Fear, Anger, Misunderstanding Vs. Statistics and Evidence

Canada is being urged to learn from the Americans’ mistakes: the U.S. mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws turned out to be not only ineffective in reducing drug use but also contributed to a disastrous over-incarceration problem. A zero-tolerance approach allows organized crime and gang violence to flourish and saddles non-violent drug offenders with jail and criminal records that have “ruined countless lives.”

The “Smarter Justice Network,” a Canadian group, shares the same sentiments as the “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition” (LEAP), an American group – both having much in common. Comprised of lawyers, criminal law policy advisors, victims, victim advocates, and retired judges and police officers, these groups oppose the mandatory sentencing regimens that remove judicial discretion scattered throughout the Conservative government’s Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

Citing overcrowded jails and “countless ruined lives,” LEAP released an open letter to Prime Minister Harper and senators, explaining that they had been deeply involved with the war on drugs but now realize that such policies are a costly failure.

The Smarter Justice Network is more broadly worried about, beyond drugs, the cumulative impact of Bill C-10, its mandatory sentencing rules, and what they see as a regressive, reactive, costly, and ineffective approach to crime, corrections, and parole.

The general public’s lack of first-hand experience or knowledge of the criminal justice system contributes to a debate fueled by high emotions. Since LEAP’s letter warns us about the costly “failure of U.S. crime policies that those proposed in the Canadian federal government’s Bill C-10 legislation seem to be modeled on,” Canada should not be ignoring the lessons learned in the United States.

Pardon Services Canada shares the same views as the Smarter Justice Network – urging a more forward looking stance that won’t burden offenders so harshly.

Strong Opposition Hasn’t Deterred Pardon Application Fee Increase

It’s important to note that Canadians who seek pardons, most typically to find employment, are low-risk offenders with minor charges. The Parole Board of Canada’s own statistics show that only 4% of those who receive pardons go on to re-offend. Despite this fact, the Canadian Government has increased the Parole Board of Canada’s pardon application fee from $150 to $631 – a 320% jump. Increasing the application fee does nothing to help these people reintegrate into Canadian society.

Despite strong opposition voiced during a government-mandated public consultation process last year, the Conservative Government decided to push through this counter-productive rate hike, effective February 23, 2012.

Pardon Services Canada is of the opinion that this increase is unfair and burdensome and does not represent the views of the majority of Canadians who believe strongly in giving people a second chance. A study commissioned by the Parole Board of Canada last year projects that the fee increase will result in a 40% decrease in pardon applications.

Pardon applications that were submitted to the Parole Board of Canada on or before February 22 were processed at the former rate of $150. Pardon Services Canada was doing everything possible to submit applications prior to that deadline to save the costs for as many clients as possible. We have also introduced an option enabling clients to finance their application fees into monthly payments to help diffuse the impact of this decision.

Pardon Services Canada is the oldest Canadian company offering professional support to individuals in obtaining pardons and serves as an advocate for Canadians to exercise their lawful rights under the Criminal Records Act of Canada (CRA) and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of the United States. Since 1989 the company has successfully assisted over 100,000 Canadians to overcome the obstacles of a criminal record and live a record-free life.

Volunteering a Great Way to Open Doors

More than 2,000 athletes are expected to attend the 2012 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, happening in March. Organizers have been pressed to secure volunteers, with a total of 1,700 needed in order for the games to run smoothly. People are needed to help with food services, transportation, and security.

Since all volunteers must go through an RCMP background check, time is of the essence. However, this requirement should not deter anyone interested in helping out as conducting criminal background checks for volunteering with most causes is now the norm.

Here are some interesting facts about the Games [2012 Arctic Winter Games website]: 
  • The participating teams are Yukon, N.W.T., Nunavut, Nunavik, Northern Alberta, Alaska, Greenland, Saami (Finland, Norway, and Sweden), and Yamal (Russia)
  • The first games were held in Yellowknife 1970.
  • There are 19 sports in the 2012 games, including snowshoe biathlon, dog mushing, hockey, and figure skating.
  • The 2014 games will be held in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Volunteering your time, services, talents, and energies is actually a multi-faceted endeavor with a great deal of benefits. In addition to helping others, it will help you as well. Have you just recently graduated? Are you seeking a change in your career path? Are you reentering the work force after a period of time? Do you seek new challenges?

