Erasing a criminal record in Canada may become tougher with the drafting and introduction of a new Act into Parliament. Bill C-23, titled "Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act" is the proposed amendment to the Criminal Records Act dealing with pardons in Canada. Serious criminals won't be the only ones affected however; all others will have the waiting period doubled from five years to ten for indictable offenses, and increased from three years to five years for misdemeanors. There is also a three strikes clause which will make anyone with three indictable offenses ineligible for a "record suspension", the new moniker for "pardon" used in the bill.
Record suspension is a term devised to express the government's stance of not wanting to be in the business of pardoning, forgiving, or even relieving anyone convicted of any level of criminal offense. The bill has the aim of getting tough on crime but it also seems to be punishing people who are trying to put an isolated mistake behind them and live as productive citizens once more. Having a criminal record longer leaves an offender vulnerable to further discrimination in the job market and makes travel to other countries more difficult. In effect they are constantly being punished after serving their sentences so one might argue that this is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 11(h) that states that once you are convicted and punished for a crime, you are not to be punished for it again. The place to get tough is in the courtroom.
The government doesn't present any reasoning for the waiting period extension backed by statistics showing such a necessity. At the current waiting periods, 96% of the 400,000 people given pardons in Canada have not re-offended so the motive for demanding much longer waiting periods is not aimed at any weakness in the system. Making them wait longer to live full productive lives is surely a negative factor in reducing crime.
On the positive side, Bill C-23 allows the National Parole Board to consider a number of factors when determining whether to order a record suspension. The Board may consider the nature, gravity, and duration of the offense. They may also consider the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense. They may also weigh information relating to the applicant's criminal history. These new rules should give a broader spectrum on which to base decisions.
Getting a pardon in Canada should be done right away by those who are eligible in order to avoid longer waiting periods. Getting a record suspension doesn't sound as cleansing and there will be the necessity by the applicant to prove to the Board that it would provide him with a measurable benefit and sustain his rehabilitation in society as a law-abiding citizen. The Board would also have the ability to make any inquiries to determine whether the ordering of a record suspension would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. This would eliminate some loopholes that seem to let serious offenders slip by.
The longer waiting periods remain inexplicable; it's a case of fixing something that's not broken and could lead to higher crime rates when frustrated ex-offenders can't find work after several years of good behavior and decide to make money in an illegal fashion. The effort could be better spent focusing on proper sentencing and the swift and effective rehabilitation of those who don't intend to commit crimes anymore.