Public Safety Minister Vic Toews unveiled sweeping changes to the federal pardon system Tuesday that he said are meant to tighten up the process.
Toews said the proposed changes would eliminate pardons and replace them with more narrowly defined criminal record suspensions. The push for changes to the pardon system stem from the case of junior hockey coach Graham James.
James is the former Swift Current Broncos head coach who was sentenced in January 1997 to 42 months in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing two players including former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy.
The National Parole Board pardoned James in 2007; however, the pardon only came to light as a result of a previously unknown accuser contacting Winnipeg police.
Toews said his reform legislation would make it impossible for those convicted of sex offences against minors to have their criminal records suspended, except in a case where the applicant can demonstrate he or she was "close in age," and that the offence did not involve a position of trust or authority, bodily harm or threat of violence or intimidation.
The changes would also prevent those convicted of more than three indictable offences from getting a record suspension.
While these rule changes may offer some peace to James's victims, some have raised concerns, suggesting that the government should have taken more time to study the issue before proposing this new legislation. Craig Jones, the executive director of the John Howard Society, said the legislation to revamp the pardon system was a "rush to judgment."
What's a pardon?
A pardon can be granted to those who have been convicted of a crime, have completed their sentence and have demonstrated that they are now a law-abiding citizen. A kind of "second chance," a pardon can help some to shed the stigma of their past actions, allowing them to move forward and to build a new, productive, life.
Pardons do not erase the past, however.
"A pardon is not meant to erase or excuse a criminal act," said Caroline Douglas, a National Parole Board spokesperson. "A pardon means that the record of the conviction is kept separate and apart from other criminal records."
If a pardon is granted, information about that person's criminal record is taken out of the Canadian Police Information Centre computer system, and information about the conviction(s) cannot be given out without the approval of the federal solicitor general.
The criminal record is effectively "sealed" once the pardon is granted.
Considering the subject matter and complexity of the laws involved in this case, the comments we received from our CBC community offered reasonable, considerate and thoughtful commentary from a number of perspectives. Here's what you had to say:
A. Cynic, along with many other community members, think that pardons are a useful tool for rehabilitation:
"Honestly people. Let's admit that people can change (and yes, even sex offenders). A criminal record makes it extremely difficult for people to find work, eventually making them poor and homeless. What do you think happens then? When they don't have any legit options, crime is the only thing that pays the bills."
Others, like Natash110, argued for a different kind of change:
"Why not stronger sentences instead of making it harder for people who have already served their time to get pardons. Life should mean LIFE, for example. It's ridiculous that people who commit hard crimes get short times in prisons."
Some, like Rational-Mind, took a step back and recognized the complexity of this issue:
"This is obviously a complex issue... There are many different types of crimes that may very well warrant a 'pardon', but it should be looked at on a case by case basis. However, I think convicted sex offenders are in a different category, and I am glad this change is being put forward. The fact that a convicted sex offender involving minors can apply for a pardon after five years is obscene," he says.
While, commenter Woody B.Uffalo had a different view.
"Under this proposed legislation "convicted criminals', like Viola Desmond who was convicted of sitting in whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, would not be given a pardon. Sometimes the Crown is wrong."
What do you think about the changes to the Canada's pardon laws?
Read what other community members had to say and share your own thoughts.
Meet the Community Team
CBC News Community team, from left to right: Andrew Yates, Andrea Lee-Greenberg, Lauren O'Neil, John Bowman
If you're part of the CBC News community, you're likely to meet one of us: we're the folks working to produce and promote your stories. Read more about us.
More Your Community Entries
- 2012 (1155)
- Should dogs and cats be taxed?
- May photo contest: Daisy macro
- Your take: A Harley Davidson lost in the tsunami changed my life
- Reaction to the law on Quebec protests
- Was Montreal right to ban masks during public protests?
- Nude Harper painting gets chilly online reception
- Should the Quebec government suspend classes?
- Do you agree with the police watchdog's G20 report recommendations?
- Online dater sends out awkward post-date survey
- Should Nik Wallenda use a safety device to cross Niagara Falls?
- Should government seek clemency for Canadians on death row?
- Ugly Meter app worries cyber bullying activists
- And the winner of our April showers photo contest is...
- What would you add to Avery Canahuati's bucket list?
- Who is Titanic II backer Clive Palmer?
- Trending April 30: Titanic II, Conrad Black
- Should Conrad Black regain his Canadian citizenship?
- CBC's David McKie on investigative reporting
- Should rooftop missiles be installed for London Olympics security?
- Obama and Kimmel high-five at White House Correspondents' Dinner
- March photo contest: the winner!
- Shatner-hosted 2012 Juno Awards inspire fanfare
- 10 readers share their Katimavik stories
- Katimavik defended 26 years after Hébert hunger strike
- Earth Hour, Mega Millions, angry 'Beliebers' in morning trends
- Maple syrup hoarders prepare for shortage
- Top 5 at 5: CBC North
- Would bigger tax exemptions encourage you to shop across the border?
- What were your happiest years?
- Should charities lose their status for protesting?
- Community reaction to the Pierre Poutine revelations
- Top 5 at 5: Business stories
- Lady Gaga and Oprah Winfrey launch anti-bullying foundation
- Davy Jones honoured by fans on social media
- February photo contest: the winner!
- Women take the leap and propose marriage on Feb. 29
- Community reaction to closing of high Arctic lab
- Would you freeze-dry a deceased pet?
- U.S. storm watchers swap stories on social media
- Should Canada create an asbestos registry?
- January photo contest: the winner
- Top 5 at 5: Montreal stories
- Should Peru's uncontacted tribes be left alone?
- Is Ashton Kutcher right to block journalists from his Twitter feed?
- Would you wear Dress Pant Sweatpants in your workplace?
- Where do you donate your used clothing?
- Could a UN resolution help end Syria's unrest?
- Top 5 at 5: Politics stories
- Do you trust a camel that predicts Super Bowl winners?
- Community reaction to the Shafia trial verdict
- May (107)