Also, volunteering could be thought of as a non-networking way of networking. Since networking is an excellent way to discover that “hidden” job market, the source of unsolicited jobs, you might consider it particularly appealing if you are somewhat introverted or simply aren’t comfortable trying the conventional ways to network.

Through volunteering, you expose yourself to other people with similar interests. Along the way, you are bound to learn new skills as you take on the duties and responsibilities for the activity you have committed yourself to. Your leadership potential, willingness to take initiative, desire to assist, ability to function as part of a team – all these assets will certainly be discovered.

If you feel you are being held back because you have a criminal record, you should definitely contact Pardon Services Canada to obtain a Pardon, which will remove your record from the Canadian Police Information Centre’s database so that it is no longer accessible during criminal record checks. A Client Specialist will ensure that your application will be processed expeditiously and you will be kept informed at each stage of the process.

That Elusive Second Chance

Redemption Inc. is a new TV reality series that provides a chance-of-a-lifetime experience for former “guests” of Canadian correctional facilities – certainly controversial, perhaps disconcerting to some parts of the viewing audience. But these competitors have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance.

Each of the eight episodes will test ten ex-cons’ business acumen by placing them into real-world scenarios to demonstrate their sales, marketing, and teamwork skills. These are individuals who have served time for various offences, except violent crimes and crimes against children. At the end of nine weeks, one candidate deemed most likely to succeed will get $100,000 to start a business, a prize that comes from the host’s own pocket.

This new twist on the reality shows currently available on television is based on the theme of giving ex-convicts a second chance. Self-made multimillionaire and TV personality Kevin O’Leary’s Redemption Inc. puts ten ex-convicts through a series of weekly entrepreneurial challenges to see who most deserves a $100,000 investment in their dream business. The show is based on the premise that “every criminal is a businessman,” for example, a successful drug dealer is also a logistics expert, great in sales, marketing, inventory control. This type of person can apply those talents to something legal.

Ex-cons face an uphill battle when they return to society. Challenged to find employment, arrange a loan, get a credit card, find accommodation, they are often not able to support themselves or their families and many find themselves back in prison. Since it costs a quarter of a million dollars a year to keep a person in prison, it makes sense to help ex-offenders to move forward.

With O’Leary as host, ex-con-turned-businessman Brian O’Dea assists as key advisor and constant inspiration to competitors. O’Dea is a convicted smuggler who has since gone on to become an author, businessman, and public speaker. O’Dea mentors the contestants during the segments. Their rehabilitation begins with working as labourers at a shop specializing in detailing luxury cars. Their efforts, compared to the average employee, have earned the full respect of the shop owner. When an ex-con is given a second chance like this, he is not like a regular employee – he strives to stay visible.

If you have a criminal record, it will thwart your efforts to get that second chance. To prevent it from getting in your way, you should obtain a pardon, which will remove your record from the Canadian Police Information Centre’s database so that it is no longer accessible during criminal record checks. A pardon, also known as a record suspension, will allow you to make a new start. Contact a Client Specialist at Pardon Services Canada to assist you.

Pardon Applications Expected to Become More Costly

A cost-benefit analysis conducted by consulting firm RIAS Inc. for the Parole Board of Canada says operations have changed significantly since the legislative changes regarding pardon applications. The number of legitimate applicants for a criminal pardon is expected to plunge by almost half under stricter new rules. 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.”

Board staff now requires more time to obtain additional information from applicants, research cases, wait for responses to queries from criminal justice participants, build files, and make recommendations. In addition, board members require more time to review cases and to make decisions based on the merits of each case.

As a result, the Conservative government wants to hike the cost of seeking a pardon to $631 from the current $150, saying taxpayers should not have to subsidize the process. The move to hike the price is in the final stages of approval under the User Fees Act. Such a fee increase means that fewer people are expected to apply, and more will be screened out early on.

An individual with a criminal record faces many roadblocks in life, and receiving a pardon eases the burden. A pardon doesn’t erase a person’s criminal record; rather, it removes the federal records of a criminal conviction from federal databases so that it is no longer visible and cannot be accessed. A pardon thus makes it easier to get a job, travel, find accommodation, arrange a loan … in essence, return to society and live an unencumbered life.

