Should Violent or Sexual Offenders Be Granted Record Suspensions?
by Joel LaForest, Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada
In Canada, violent and sexual offenders do not have the same ability to apply for a Record Suspension as those convicted of other offences. To clarify, a “Record Suspension” is more commonly referred to as Pardon. This makes it considerably more difficult for these convicted Canadians to gain employment, travel outside the country, or get approved for a bank loan or mortgage, despite having completed their sentencing and demonstrating reformation.
But if these people complete their sentences, wait out the mandatory period, and pay all fines or fees associated with the process, should they be allowed a Record Suspension, just like any other reformed Canadian or resident?
To help formulate your own informed opinion on this question, let’s examine the facts and numbers together.
Bill C-10: The Safe Streets and Communities Act
Bill C-10, also known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, was introduced in 2011 and passed the following year. The Bill contained several amendments to the Criminal Code and several other key pieces of legislation. In particular, Bill C-10 changed the eligibility criteria for those wishing to apply, especially for those who’ve been convicted of violent or sexual crimes. For instance, individuals convicted of three or more indictable offences, with prison sentences of two or more years became ineligible to apply for a Record Suspension once the Bill was enacted.
Recidivism Rates in Canada
According to a study from The Correctional Service of Canada, re-offending rates have been steadily going down in Canada. The 2-year re-offending rates for people convicted of crimes in 2011/12 was 23.4%, which was a considerable drop from the 1996/97 cohort, which saw recidivism rates as high as 40%. This goes to show the vast majority of Canadians (76.6%), just over three-quarters, aren’t likely to re-offend after the 2-year mark. However, most of these offenders won’t be eligible for a Record Suspension due to the nature of their crime.
Recidivism Rates for Sexual Offenses
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada looked at 10 studies that focused on the recidivism rate for adult males guilty of sexual offences. The recidivism rate for these offences was found to be 14% at the 5-year mark, which is considerably less than the 23.4% found after 2 years. In other words, most (86%) of this population aren’t likely to re-offend after 5-years, which is precisely when these individuals might become eligible for a Record Suspension.
Additionally, the study also found that older people convicted of such offences re-offended at a lower rate. In fact, adult men over the age of 50 convicted of a sexual offence only re-offended at a rate of 7% after 5 years.
Should these people be allowed the same right to a Record Suspension as any other Canadian or resident who has completed all requirements of their sentencing, especially when you consider that the majority of these individuals aren’t likely to re-offend?
Equal Rights and Equal Pardons
Bill C-10 was introduced into the Canadian House of Commons shortly after the 2011 Federal election. Of course, the Bill was introduced in hopes of improving safety on Canadian streets. But it also made it considerably more challenging for certain individuals to obtain a Canadian Record Suspension.
In a system that’s designed to be as fair and just as possible, is it truly fair to prevent these individuals from accessing a Record Suspension, like any other reformed Canadian? Or should the serious nature of these offences forever disqualify them from such a privilege? For now, the challenge of this difficult question will remain.
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About the Author
Joel LaForest is a Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada and the owner of The Hobo Marketing Co., specializing in writing about law, finance, health, and wealth.