Calgary Sun, February 15, 2007
Killers get clean slate
UPDATED: 2007-02-15 02:31:45 MST

Murderers, violent attackers among thousands to have criminal records set aside


Pardoned cons' records kept 'separate and apart'

The National Parole Board has awarded more than 100,000 pardons in the past six years -- including two for murder convictions, Sun Media has learned.

Documents obtained by Sun Media under Access to Information reveal that killers, rapists, child sex offenders, child porn producers and violent attackers have all had their criminal records set aside so they can more easily obtain a passport or seek employment with a clean slate.

Records show 102,116 pardons were granted since 2000 -- including one for a first-degree murder conviction, another for a second-degree murder conviction and 162 for manslaughter convictions.

In the same period, pardons were granted for 2,517 sexual assaults, for 28 sexual assaults causing bodily harm and for 44 sexual assaults with a weapon. Other pardoned offences include infanticide, incest and possession of dangerous weapons.

John Vandoremalen, a spokesman for the National Parole Board, said most ex-cons seek pardons for travel or employment purposes. Approval is based on good conduct after release from prison, and the NPB reserves the right to revoke a pardon.

"It does help with employment. More and more employers are looking at people with records, looking for that information. Some are pretty spooked by sex offenders, specifically," he said.

Sex offenders can and do receive pardons, but certain offences are "flagged" in the Canadian Police Information Centre database if the applicant is seeking a job that specifically involves contact with children or vulnerable persons.

While murder convictions in Canada warrant a life sentence, two murderers managed to have their crimes "pardoned." Vandoremalen could not explain how or why the pardons were granted due to privacy reasons, but said "fixed" sentences had been applied. Since the 1970s, the NPB has processed more than 350,000 pardon applications, with roughly 3% subsequently revoked due to criminal relapse.

Graham Stewart, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said a pardon is a way for offenders to get their life back on track.

"It gives people a reasonable opportunity to re-establish themselves," he said. "It's an important step. It's in everybody's best interests that we encourage and support people who put their life back together. Keeping them on the margins of society indefinitely really doesn't benefit anyone."

But Steve Sullivan, president of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, was shocked that two murder convictions were pardoned. He called for stricter rules on pardons, including a longer crime-free period before eligibility, and a complete eligibility ban for violent rapists, killers or those who commit sex crimes against children.

"I think most people would say there are some offences that are simply too serious to have it erased from your record," he said.

Sullivan also says a mechanism should be in place to allow victims of crime to provide input on whether a pardon should be granted.

"From a victim's perspective, it's almost like we're saying this didn't happen. We're sort of erasing the record, essentially saying you've paid a debt and we can pretend now it didn't happen," he said. "The victims don't get that luxury. They can't pretend it didn't happen. For them it's a lifelong impact on their happiness and their ability to trust. Victims don't get the pardons that offenders can get."



"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Aaron's Story