Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New tack for pardon bids

Rule change spurs more mercy pleas

  • Print

OTTAWA -- New restrictions on the granting of criminal-record suspensions, or pardons, are causing more former convicts to seek clemency under the rarely used Royal Prerogative of Mercy, according to the Parole Board of Canada.

In fact, the federal agency has posted an "Important Notice" on its website to discourage clemency applications, which it notes are "only granted in exceptional circumstances."

"If you are ineligible for a record suspension, or the board has refused to order a record suspension in your case, it is highly unlikely that you will qualify under RPM," cautions the board.

There are currently 79 active clemency applications in the pipeline, according to Parole Board spokeswoman Caroline Douglas.

That's up from 58 in the system last March, when the board's 2011-12 annual report noted it more typically handles about 20 applications a year.

Changes to federal pardon rules the Conservative government enacted have had a ripple effect through the system.

The reforms were prompted in 2010 when The Canadian Press reported that Graham James, a former junior hockey coach and repeat child-sex offender, had been quietly granted a routine pardon in 2007.

James has since pleaded guilty to further sexual assaults from the same period of his coaching career.

An omnibus crime bill passed last spring put pardons out of reach for many former offenders, including prohibiting applications by those convicted of child-sex offences and by anyone with more than three convictions for indictable offences.

The new law also doubled the crime-free waiting period before an offender can apply to 10 years for indictable convictions and to five years for summary offences, which are less serious.

At the same time, Ottawa enacted new regulations that quadrupled the application fee for a pardon -- now officially called a record suspension -- to $631.

The Parole Board makes a direct link between the new restrictions in the pardon system and the flood of mercy pleas.

"Extending the ineligibility period for certain offences as a result of amendments to the (Criminal Records Act) will have direct implications for the Board's Clemency Unit," said the 2011-12 annual report.

In addition to the backlog of clemency files, it noted the unit was "dealing with an increase in enquiries as a result of the new legislation."

"This has led to delays in processing requests for clemency under the RPM."

The Royal Prerogative of Mercy also received a high-profile boost last August when Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the government's repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly to announce clemency for grain farmers previously convicted of wilfully breaking the monopoly in protest.

"Let me be clear about this, these people were not criminals," Harper told a media event to mark the monopoly's end on a farm outside Kindersley, Sask.

"They were our fellow citizens who protested injustice by submitting themselves peacefully to the consequences of challenging that injustice. Those consequences are what was wrong."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2013 A8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Andrew Ladd talks about his injury

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hangs out on a birch tree in St. Vital. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is considered a keystone species. Other species take advantage of the holes that the birds make in trees. A group of sapsuckers are collectively known as a

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

Ads by Google