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As Liberals consider pardon for gay men, few requests for clemency on the books

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

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The Liberal government is considering a pardon for all Canadians imprisoned for being gay before the laws changed in 1969, a review sparked by the work of John Ibbitson, who brought the case of Everett Klippert to light. A review of RCMP data by Global News suggested there could be up to 6,000 cases. And how many Canadians are currently awaiting a government pardon?

Far fewer. According to the Parole Board of Canada, there are 107 active files requesting the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, the discretionary power of the cabinet to grant clemency for someone found guilty of a federal crime.

These types of pardons are rarely granted. According to Parole Board data, between 21 and 52 requests have been made every year since 2007, and usually, as many as two and sometimes none have been granted. Few are actually denied – most requests for clemency are discontinued, either by the applicant withdrawing their request or through their eligibility expiring.

The only spike in clemency in recent years was in 2012, when Stephen Harper pardoned farmers convicted of selling grain in the United States in the 1990s. The Parole Board lists 12 people granted the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in that year.

The Parole Board says that, for privacy reasons, it can't disclose the identities of those who have been pardoned.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> It's not just a social call: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama are set to work on a continental energy strategy, improved border security and steps toward a new softwood-lumber agreement when the pair of world leaders meet in Washington next week.

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> Today, though, Mr. Trudeau is at the Globe 2016 conference (no relation) in Vancouver to talk business and the environment, before meeting with indigenous leaders and premiers.

> John Ibbitson speaks to the half-dozen openly gay MPs about how the legality of homosexuality has changed so rapidly in Canada over the last few decades. "What hits you is that within your lifetime this has happened," said St. John's MP Seamus O'Regan.

> A Calgary woman suffering from ALS was the first person to receive a judicially approved medically assisted death in Canada.

> Mr. Trudeau's younger brother Alexandre has written to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to ask that the government end its attempts to deport Mohamed Harkat.

> Canada's ethics commissioner has asked Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to stay out of issues that involve First Nations who employ the work of her husband.

> A TD economist warns that current Liberal plans could lead to a $150-billion deficit over the next five years, on par with the previous Conservative government's response to the 2008-09 recession.

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> A new Senate report is calling for a national campaign to fight obesity, and suggests a sugar tax might be one way to help. "We can't sugar-coat it any longer. There is an obesity crisis in Canada and sugar is a big part of that problem," said Conservative Senator (and committee chair) Kelvin Ogilvie.

> The public hasn't seen much of Stephen Harper since the election, but he has apparently taken part in 11 of 14 votes in the House of Commons so far.

> The union representing workers at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency blames staffing cuts for "operation weaknesses" raised in a U.S. audit.

> And the nominations are out for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. The five books nominated this year are: Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr. by Greg Donaghy; O.D. Skelton: A Portrait of Canadian Ambition by Norman Hillmer; Stephen Harper by John Ibbitson; Slick Water: Fracking and One Insider's Stand Against the World's Most Powerful Industry by Andrew Nikiforuk; and The Right to be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet by Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"It appears almost easy to bring in refugees by the planeload now. Four months ago, the new Liberal government had no idea how to do it. It's still not clear if it was wise to rush so much – 42 per cent of the refugees who've arrived don't yet have permanent housing. But it stands out as a rare instance of risk-taking, goal-setting government kicking the bureaucratic machinery into action." – Campbell Clark (for subscribers).

Jeffrey Simpson (Globe and Mail): "New Brunswick's travails are a microcosm of what is happening across Canada where projects are being blocked, delayed or denounced by aboriginal groups that either do not want any development or insist that they own the land and must give 'free, prior and informed' consent before anything can happen to it." (for subscribers)

Lawrence Martin (Globe and Mail): "[Kevin] O'Leary does have the attribute of being an engaging and highly effective communicator. As for ideas, his main thing is to cut government waste and slash taxes. You may have heard of these conservative proposals before. They've been around since the 18th century."

Susan Delacourt (iPolitics): "While it's nice to see newspapers getting some recognition from the Academy, a gold statuette won't solve the basic problem of the business these days."

Edmonton Journal editorial board: "There are times when a society can look back at the historic record, scrutinize injustices and merely pledge to do better in the future. Then there are occasions that demand an official footnote be added to that record. The case of Albertan Everett Klippert, the only Canadian ever declared a dangerous sex offender for the sole reason that he was gay, fits all the criteria for the second course of action, even though he died 20 years ago."

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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