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Increased Cost of Pardons a Disservice to Canadians

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Konrad Bongard, freelance columnist for Pardon Applications of Canada, explores the recent increase in the government’s submission fee to apply for a Pardon (Record Suspension), and suggests that the rate increase will not represent the intended net economic benefit.

Before the Tories passed Bill-C23A, which increased the government’s submission fee of a pardon application from $150 to $631 (they had previously hiked it from $50 to $150 in 2010), Justice Minister Vic Toews declared that “We believe that ordinary Canadians shouldn’t have to be footing the bill for a criminal asking for a pardon.

APPLY for a Canadian Pardon (Record Suspension) Now.

Not content to merely increase the cost of pardon application, the Tories have introduced a number of other prohibitive measures. The most significant of these are that persons who have been convicted of sexual crimes against minors or who have committed more than three indictable offenses (each with a jail sentence of 2 years or longer) will no longer be eligible to receive pardons. Persons seeking pardons also now have to wait five years (up from three) or ten years (up from five), if they’ve committed indictable offenses.

However, given the social costs engendered by individuals with residual criminal records, it is unlikely that Canadian taxpayers will be the beneficiaries of the rate hike imposed for pardon applications. Or any of the other revisions put forth in Bill C-23, either.

To be sure, very little of Bill C-23 makes sense. After the fee hike became law on February 23, 2012, statistics released by The Canadian Press showed that — in the following nine months — pardon applications dropped by 40%.  At the time, Vic Toews speculated that the increase was likely to bring in $9,470,694 in 2012. Considering that seven thousand individuals in 2012 alone did not apply for pardons because of the rate increase — individuals who will now face greater difficulties obtaining employment and reintegrating into society than they would’ve if they received a pardon — it is all but certain that the rate increase will not represent a net economic benefit.

This is particularly confounding given that one of the Harper government’s ostensible motivations for introducing the rate hike was to enhance the ‘sustainability’ of the provision of pardons. It also likely sheds light on why, prior to the introduction of the rate hike, over 99% of the 1,047 individuals and organizations consulted by the government voiced their disapproval of it.

Bill C-23’s other provisions were just as bizarre. While few Canadians would argue against provisions barring individuals who have committed sex crimes against minors from obtaining pardons, it is also a relatively minor issue, and a Public Safety study published in 2000 found that said individuals are less likely to apply for pardons and more likely to be turned down (sex offenders represent approximately 0.02% of all individuals who have been granted pardons).

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“…prior to the introduction of the rate hike, over 99% of the 1,047 individuals and organizations consulted by the government voiced their disapproval of it.”

What is far more relevant, in statistical terms, is that people who have committed crimes now have to wait significantly longer than they would’ve prior to Bill C-23’s introduction to apply for a pardon. The longer waiting times are plainly a solution in search of a problem: previous to Bill C-23’s passage, 96% of individuals who obtained pardons did not reoffend.

These are people that — because they will now have a harder time supporting their families, obtaining work, and paying restitution — are far more likely to represent a drain to the system.

Last year, Canada’s Minister of Employment Jason Kenney made considerable waves when he declared that, in spite of Canada’s high rate of postgraduate unemployment, the nation was being affected by a ‘worker shortage.’  While Kenney’s claim has since been largely debunked, it is still nevertheless true that, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, there are substantial labour shortages. But if this is the case, why is the Conservative government going to great lengths to prevent Canadians with a previous criminal conviction from having any shot in the workforce?

If anything, the Harper government’s claims about the financial prudence of Bill C-23 merely show that their real strength is not economics.  It’s PR.

Konrad Bongard is a freelance columnist for Pardon Applications of Canada, the nationwide processing firm for Canadian Pardon (Record Suspension) & U.S. Entry Waiver applications.  The opinions expressed are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Pardon Applications of Canada.  For a list of statistical references used in this article, or more information on Pardon Applications of Canada, call 866-383-9744 or email info@pardonapplications.ca