Well, for now, it is just a proposed name for what Canada’s pardon system. I’ve previously voiced concerns over Bill C-23, which would make it harder (if not impossible) for those with certain criminal records to apply to get a record suspension. It would also require those with criminal records to have to wait longer before they become eligible to apply.
The main problem I have with the proposed legislation is the requirement for applicants to wait longer: from 5 years to 10 years if you were convicted of indictable offences (more serious crimes) and from 3 years to 5 years if you were convicted of summary conviction offences (less serious crimes). The media has been interviewing everyday folk to get a sense of how this increased wait time would affect them. And, you probably guessed it: it would make them wait before they could become full-fledged members of society. Stories are popping up everywhere about how John Doe was a little deviant 2 years ago (nothing major – perhaps just a minor drug offence). He hasn’t been able to travel to the U.S., apply for a job, volunteer, adopt a child, etc. because of the fear that his criminal record would negatively impact the outcome. So he is unemployed, not paying taxes, and collecting social assistance. John Doe wants to be a productive member of society. He has paid the price for what he’s done. That was over 2 years ago. So how is making him wait even longer (from 1 more year to 3 more years) going to help him or society?
This begs the bigger question: what does the Conservative government know that we don’t? Why do they want to make people wait longer? What effect does it have? Does the National Parole Board need more time and breathing room to deal with applications (even if it did, that still shouldn’t justify making people wait longer)? Are there reports that show that people need more time to rehabilitate themselves to enter society again as productive members? I haven’t seen anything…. So until the government explains why it wants to make people wait longer, I think we should stick to the current timelines.
What about changing the name from pardon to record suspension? It’s a political move, for sure: the Government doesn’t want to be perceived by the public (and victims in particular) for being in the pardon, mercy, or forgiveness business. Record suspension is closer in meaning to what actually happens when you get a pardon than the word “pardon” itself: your criminal record is kept separate and apart from other criminal records held in the RCMP’s Identification data bank.