About 10 per cent of Canadians, which is over three million people, have a criminal record. Under the former legislation, the Parole Board of Canada received about 37,000 pardon applications a year — 27,750 of which were complete enough to be processed.

A law passed in 2010 toughened the requirements and, in some cases, increased the waiting times for pardon applicants. Under the current legislation, the Board anticipates 25,000 applications annually— expecting to evaluate only 15,000 (down from 27,750) of which will be eligible for processing.

Critics say the planned fee hike will mean a tougher path for convicts trying to turn their lives around. That’s because the law now demands more detailed information, including more supporting documentation, says the analysis. Applicants may also require more time and effort to complete applications.

These are estimates based on historical intake, but of course, actual applications received and percentage accepted for processing will only be known with time, following any increase in the user fee.

If you need a pardon, contact Pardon Services Canada to assist you. A Client Specialist will ensure that all the required forms are created and compiled to support your application. Pardon Services Canada’s pro-active approach ensures that your case is processed expeditiously and you will be kept informed at each stage of the process. Your pardon is guaranteed

Freedoms and Liberties of Citizens Vital to Progress of Society

Furthering the freedoms and liberties of citizens should be a principal goal of government. However, the Tories are instead straying farther away from supporting the individual freedoms that are vital to the progress of society by inducing government control and restriction of human behaviour. Proposed legislation for a criminal pardon in Canada threatens to curtail such freedoms and liberties.

Bear in mind the fact that, in many instances, tough-on-crime approaches do work. However, as a whole, we need a system that is smart on crime – one that seeks to address the root causes of criminal behaviour and that deals with these problems through prevention and treatment – rather than through the internment and repression of those who have made mistakes.

A section of the Conservative government’s Bill C-10 that bears particular mention is the amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This amendment aims to vigorously attack the criminals who control the drug trade by imposing longer sentences on traffickers and consumers, and imprisoning those who are convicted of benign drug offences. Our new legislation on pardons in Canada will result in considerably greater numbers of individuals being inordinately burdened.

Millions of individuals are compelled to act and be treated as criminals simply because they enjoy the effects of certain substances as a result of drug prohibition by overbearing governments. Drug prohibition has also been distinguished by violence, corruption, and poverty. Through a system of indirect state sponsorship, profits associated with this trade have also surged as prohibition has entrenched the criminals involved in trafficking by allowing them to be the sole financial beneficiaries.

Certainly, the prospect of drug legalization is extremely complex. But most developed nations have been moving toward more liberal drug policies. For example, Portugal has decriminalized all drug possession, and the experience has, by almost all indications, been notably successful. Drug consumption, crime rates, and violence have all dropped significantly since people have been free to consume drugs without the fear of jail casting a shadow. Regrettably, new laws about pardons in Canada are nearly diametrically stanced.

Governments must cautiously calculate their actions and enact sensible policies that bridge the gap between what the government believes it was elected to achieve and what is best for the country.

Fortunately, there is a course of action for anyone with a criminal record who sincerely wishes to make a new start. One can remove that criminal record by obtaining a record suspension. Pardon Services Canada will handle the entire process, assuring you of results. Call 1-8-NOW-PARDON (1-866-972-7366) to speak with a Client Specialist.

Treatment and Rehabilitation Should Take Precedence

In principle, an offender is presumed to be rehabilitated once his time has been served. However, the reality is that our prisons have an almost flawless record of failure in this area. Treatment and rehabilitation, more effective and less expensive recourses, are being superseded by the government’s choosing to impose harsher sentences for relatively benign crimes and making it increasingly difficult to obtain a pardon for one’s past wrongs.

Truly, parts of the Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill make a great deal of sense, such as stiffer sentences for violent offenders and mandatory minimums for child sex offenders. However, provisions included in the new laws about pardons, along with these commendable steps, make it unacceptable and diametrically opposed to the most critical purpose of our justice system – the rehabilitation and reintegration of criminals into society and crime prevention.

New laws about pardons resulting from the bill are causing people to ask whether we are becoming a society that extinquishes hope instead of fostering it. The government’s new legislation on pardons in Canada favours incarceration and punishment over treatment and rehabilitation.

Conservatives have been pitted against almost everyone else in coverage of the debate surrounding this bill. Although the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper espouses many of the values that conservatives uphold, policies remain that cause significant rifts, both moral and philosophical, within the party. Many Tories did not vote for the rigorous, severe, and misguided measures in this backward-thinking legislation.

