Exclusive: Government reviews pardon system
The federal government is acting now to review concerns about the accessibility of pardons, which are now called "record suspensions" for the one in eight Canadians who have criminal records.
Azmairnin Jadavji, president and CEO of Pardon Services Canada, wrote to the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale last year to advise him of the Lift the Burden campaign and to request support for our appeal for a fairer system.
In response, we have received an exclusive letter from Mr. Goodale confirming that the matter is under review. Beginning in 2011, the cost of obtaining a pardon for a past criminal record shot up from $150 to $631 and the waiting periods increased from 3-5 years to 5-10. This left thousands of Canadians struggling to find employment, being shut out of apartment rentals and not able to participate in volunteer roles. The availability of opportunities such as these have been proven to assist people with rehabilitation and reduce the rates of recidivism. In fact, fewer than 3 per cent of people who receive pardons go on to lose their pardon due to a new offence. In addition, the name was changed from pardon to record suspension. This act symbolically eroded the concept of forgiveness.
Mr. Goodale states in his April 7 letter that he shares our concerns about fairness and opportunity. He says he is conducting a thorough review of the changes to our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade:
"I intend to review the waiting period, fee, and name of record suspensions to consider fairness and proportionality, and their role in rehabilitation," he says.
Mr. Goodale goes on to state that he will be reviewing these factors over the next year, and that reform is a priority:
"As you were right to point out, inaccessible pardons cause a major barrier to good employment as many positions require criminal record checks. Pardons are the final step in the reintegration process and we want to ensure that the Record Suspension program supports the rehabilitation of those who are living crime-free. The goal of the corrections system is for offenders to become contributing members of society after their release to make our communities safer."
Lift the Burden is pleased that the government is acting on this matter and invite you to help show your support by signing our petition at change.org.