Immigration Adjacent: Proposed Changes to the Pardon/Record Suspension System

Yesterday Public Safety made this announcement: Pardon legislation introduced to address criminal justice system inequities and keep communities safe.

Bill C-31, the Reducing Barriers to Reintegration Act (see here at Legisinfo), would, according to the announcement,

  • “reduce wait periods for obtaining a pardon to three years for summary offences and five years for indictable offences”;
  • “streamline the decision-making process for less serious offences, so these applications can be dealt with more quickly and simply”;
  • Make it so “that late payment of a fine or any other monetary penalty that was included in the sentence, does not restart the wait period”; and
  • “reduce the application fee to an amount as low as $50 to make pardons more affordable, because the current cost of applying for a pardon ($657.77)”

Additionally the Bill proposes funding for modernization of the Parole Board of Canada, and for community organizations helping applicants.

Lawyers who’ve been practicing in crimmigration for a while will recall that this is something of a return from the system that existed before the “reforms” of 2010, i.e. Bill C-23B: Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act.

Of further interest is this:

In an effort to further remove barriers to pardons, the Government will explore the automated sequestering of some criminal records for less serious offences for those living crime-free, in consultation with provinces, territories and municipalities, as well as other key criminal justice stakeholders. In other countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, similar systems set aside criminal records for less serious offences after specific periods of time for those living crime-free, removing the need to apply for a pardon. This review will explore how such a system could be implemented in Canada.

Automatic expungement of some criminal records after a period of time without any further involvement with the criminal justice system would seem to be an excellent and efficient way to handle the cases of people who made genuine mistakes or who have been rehabilitated. Interestingly, it is also being considered for implementation or expansion in several states (More States Consider Automatic Criminal Record Expungement).

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