Proposed legislation for a criminal pardon will make it disproportionately difficult to obtain a pardon, which is the only means by which an ex-offender can remove the stigma of a criminal record and move on with life. One of the true measures of society is how it treats those who have made mistakes and paid for their errors, made restitution for their crimes.

Moreover, since those who have served time are more likely to re-offend when released, the bill’s provisions to increase incarceration for what are presently minor offences will only serve to create more of the recidivist offenders the bill is attempting to combat.

Fortunately, there is a course of action for anyone with a criminal record who sincerely wishes to make a new start. One can remove that criminal record by obtaining a record suspension. Pardon Services Canada will handle the entire process, assuring you of results. Call 1-8-NOW-PARDON (1-866-972-7366) to speak with a Client Specialist.

Crime Prevention in Community Supported by Dawson Creek Mall Patrons

Volunteers are being sought for the Dawson Creek Citizens on Patrol program, which provides a great deal of information that assists in RCMP investigations. All that is required of applicants is that they be at least 19 years old and submit a criminal record check. Such volunteer programs serve as excellent prerequisites for anyone interested in becoming an RCMP officer or for those who simply want to be more aware of what is happening in their community.

These efforts all serve the community in commendable ways, to be sure. But the benefits for volunteers are many and the experience will have lasting effects in their future lives. If you are interested in volunteering for such groups, either in Dawson Creek or elsewhere, it would be well worth your while.

Citizens on Patrol, along with the Rural Crime Watch, Speed Watch, and Restorative Justice programs, forms a group known as the South Peace Crime Prevention Association of Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Until December 23, volunteers and members of the Dawson Creek RCMP are wrapping gifts by donation to raise funds for the Association. The funds from gift wrapping have generally been used to send volunteers to crime symposiums and different workshops that help them when they are on patrol or working in partnership with the RCMP and the community.

Should you want to volunteer with community groups like these and need to provide a criminal record check, you can be assured of professional, efficient, and discreet assistance from Pardon Services Canada.

If you currently have a criminal record, you are well advised to contact Pardon Services Canada to have that record removed, restore your sense of well being, move forward.

Do You Really Want to Take the Chance?

The consequences of a DUI conviction are severe. A drunk driving charge may lead to:

  • A criminal record, which may impede future employment, travel abroad, and community status
  • A revoked license, which could make commuting to work difficult
  • A long-term hike on your car insurance premiums, which will make owning and operating a vehicle less affordable
  • A number of heavy fines, which can have a significant impact on your financial well being
  • Collision costs – although your insurance company normally covers costs of an accident, it will not pay for drinking-related damages on any car involved in a crash.

So why do so many people still drive under the influence? Many individuals still feel that a couple of drinks will not make them unable to drive safely. In reality, after just a couple of drinks, you may not feel intoxicated; you might even feel that you are completely capable of driving. But legally, if your blood alcohol level is elevated, you are breaking the law.

A person convicted of driving while impaired in British Columbia, in Manitoba, in Ontario – anywhere across Canada – will end up with a criminal record since a DUI is a criminal offence. The bottom line is that if you are driving under the influence of anything, you are breaking the law. You can be charged with a DUI even if your vehicle isn’t moving.

According to the Canadian Safety Foundation, an estimated 1.5 million Canadian drivers travel while impaired each year. DUI cases accounted for 12 percent of all cases heard across the country last year, making it the most common criminal offence. Although almost 30 percent of drunk driving cases that go to court don’t lead to convictions in Canada, why take the chance? With the consequences being so high, driving while impaired is NOT worth the risk.

The only way to be certain that you are not putting yourself and others in harm’s way is if you drink anything, don’t get behind the wheel.

If you have a DUI conviction, you will want to consider getting a Pardon, which will seal your record so that it is no longer visible. A criminal record can follow you for life, so a Pardon will provide relief from the stigma once and for all. Contact a Client Specialist at Pardon Services Canada who will answer all your questions and guide you through the pardon process.

Giving Victims and Communities a Voice

An approach being considered for dealing with the Stanley Cup rioters is one that represents viewing conflict as an opportunity for a community to learn and grow, operating on the premise that conflict, even criminal conflict, inflicts harm. Individuals must accept responsibility for repairing that harm. Communities – family, peers, professionals – are empowered to choose their response to conflict: Victims, offenders, and communities actively participate in devising and implementing mutually beneficial solutions.

