Saskatchewan Party MLA Serge Leclerc insists the pardon he received 10 years ago for gang- and drug-related crimes was well deserved and has special significance for him despite questions raised recently about the ease with such pardons are granted.
The granting of pardons has been the focus of media attention since it came to light earlier this month that convicted sex offender Graham James had received a pardon in 2007 after serving out his 3½ year sentence. The former hockey coach had pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of two teens.
Leclerc, who represents Saskatoon Northwest, has been convicted of serious crimes relating to involvement with gangs and drugs.
His criminal file was sealed when he was granted a pardon by the National Parole Board in February 2000.
'I was disappointed that someone like Mr. James could get a pardon so easily when it was so hard for me.' —Serge Leclerc, Saskatchewan Party MLA for Saskatoon Northwest
Leclerc claimed in his autobiography, Untwisted, that his pardon was an extraordinary move, entailing a special act of Parliament. But Leclerc's parole board document indicates it was a routine pardon as per the conditions laid out in the Criminal Records Act.
On Tuesday, Leclerc told reporters in Regina that he was troubled to learn that James had been granted a pardon.
"I was disappointed that someone like Mr. James could get a pardon so easily when it was so hard for me," Leclerc said. "I thought that pardons should be something special. You work hard to get them. You should deserve them."
Leclerc said he still believes his pardon was a special case and should not be compared with James's.
"For me, the national pardon shows that no matter who you are and how far down the line you were and how messed up your life was, that you're capable of redemption," he said.
"To find out that somebody like Mr. James got it so easily without really going about proving anything that they've changed was a disappointment."
Pardons seem routine
On Monday, New Democratic Party Trent Wotherspoon suggested in the legislature that the current system of granting pardons is too lax and said he welcomed the federal review of the process announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the wake of the James revelations.
"Unfortunately, the James case shows us that sometimes, criminals are granted routine pardons even when they have committed very serious crimes like trafficking drugs," said Trent Wotherspoon, who represents Regina Rosemont.
"[Pardons are being granted] to almost anyone who applies, provided they can show that they have not run afoul of the law for a period of several years following their release from custody, regardless of the violent or harmful nature of their crime."
'Sometimes, criminals are granted routine pardons even when they have committed very serious crimes .' —Trent Wotherspoon, NDP MLA for Regina Rosemont
Leclerc said he felt Wotherspoon's comments were directed at him and were intended to raise questions about his character.
"It was quite obvious what it was meant for, and it was a personal attack," Leclerc told reporters Tuesday. "It's not classy. I think politicians expect more of us."
Wotherspoon said that wasn't the case.
"The perception is that a pardon is something where you go through a process of rehabilitation, reclamation and redemption," Wotherspoon said. "We know that's not the case. Many, many individuals — dangerous criminals — are pardoned."
Leclerc says no matter what others may think of his pardon, he still believes it was well earned.
"I deserved it," he said. "I worked hard for it. "