Pardon rate expected to dip due to tough rules

The number of bona fide applicants for a criminal pardon is expected to plunge by almost half under stricter new rules.

OTTAWA — The number of bona fide applicants for a criminal pardon is expected to plunge by almost half under stricter new rules.

Internal figures obtained by The Canadian Press show the Parole Board of Canada expects to evaluate about 15,000 pardon applications annually, down from 27,750.

A law passed in 2010 toughened the requirements and, in some cases, increased the waiting times for pardon applicants.

The law requires the parole board to assess the behaviour of applicants from the time of their conviction to ensure granting a pardon would not “bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”

It means fewer people are expected to apply, and more will be screened out early on.

About 10 per cent of Canadians — over three million people — have a criminal record. A pardon doesn’t erase a person’s record, but can make it easier to get a job, travel and return to society.

A cost-benefit analysis conducted by consulting firm RIAS Inc. for the Parole Board, says operations have changed since the law was changed.

“Board staff require more time to obtain additional information from applicants, research cases, wait for responses to queries from criminal justice participants, build files and make recommendations,” says the analysis.

As a result, the Conservative government wants to hike the cost of seeking a pardon to $631 from the current $150.

Critics say the fee hike will mean a tougher path for convicts trying to turn their lives around.

The Parole Board released a copy of the cost-benefit analysis informally after The Canadian Press requested it under the Access to Information Act. The study, completed last February, says the board anticipates 25,000 applications annually — only 15,000 of which will be eligible for processing.

The analysis says the total cost to the board to process a pardon application under the new legislation is actually $725 — meaning the government will subsidize $94 of each application.

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