This restorative justice approach has the accused meet with the person the crime impacted, apologize, and then both sides work out a punishment. Restorative justice is designed to put more focus on the victim who, in the conventional court process, doesn’t get a voice beyond making a victim impact statement. Victims are basically excluded in the legal process, except as witnesses. The community doesn’t have a place within the criminal justice process. Through restorative justice, victims get a clear voice. The focus is on victim needs, offender responsibility, and community building.

In October, the Vancouver Police Department recommended 163 charges against 60 individuals suspected of taking part in the Stanley Cup riot. At this time, more than 60 charges have been laid against 25 people, and the VPD is finalizing the next batch of charges to be forwarded to the Crown in the coming weeks. As for the rest of the suspected rioters, evidence is still being reviewed.

All well and good – or is it? Some people are skeptical as to the type of punishment that will ultimately be handed down. Will many rioters simply be given a slap on the wrist; will some actually do jail time; how much probation will be meted out? And what good will any type of punishment actually accomplish?

To set the record straight, so to speak, restorative justice is not soft on crime. Far greater creativity exists in restorative justice in determining what needs to happen to make amends, set things right. The approach has been used successfully with all kinds of conflict, including serious crimes like assault and murder.

Canada was the first nation to offer a victim/offender reconciliation program, initiated by the Mennonite Community in Kitchener, Ontario. Viewed world-wide as having experts in the field of violent-offence (post-incarceration) mediation, Canada has also been on the leading edge of adopting the Aboriginal concept of circle remedies, now an integral part of progressive programming in the federal justice system.

We will continue to see offenders acquiring criminal records, but with restorative justice, conflicts will be resolved in a way that restores harmony in the community members’ relationships and allow people to continue to live together in a safer, healthy environment.

And anyone with a criminal record who sincerely wishes to make a new start can do so by obtaining a record suspension to remove that criminal record. Pardon Services Canada will handle the entire process, assuring you of results. Call 1-8-NOW-PARDON (1-866-972-7366) to speak with a Client Specialist.

Overcoming Roadblocks in Life - With a Little Help

Out of the deep depths of misfortune comes bliss [Chinese proverb]Something that will seem surprising to many is the fact that, for the last two years, Sir Richard Branson has been encouraging the managing directors of hundreds of Virgin companies to take on ex-offenders.

Many people end up in prison because they’ve had bad luck, setbacks, and roadblocks in their lives. And when they try to find employment or suitable accommodation, their criminal record becomes another type of roadblock. Recruiters and some landlords routinely undertake a criminal record check when evaluating applicants. Very few get hired or approved once information about a criminal record is revealed.

Branson was prompted to employ applicants with a criminal record after being invited by his friend Jane Tewson to spend a day in a high-security prison in Melbourne, Australia. Known for championing unpopular causes, Tewson wanted him to see the work that was being done to get prisoners employed after being released and to see why it was so important.

Representatives from Australian transport company Toll met with Branson. Toll has employed about 460 ex-prisoners over the past decade, none of whom are known to have reoffended so far. He then contacted the managing directors of Virgin companies saying Virgin must also try to employ as many ex-convicts as possible. The response was generally positive.

Branson learned about the UK charity Working Chance, founded four years ago, that specializes in arranging recruitment for women offenders coming out of prison. He now is involved with the charity, which has successfully placed 173 female ex-prisoners with companies like Pret a Manger, Sainsbury’s, and Virgin.

If more companies were to follow Branson’s example, share his vision, ex-offenders would find doors opening where they never would before. Society needs to support positive initiatives to encourage rehabilitation of prisoners. Finding worthwhile employment is critical to that second chance.

For background checks requested for purposes other than working with vulnerable people, the RCMP cannot disclose a pardoned criminal record, even for a sexual conviction. Once a record suspension has been granted, that criminal record is removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre’s database. While a record of the conviction still exists, it is kept separate and apart from the database used for criminal record checks.

Thus, an individual who sincerely wishes to make a new start, who regrets any previous mistakes that resulted in a conviction, can do so by removing that criminal record by obtaining a record suspension.

