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Pardon me!? Not any more.

SooToday.com has received a copy of the letter below from a loyal reader to Algoma--Manitoulin-- Kapuskasing Member of Parliament Carol Hughes.
SooToday.com has received a copy of the letter below from a loyal reader to  Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing Member of Parliament Carol Hughes.
 
The reader has some serious concerns with recent changes to the circumstances under which a Canadian can receive a pardon for crimes committed and served time for.
 
On March 13, 2012, the Harper government's omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, received Royal Assent, resulting in changes to the pardon program’s name, eligibility requirements, and waiting periods.
 
Now, instead of applying for a pardon, Canadians convicted of a crime who have served their sentences and proved they are rehabilitated, law-pabiding citizens can apply for either a suspension of their criminal record or clemency.
 
The waiting period for a pardon for summary conviction offences was three years before Bill C-10 and other legislation pertaining to pardons and suspensions of criminal records were passed in Canada..
 
Now, Canadians must wait five years to apply to have criminal records of summary conviction offences suspended.
 
Under the pardon laws, Canadians had to wait five years to apply for a pardon for indictable offences.
 
Bill C-10 also increases the waiting period to 10 years to apply for a record suspension on all indictable offences.
 
A record suspension, like a pardon, means that the court can order suspended records to be reintroduced in certain cases. 
 
Generally speaking, if a person is charged with a crime more serious than one that was pardoned or that records were suspended for, he or she can expect that those records will be unsealed and brought back into that person's court record.
 
If the charge is similarly serious in the eyes of the law, the records may or may not be unsealed. 
 
Otherwise, information pertaining to criminal records that are suspended or pardoned will be kept seperate and apart from other criminal records and will not be disclosed without the specific approval of the Minister of Public Safety. 
 
That information will not show up in criminal record searches and, when asked by a perspective or current employer, landlord, volunteer organizer or others if he or she has ever been convicted of a crime for which no pardon or suspension of records have been granted, the answer that person should give is, 'no'.
 
It is forbidden to ask a person if he or she has a criminal record that has been pardoned or suspended.
 
Earlier legislation also distinguished between eligibility of people who have committed sexual offences and other indictable offences and Bill C-10 took that one step further.
 
In 2010, the passage of Bill C-23A seperated out a number of crimes considered particularly serious.
 
It increased the pardon ineligibility period for violent personal injury offences.
 
The pardon ineligibility period for a summary sexual conviction was increased from three to five years after sentence completion.
 
It also increased the pardon eligibility period for a person who commits an indictable sexual offence from five to 10 years.
 
Under Bill C-10, Individuals convicted of sexual offences against minors (with certain exceptions) are now ineligible for a record suspension.
 
Bill C-10 also added a stipulation for all repeated indictable offences.
 
As of March, anyone who has been convicted of more than three indictable offences, each with a sentence of two or more years, is now ineligible for a record suspension.
 
In the past, these indivuals could apply for and expect a pardon if they met all the criteria for said pardon and correctly completed their applications.
 
Also, as of February 23, the user fee for the processing of a record suspension (formerly a pardon) application has increased from $150 to $631.
 
Information on clemency can be found here.
 
Individuals who have been charged with but found not guilty of a crime or have had those charges dismissed or thrown out can still apply to have the finger prints and photos taken of them as well as any other record of their arrest and charges destroyed.
 
If it's decided the file will be destroyed as requested proof of this is provided upon file destruction.
 
Our reader letter pertaining to these issues follows.
 
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Dear Ms. Hughes:
 
This letter is in response to the recent changes to the pardon law.
 
I wish to express my disappointment over this and outline the negative impact this will have on people.
 
I understand and fully support a justice system that includes negative consequences in response to criminal behaviour by individuals.
 
When someone commits a wrong against society they have a “debt” to repay, which is done through fines, jail sentences, probation etc.
 
Having said that there comes a point where the consequences are just too much.
 
A person commits a crime they are charged, serve a sentence, and after a short period of time should be able to get on with life.
 
Isn’t Canada a country that prides itself on rehabilitating offenders so they can reintegrate back into society as contributing members, not criminals.
 
This law contradicts that philosophy.
 
The current law of waiting 10 years (indictable offences) after the end of your sentence before becoming eligible for a pardon, or as it’s now referred to a “records suspension” is going too far.
 
My guess is that some overzealous members of parliament were motivated to double the wait time because they thought it would lower the crime rate, but rest assured it will back-fire, big time, for two reasons.
 
