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Action needed on pardon system, say criminal lawyers

The recommendations of a parliamentary committee looking into the criminal record pardon system is a microcosm of a government that has come up short on their promises for criminal justice reform, say criminal defence lawyers.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security requested the government’s response to its seven findings, which included studying the pardon systems of other commonwealth countries, reviewing the complexity of the process to make it more accessible and the possibility of instituting a mechanism to make pardons automatic “in specific and appropriate circumstances.”


The then federal government’s changes retroactively extended the amount of time that those already having served their sentence would have to wait for a pardon. That part of the law was struck down in Ontario and B.C. after it was challenged on constitutional grounds as essentially increasing punishment for those already sentenced for their crimes.

Michael Spratt, partner at Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP in Ottawa, and a certified specialist in criminal law, brought the case in Ontario, working in conjunction with the lawyers bringing the challenge in B.C.

“It’s been two years since those cases concluded and the government hasn’t done anything,” he says. “So what it means is that this government is just fine with unconstitutional pardon legislation.”

The Liberals had ample opportunity to change the law and not doing so means marginalized and impoverished people are prevented from participating meaningfully in their communities, Spratt says.

“It is disgusting that this government has not taken action. And it is repugnant to basic principles of fairness that their solution and what this committee has recommended is to further study this issue and to twiddle their thumbs.”

Read Aiden MacNab’s full article: Canadian Lawyer

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