For your record suspension or a US Entry Waiver, contact Pardon Services Canada or call 1-8-NOW-PARDON (1-866-972-7366). A Client Specialist will handle the entire process for you.

Canada Should Learn From Measures Implemented Elsewhere

Canada’s federal government’s “tough-on-crime” package is headed in the wrong direction.

Researchers Alana Cook and Ronald Roesch of Simon Fraser University’s psychology department reviewed data from other jurisdictions that have already implemented some of the policies that Canada’s federal government is now pursuing relevant to cost, effect on crime rates, and impact on vulnerable populations. The results show that key elements have proven costly and ineffective in other countries.

Many changes to the Criminal Code that have been either enacted or proposed have the effect of increasing prison terms. However, analyses of studies conducted in Canada indicate that longer prison terms result in criminals being slightly more likely to reoffend upon release. Also, first nations and the mentally ill will be discriminated against.

Mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes will increase both the number of prisoners in the system and the length of sentence they serve. Yet research from the United States suggests they result in people who are not a threat to society being incarcerated and that prosecutors in that country often did not file charges calling for the mandatory minimum sentence even when the evidence was present. Research from South Africa suggested that the introduction of mandatory minimums in that country resulted in overcrowding of prisons and disproportionate prison sentences to offences.

The report points out that the reforms will also come at a significant cost to taxpayers. In the US, according to one study, a tripling of the incarceration rate over a 20-year period as a result of tougher crime laws resulted in a $43 billion increase in the amount of tax revenue spent on the prison system.

The researchers pointed out that studies suggest prisons in Canada are already overcrowded, the number of times guards have to use force against prisoners is increasing, and inmates have limited access to correctional programs. An increased prison population will only exacerbate these conditions.

Both first nations and the mentally ill are already over-represented in the prison system. First nations make up 4 percent of Canada’s population, but 20 percent of inmates. The proportion of Canadian inmates with mental illness is three times higher than in the general population. Mandatory minimum sentences will thus disproportionately affect these groups.

Cook and Roesch concluded that community-based programs targeting at-risk youth are more effective than incarceration at reducing crime rates and come with a much lower price tag. Researchers in California found that such programs working with at-risk youth are more effective and cost significantly less per person. 

Hidden Dangers in Conservative Omnibus Bill

Peter McKnight’s November 5 article in the Vancouver Sun, “Ottawa seems determined to gut youth act,” adds an element of concern regarding the Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill. The Youth Criminal Justice Act was passed in 2002 when Canada had the highest rate of youth imprisonment in the Western world. The YCJA was designed specifically to remedy this problem, to decrease our reliance on costly and ineffective imprisonment and provide alternatives to jail. Since the Act was passed, youth imprisonment and youth crime rates have dropped significantly.

Now, the federal government’s proposed amendments to the YCJA contained in Bill C-10 are directed toward getting more youths in jail and keeping them there. The YCJA provided for a lot of alternatives to jail, extra judicial measures that keep kids out of court but require them to accept responsibility for their behavior and to make amends through such efforts as engaging in community service or educational programs.

An important aspect of extra judicial measures is their informality, as such measures are typically imposed and accepted in the absence of legal advice or a judicial finding of guilt. If Bill C-10 is passed, this informality, as well as extra judicial measures, will likely become a thing of the past. The amendments require judges to consider past use of extra judicial measures as well as the existence of past findings of guilt.

The many alternatives to prison currently offered by the YCJA are better situated to address the reasons youth come into conflict with the law and thereby reduce their chances of reoffending. And the cost-effectiveness of such measures is apparent, since for one year it costs $20,000 to supervise one youth in the community, compared with $215,000 to house one youth in custody.

On a related note: Early November, Maclean’s and CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel, hosted a round-table discussion on the subject “Stephen Harper’s Canada. How do you like it so far?” CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen moderated the event. Mr. Van Dusen began by stating that the majority Conservative government has been in office for six months now and has been clearly advancing on the agenda they believe they were elected on, such as getting rid of the long gun registry, scrapping the wheat board monopoly, and tabling anti-crime legislation.

Among the attendees was Montreal Liberal MP and House Leader Marc Garneau. Mr. Garneau expressed concerns about the omnibus crime bill, stating that it will not lower crime rate and will do nothing for victims. He feels the government is ignoring the evidence with respect to crime rates going down and the lessons learned, which our American neighbours are passing on to us, that the crime bill is a deeply flawed policy approach.

