New Pardon Rules Thwart Student's Rehabilitation

CBC  |  Posted: 05/10/2012 6:01 am Updated: 05/11/2012 8:24 am

Marijuana Laws Canada C 10
Chris Conrad, not pictured, was 19 when he was busted for selling marijuana. He was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a year of probation. It was his first and only offence. (Alamy)


A Nova Scotia man says the federal government's "tough on crime" law is making it impossible for him to restart his life.


Chris Conrad was 19 when he was busted for selling marijuana. He was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a year of probation. It was his first and only offence.


"I just didn't know what I wanted to do with my life at the time. So I guess you could say I took the easy road — what I already knew how to do to make money," he said.


Now 25, he has done his time. He went to university and planned to apply for a pardon so that when he graduated, he could enter the workforce without a criminal record. Until March, offenders had to wait five years to apply.


Conservatives change the rules


But in March, the government's omnibus crime law changed the rules. Conrad and others like him now have to wait another five years before applying for a pardon.


Conrad said he has done everything he could to get his life back on course, and it's unfair to make him carry a criminal record.


"Five years is quite a long time. I'm not eligible to travel outside of Canada. When I'm looking for a job, if an employer sees someone with a criminal record … some employers might bypass that and look at other applications," he said.


Conrad, who comes from the village of Milton, near Liverpool, said adding punishment after he's served his time is not fair.


The government introduced plans to increase the waiting period for pardons in 2010, after it learned convicted sex offender Graham James had received a pardon.


At the time, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews explained the Conservative reasoning.


"It's not the state's business to be in the forgiveness business. We are concerned about rehabilitation," Toews said .


Not a deterrent, says expert


Experts on criminology question the government's position.


Christopher Murphy, a sociology professor at Dalhousie University, said it's not an approach that has been shown to work.


"There's no kind of evidentiary basis for extending these. They don't in any way contribute to deterring crime, and they strike me as further evidence that the government is concerned with punishment," he said.


A retired RCMP officer who knows Conrad agreed. He said Conrad is rehabilitated and should be pardoned so he can resume his life.


"He's doing very well, very well," Bob Brogan said. "To have that burden of a court conviction for this extra five years, I question, is it necessary?"


Conrad will be 31 before he can apply for a pardon and fully restart his life with a clean slate.


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  • The 9 Key Changes In The Tory Crime Bill

    With files from <em>The Canadian Press</em>. (CP/Alamy)

  • 9. Bringing Prisoners Home

    Provides the government, through the minister of Public Safety, more discretion to decide if a Canadian imprisoned abroad can transfer home to serve his or her sentence. (Getty)

  • 8. Rights For Terror Victims

    Introduces new measures to allow victims of terrorist acts to sue responsible individuals, groups or state sponsors in Canadian courts. (Alamy)

  • 7. Denying Work Permits

    Gives the Immigration minister new powers to deny work permits to foreigners based on the rationale they may be exploited. (Alamy)

  • 6. Victims Get More Say In Parole

    Provides victims of crime more say in parole decisions under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Increases size of parole board by 25 per cent. (Alamy)

  • 5. Fewer Conditional Sentences

    Reduces sharply the use of conditional sentences, such as house arrest, for a variety of property and other offences. (Jupiter Images)

  • 4. Pardons Harder To Get

    Changes the pardons system and makes certain ex-convicts, such as some sex offenders and repeat offenders, ineligible for life. Essentially doubles the waiting period for pardon eligibility to five years for summary offences and 10 years for indictable offences. Replaces the term "pardon" by "record suspension." (Alamy)

  • 3. Harsher Sentences For Young Offenders

    Sets tougher penalties for young offenders, including mandatory consideration of adult sentences and possible publication ban removal for violent crimes. Expands the definition of violent crime to include reckless acts that don't actually cause harm. (Alamy)

  • 2. Mandatory Minimums For Sex Crimes

    Establishes new mandatory minimum sentences and longer maximums for sex crimes against minors, including the addition of two new offences related to grooming or luring minors. (Alamy)

  • 1. Mandatory Minimums For Drug Crimes

    Provides new mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences related to production and distribution, including mandatory sentences for growing as few as six pot plants. Doubles maximum sentences to 14 years from seven. Offers potential exemptions for those entering drug treatment programs. (Getty)

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Filed by Brian Trinh  |