The cost of a pardon in Canada

by Employment Blawg on July 4, 2012

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The following is a guest blog post regarding pardons under Canadian law which discusses some of the employment difficulties for pardon applicants.

Since Canada’s pardon program has a success rate of 96% why did the Conservative government want to limit the number of pardons being granted? In other words, if it wasn’t broken, why did they “fix” it?

One of the changes made by the Conservative government was a drastic increase in the government fee required to submit a pardon application to the Parole Board of Canada. What was once a realistic $50 was first increased to $150 and then to $631 (by the same administration), an amount that many people trying to get back on their feet will have a hard time paying. The Conservatives have said that the fee was necessary because taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for criminals.

Experts in criminal justice understood that when a person is arrested it costs money and that money must be covered by taxpayers. Police officers, court workers, prosecutors, judges, probation and correction officers all present a significant financial burden that society has agreed it must pay for. Considering the overall cost of an arrest, how much could we possibly save by refusing to subsidize pardons?

Even without doing the math, it remains clear that the pardon program is comparatively a minor expense. From a fiscal perspective, it should be understood as counter-productive to price pardons out of the reach of those who are trying to get their life on the right track. Over 10% of the people in Canada have a criminal record which keeps them from finding a job. Those who cannot find work do not pay income tax, and often live off welfare or continue a life of crime. This is a significant burden to tax payers.

On the other hand, people who are given a chance to get back to work become a part of the population that is paying for criminal justice and are no longer costing it money. And they rarely engage in criminal activity. The Conservative government, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, fails to understand the simple cost-benefit return that Canadian pardons provide to society as a whole.

This is not to say that it is unfair for someone with a criminal record to pay the cost associate with filing a pardon application. Yet while $631 to some of us is a minor expense, to others it is an insurmountable cost that might as well have a few extra zeros on the end. To be fair, there was no doubt that the price of a pardon was due to go up. But a dramatic increase from $50 to $631 meant that a pardon would be deemed unattainable for those who need it the most.

If the Conservatives had recognized the importance of a pardon for finding decent employment perhaps they would have considered a more balanced approach. Pricing a pardon as a percentage of the applicant’s income after it was granted might have been complicated, but it would have allowed people to get back to work first, and then worry about paying for a pardon later. Unfortunately nothing like this was even considered.

If you have a criminal record, contact a pardon specialist at the National Pardon Centre. We offer free consultation services and can easily help you determine if you are eligible for a pardon. We also provide honest cost evaluations up front so you will know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

Employment Blawg

Employment Blawg

Employment law blogger at LabourBlawg
LabourBlawg is an employment blawg, sharing the best guest employment law blogs. You can register today via the get started button above to join us as a guest employment law blogger.
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  • http://www.canadianlegal.org Debbie Ward

    I agree with your first comment regarding pardon statistics. The new Crime Bill is targeting people who have already left the system–people who are no longer re-offending (or at least 96% never re-offend once pardoned, as you have indicated). They are now making Record Suspensions (previously called Canadian Pardons) harder to get. Unfortunately, they are punishing 96% of the people due to the 4% that re-offend.

    As for the fee increase, since it has already happened, I think the excess funds (meaning funds that were previously used to fund the pardon system) should go into treatment programs, not punishment. The purpose of punishment should have rehabilitation as its primary goal. We have to create better rehabilitation programs so that offenders don’t re-offend. If we make sure that they never re-offend there will be no reason for them to return to jail.

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