Another attendee, NDP finance critic Peggy Nash, feels that, “on what Canadians say are their priorities – jobs, the economy, securing their retirement income, and making life more affordable – the Conservatives have not delivered.” She also feels that this government is becoming divorced from the concerns of the average person, having spent billions on mega-prisons and increasingly shutting down debate on important issues. 

Removing a DUI Conviction From Your Record Worth the Effort

If you have a DUI conviction, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to clear your record in order to move forward, rid yourself of the stigma, renew your self-respect.

Albert was last charged with impaired driving in 2004. His business had failed primarily due to increasing fuel prices, and alcohol numbed the pain. Declaring bankruptcy was the only solution. This might sound like an easy way out, but it is actually demoralizing. He found out quickly that it was extremely difficult to get work with a criminal record. He is going through rehabilitation with the Workers’ Compensation Board due to a back injury and will begin retraining soon.

He was raised in a hard-working logging and fishing town in Alberta. Hard drinking was the norm, and he began to drink at a very young age. It was so easy to be a part of that lifestyle, leading to destructive and harmful acts. Even now, it still hurts to think about how much better he could have been without alcohol ruling his life. It took a very long time to grow up and change his ways.

He has made significant improvements in his life, eating properly and exercising. He maintains a positive attitude, making his wife of 30 years proud of his efforts. He is focusing on the future, hoping to secure meaningful employment now that his Pardon has established a clean record.

If you have a DUI conviction, you will want to consider getting a Pardon, which will seal your record so that it is no longer visible. A criminal record can follow you for life, so a Pardon will provide relief from the stigma once and for all. Contact a Client Specialist at Pardon Services Canada who will answer all your questions and guide you through the pardon process.

More Discussion Warranted on Conservative Government's Omnibus Crime Bill

Texas tried to do what Canada plans to do, and it failed. A state budget crush in 2005 forced Texas to take a hard look at its own justice policy. Texas had the highest incarceration rate in the US, with one in 20 of its adult residents behind bars or on parole or probation. Policy makers found that sending people to prison was costing ten times as much as putting them on probation, on parole, or in treatment.

Texas reversed a $2 billion plan to build new prisons and spent a fraction of that amount – about $300 million – on improved drug treatment programs, mental health centres, probation services, and community supervision for prisoners out on parole. The strategy worked: Costs fell and crime fell also. By strengthening some of the alternatives to prison, the rate of incarceration fell 9 percent between 2005 and 2010, while the crime rate fell by 12.8 percent.

A coalition of experts in Washington DC attacked the Harper government’s omnibus crime package, Bill C-10, in a statement early October.

Tracy Velazquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute said, “Republican governors and state legislators in such states as Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs. If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs.”

Conservatives in Texas say the Harper government’s crime strategy won’t work. Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court states that billions and billions will be spent locking people up, but there will come a time when the public will say “That’s enough.” Representative Jerry Madden, a conservative Republican who heads the Texas House Committee on Corrections, says that building new prisons is extremely expensive, and if they are built, they will be filled. But if they are not built, innovative, creative strategies will evolve that keep the community safe and yet still do the incarceration necessary.

Even though crime in Canada is down to its lowest level since 1973, the Canadian government has increased the prison budget sharply. Federal spending on corrections in Canada has gone up from $1.6 billion in 2005-06 to $2.98 billion in 2010-11 – an increase of 86 percent. The budget for 2012-13 is $3.13 billion.

Prison sentences have already increased with the elimination of the two-for-one credit for time served waiting for trial. Bill C-10 would add new and longer sentences for drug offences, increase mandatory minimums, and cut the use of conditional sentences such as house arrest. In each of these aspects, Texas, as well as several other states, is doing the opposite.

Studies in Texas show that treatment and probation services cost about one-tenth the costs to build and run prisons. Besides, offenders emerge much less likely to commit fresh crimes than those with similar records who go to prison.

What this means for anyone interested in applying for a pardon is that the time to act is now. Any applications acknowledged and accepted by the Parole Board of Canada prior to the new legislation passing will be governed by the current laws. What is still unknown is exactly if and when the new legislation will take effect. The new legislation is currently before Parliament, but the timelines for passage and what the final version will look like remain to be seen.