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Tories eye jump in cost of pardons; faint-hope clause to die

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday that, 'People aren't entitled to pardons, that's something society decides.'

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

The House of Commons has voted to revoke the faint-hope clause that allows murderers to seek parole after serving 15 years of their life sentence, while the government is seeking to quadruple the cost of obtaining a pardon in Canada.

The two measures are part of the Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda that is slowly redrawing the country's justice system.

The pardon measure was the most controversial, as the government announced that it would no longer subsidize criminals seeking to clean up the public record of their offences. After a consultation process, the government is planning to charge $631 for a pardon application, up from the current cost of $150.

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"People aren't entitled to pardons, that's something society decides," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters. "That's why our government is proposing that criminals pay for the administrative costs of applying for pardons."

The move is part of a crackdown on pardons in the wake of last year's furor over news that disgraced hockey coach Graham James had obtained a pardon for sex crimes against young players.

However, Liberal MP and public safety critic Mark Holland said the cost increase threatens to prevent people convicted of minor offences from re-entering the work force.

The measure to eliminate the faint-hope clause moved through both the Senate and the House of Commons. With the help of the Liberals, the bill easily passed in the House by a vote of 202 to 74. The bill must now return to the Tory-dominated Senate for final approval, because the opposition changed the name of the legislation.

Without the faint-hope provision, murderers and people convicted of high treason will have to wait 25 years before applying for parole.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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