Oppose Proposed Changes to Canadian Pardons

How effective are existing pardons?

Since pardons are designed to help ex-convicts reintegrate into productive society, Ottawa should avoid the temptation to rewrite the Criminal Records Act because of a lone controversy. Of the pardons issued since 1970, fewer than 3 per cent have been rescinded – though even a suspicion or allegation of wrongdoing is grounds for doing so. How many of those pardons have been granted to former sexual offenders? Only a small fraction, says Toronto lawyer Michael Carabash:

 Carabash, who crunched expansive RCMP data on 2.9 million criminal records, said the numbers revealed that there were 795 pardoned sex offenders, as of 2005. That's about 0.2 per cent of all pardons granted since the system began in 1970. "When people are saying that sex offenders are routinely and quietly being pardoned, you have to think about that," said Carabash. "There's not many of them."

Retrieved from: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/offenders+tiny+fraction+pardons+Researcher/2774887/story.html#ixzz0pOychrSt


Of those few who have offended sexually, and have received a pardon, what are the actual recidivism rates? Those rates and the resulting viability of the existing pardon system, were confirmed by the Canadian government’s own Public Safety department, whose website provides detailed information about Canadian pardons:

·         Over a period of 28 years (1970-1998) more than 234,000 pardons were granted or issued while 1.2% (2,785) was denied. The sample findings indicated that among the revoked/ceased files reviewed 5.1% (27/525) of the offenders' criminal records contained a sexual conviction. Also, 6.1% (32/525) of the revocations/cessations were the result of a sexual conviction, although, most of the sex offenders did not reoffend sexually. In fact, only 10 of the 32 revocations/cessations were previous sex offenders. Therefore, 1.9% of the revocations/cessations were sex offenders who were convicted of another sexual offence. Examining the most common offences resulting in revocation, more than half (56.2%) were liquor/traffic violations (e.g. impaired driving) or property offences.

·         From the analysis of the research samples it was possible to provide an estimation of the prevalence of sex offenders among the more than 234,000 individuals granted a pardon. Combining both the granted and revoked/ceased samples it was estimated that 2.1% (4,883) of all pardons were granted to sex offenders between 1970 and 1998. Further, it was estimated that 114 (2.3%) pardoned sex offenders would have recidivated sexually over the 28-year period.

Based on the evidence above the Public Safety department determined the following implications:

  • Very few sex offenders were granted a pardon and the vast majority who are pardoned did not reoffend sexually. Thus, automatic denial of pardons to sex offenders would unnecessarily curtail the liberties of the many ex-offenders who remain crime-free.
  •  Pardoned offenders with no prior histories of sexual crimes also committed sex offences. But, overall, pardoned ex-offenders commit few of the known sex offences. Consequently, some sexual victimization would still occur even if all known sex offenders were denied pardons. Therefore, strategies to protect the public from sexual victimization should be more broadly targeted.

Source:  Wallace-Capretta, S. (2000). Pardoned Offenders in Canada: A Statistical Analysis. Ottawa: Solicitor General Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/sum/cprs200003-eng.aspx

The Federal government of Canada is not ignorant of the research established by its own department.  The government has chosen to simply disregard the evidence in its bid to appear tough on crime and does so by exacerbating society’s fears and misperceptions. 

"[The push to reform the pardon system] seems to be yet another sad and sorry attempt to inflame, rather than inform, the public," said Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. "It is true that [relatively few] pardons have been revoked, but that should comfort rather than scare Canadians. It means that those who apply and are granted pardons are generally people who have learned from their actions and have gone on to live law-abiding lives."