a
pardon. There is, of course, a waiting period before they can apply, and
this period differs in length depending on how serious their crime was.
The waiting period section of the law was the part affected by Bill
C-23A. The most serious offences are indictable (such as manslaughter
and assault) and are tried by a full court, judge and jury. The ones
eligible for a pardon (very serious crimes such as murder are not
eligible) used to have a waiting period of five years; this has now been
changed to ten years. The minor offences are summary (such as causing a
disturbance in a public place and mischief charges) and are tried only
by a judge. They used to have a waiting period of three years and now
have been split into two groups, with the less serious summary offences
still waiting three years and the more serious ones waiting five. The
third and last type of offence one can be charged with is a hybrid
offence (such as certain sexual assaults and driving impaired) which can
be charged as either the more serious indictable offence or the minor
summary offence, depending on how serious a crime the Crown decides it
is. The waiting period after the sentence of a hybrid offence depends
entirely on what level of severity the Crown tried it as.

Most
Canadian criminal pardon applications are accepted, as long as the
paperwork is filled out correctly. There was a 98.3 percent success rate
for Canadian pardons in the 2009-2010 year – 24,134 pardons granted and
425 denied. This is because as the system stands, the basic parameters
for being eligible are the wait times and the “good conduct” rule – the
person must have had good conduct for the past number of years since his
conviction and must be able to prove that the pardon will further their
rehabilitation. As far as rehabilitation goes, the fact that pardons
allow the people to apply for jobs and volunteer positions without fear
of stigma or rejection should speak for itself. Sex offenders are the
inevitable exception to this success rate rule however, as the
government looks to make most of them ineligible for any kind of pardon
or record suspension with C-23B – never mind that they are already
red-flagged when applying to work at jobs or volunteer positions
involving vulnerable people such as children or the elderly.