First of all there are virtually no job opportunities available for ex-cons, so if you can’t get a job what are your options?
 
Welfare for the next 10 years, which doesn’t pay enough to live on; or return to criminal activity to make money?
 
You can easily make $14,000 per month selling cocaine.
 
Why would someone give that up to sit on welfare for the next 10 years, live in a slum of an apartment, and eat out of
dumpsters?
 
What would you prefer?
 
The few employers that will hire ex-cons usually offer minimum wage, which doesn’t give you a much better quality of life than welfare.
 
Second, most colleges require a criminal record check to starting a program, or to going on student placement. So how is an ex-criminal who has made some bad decisions and mistakes, but is trying to change supposed to do so? You are held back at every turn.
 
You can’t get a good paying job because you have a record.
 
You don’t have an education, so you go to your local community college and try to get one, so you will have the skills to get a good paying job, but wait….that’s right….you are turned away because of your record.
 
Hmmm…doesn’t leave very many options does it?
 
I contacted the National Pardon Service to inquire if they knew why the government had changed the pardon laws.
 
The response I received was “The federal government has decided they are not in the business of forgiveness”.
 
I’m sorry, but do these politicians have children?
 
Our children disobey and break rules at home or at school and what do we do?
 
We hand out negative consequences i.e. punishment for the wrong behaviour and then we move on i.e. we FORGIVE them.
 
We would have a lot of screwed up children if we kept a tally of all their wrongs and constantly reminded them of their mistakes.
 
We don’t do that at all - we continue encouraging them and loving them.
 
So why are we throwing a blanket over every person in society that has committed an indictable offence and saying you are bad, you cannot change, we will not forgive you.
 
Here’s another thought; I heard sometime ago on the news that Canada lets known terrorists reside in the country and we “monitor” them.
 
Excuse me?!
 
These are people who will admit their sole mission is to harm us and cause as much destruction to the Western world as possible.
 
Why would we tolerate that, but we are not willing to let go of the crimes our citizens have committed after their sentence(s) have been served?
 
Why do we make them wait ten years before allowing them to get on with their lives?
 
I think five years is a long enough time to wait for a pardon regardless of if the offence was indictable or summary.
 
Most people who have stayed out of trouble for five years are trying to change and get on with their lives, crime is in the past for them and it no longer represents who they are.
 
I would like to share a personal story with you in closing.
 
My husband committed some offences in his twenties, when he was addicted to alcohol and drugs, and was making bad choices all around.
 
He ended up with some indictable charges.
 
He went through a wonderful treatment program called Teen Challenge North and has been sober and crime free for five years.
 
He has changed.
 
We have been married for two years and own a home together.
 
He volunteers at our church (which he attends regularly) and has increased custody of his 10 year old daughter,
going from having supervised access to being granted custody every second weekend.
 
He has also been successfully holding a job for two years now, and prior to working he volunteered at Teen Challenge North for three years after finishing his treatment.
 
He has not committed an offence criminal or otherwise since 2007.
 
That’s five years.
 
He has changed; he is not that person anymore.
 
That is his past.
 
He has paid his debt to society and moved on, why can’t the government?
 
Instead they want to hold him back by stamping an ex-con label on him until 2019!
 
They still want to label him a criminal and give every potential employer, volunteer organization, and college access to his past crimes through record searches, which essentially makes him ineligible to do anything.
 
Under the old pardon law his eligibility date was February 2014, now it is 2019.
 
Come on, if you think that is reasonable and fair go back and read the preceding two paragraphs and think about it, really
think.
 
So with a new eligibility date of 2019 my husband has to stay at his minimum wage dead-end job until then.
 
Why you ask?
 
Because every good paying job add we look at requires you be bondable or have a criminal record check prior to starting work.
 
He wants to get a better paying job so he can save money for his daughter to go to college, and give her a better life now.
 
His daughter will be 19 when he finally get his pardon, excuse me “records suspension”, a bit late to provide a good
life for her.
 
I hope this letter opens your eyes to the negative impact this change to the law is having on thousands of Canadians.
 
I hope the government will consider making an amendment to the law and return to a five year waiting period for a records suspension.
 
I hope you will help the thousands of reformed Canadians who have committed an indictable offence reintegrate back into society quickly by lowering the wait period.
 
Just think about it, really think, and you will see it makes sense.
 
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