Government increases cost of pardons

Following a decision by the Harper Conservatives, the cost of forgiveness has nearly quadrupled. PHOTO BY PATRICIA BROTZEL Following a decision by the Harper Conservatives, the cost of forgiveness has nearly quadrupled. PHOTO BY PATRICIA BROTZEL

Following a decision by the Harper Conservatives, the cost of forgiveness has nearly quadrupled. PHOTO BY PATRICIA BROTZEL

By Patricia Brotzel
Crime Reporter

The cost of applying for a criminal pardon has nearly quadrupled after a decision of the federal government.

Application costs were raised from $150 to $631 in the decision, which was made on Feb. 23.

A pardon does not eliminate a person’s criminal record, but allows them to re-enter society by making travelling and finding a job easier, said Jeanine Webber, criminal justice program co-ordinator at Humber’s north campus.

“It does not completely remove [the conviction], you just have to go through several layers to find it. Often employers will ask if you have been convicted,” Webber said. “It allows for individuals to be able to say they have not been convicted of something they haven’t been pardoned for.”

Andrew Tanenbaum, director at Pardons Canada, disagrees with the decision to raise the cost because those who need a pardon are also in need of money.

“It is a terrible decision because most people who are looking for pardons are looking because every employer in Canada is doing criminal checks,” he said.

There are a number of reasons for convicted criminals to seek pardons, said Tanenbaum, like needing peace of mind, the ability to work or cross the U.S. border.

“Americans don’t allow people who have a criminal record to cross the border,” said Tanenbaum. “Sometimes it is for immigration purposes, people applying for citizenship.”

A Conservative crime bill has removed the possibility for pardon to any person who has committed more than three indictable offences.

“[Applicants] also need all the old court records and RCMP records, and then they need to be submitted to the government for approval,” said Tanenbaum, adding that proof they are rehabilitated and a productive member of society is also needed.

Kim Pate, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society – an organization dedicated to providing support to women in the criminal justice system – said the pardon is a tool for rehabilitation, and this new increase could affect the rehabilitation process.

“If the pardon becomes unaffordable, it could prevent people from moving on with their lives.”

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