Here is a brief summary of a recent article by CBC News. To read the original article, please follow the link at the bottom of this article.
Old habits do die hard, but there comes a time when habits have to be broken: The cycle that so often plagues people struggling to cope with too little, if any, income and the demands of daily life – the cycle that sometimes leads to desperate acts, often illegal ones, results in a criminal record.
Over 4 million people in Canada have criminal records; and spokespeople at the Parole Board of Canada, the RCMP, and the Department of Justice say that only a very small percentage of people apply for pardons, often because they have no choice. Applying for a pardon is a long process involving hundreds of dollars in expenses in addition to the administrative fee that the Parole Board now charges – a fee increased just last December from $50 to $150.
If a person has a criminal record and has not been pardoned, finding housing, crossing the border into the U.S., getting a job, even just part time, is next to impossible. Not having a pardon is a “big deal.” Many application forms ask if the applicant has committed a crime for which the person has not been pardoned. Even when a company might hire someone without checking his or her criminal history, there is the constant fear that the criminal record will be discovered. And should a situation occur that causes management to do a company-wide background check, that record will indeed be discovered, usually leading to dismissal.
To apply for a pardon, individuals must have served their sentences or paid their fines and lived crime-free for five or ten years, depending on the severity of the offence; and they must pay the application fee. Now the Parole Board wants to raise that fee to more than $600 from $150, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews feels that the applicant “should be paying for those pardons on a cost-recovery basis” – that is, pay the full cost, believing ordinary Canadians shouldn’t have to shoulder the expense.
Individuals can apply for a pardon by themselves however, the process can be difficult. The petition can be aided by using Pardon Services Canada, a reputable private company established in 1989 and having a success rate of 99 percent. The services include creating and compiling all the necessary forms required to support the application and handling all communications from the NPB and other government agencies. All documents required are obtained in a timely manner, and each case is processed expeditiously.
The Harper government wants the Parole Board to allow fewer pardon applications and spend more time on each, with the board’s cost breakdown estimating the increased administrative cost at $631!
Opponents of the heftier fees feel the issue is about more than cost. Most individuals applying for pardons live on low incomes, and the additional amount is purely out of reach. Toews recognizes these legitimate factors, thus the Parole Board held public consultations in February when Canadians were asked to say what they thought of quadrupling the price. Dozens of people reacted by saying that the higher cost will make a pardon impossible to get.
Most pardons are given to people who commit non-violent offences. Worthy of note is this list of Offences from 2000-2010 that earned pardons. Shouldn’t we be helping rather than hindering those who struggle to reintegrate into society?
Pardons allow new start, applicants say
Parole board begins consultations on pardon application fee hike