Unpaid fines add to long waiting periods
People with criminal records were disappointed when the government decided to increase the wait periods for pardons, which are now called Record Suspensions.
However, for many people, the wait becomes even longer. Every year many Canadians who wait for the eligibility date are shocked to find out that when the five- or ten-year wait period actually ends they are back at square one. This often happens because they find out that they still can’t apply for a pardon due to outstanding fines. Although it seems reasonable that those with outstanding fines should pay them, it’s not always clear to the person being sentenced.
There are many reasons people don’t pay their fines:
- Courts do not pursue people with outstanding fines;
- Lawyers don’t tell the client or don’t make sure the client is aware of the future consequences of not paying the fine;
- Many people are convicted without any legal representation and are overwhelmed by the process.
Very few Canadians who are convicted obtain or keep copies of their court records. These are generally requested once the person decides to apply for a Record Suspension. The wait times to receive these documents are also often long:
- Before the documents are requested, the individual requests a certified criminal record check from the RCMP. This can take up to four months.
- They then request their court documents. Depending on the courthouse, this can take up to three months.
They have now waited seven months to find out about the fine payment listed in their court documents. Now they must pay the fine and the five or 10-year waiting period starts again.
The waiting period has now been extended to 10 or 20 years and seven months. At this point, many individuals just give up and lose interest in bettering themselves through a Record Suspension. They may avoid volunteering in the community or pursuing their career goals.
The government should consider a more forgiving approach to people with unpaid fines, especially considering that many don’t even know that they have them, and others were facing other problems at the time the fine was issued such as poverty, addictions, family matters and other challenges.
Some options can include:
- Waiving a fine after a number of years of good conduct;
- Allowing the person to pay the fine and then submit the application;
- Accepting the application and making the Record Suspension conditional on the payment of the fine;
Designating an authority to collect fines after a judgement has been ordered.
The goal of the Record Suspension should be to benefit society by helping people re-integrate. Preventing a person from accessing careers and moving forward from their past can have many negative impacts on the individual and their family.
Rolling back pardon wait times is one way to lessen the impact; recognizing the harms of rigid administrative rules is another. If you think that Canada should take a fairer and more humane approach to pardons, please consider signing our petition.
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