The Year at a Glance
From: Parole Board of Canada
The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) operated in a relatively stable environment in 2017/18. There were three new legislative initiatives last year that had a relatively small impact on the Board’s conditional release program and there were three court cases that impacted the Board’s conditional release and record suspension programs.
Legislative and Policy Changes
Over the course of 2017/18, Parliament adopted three bills that amended legislation of relevance to the PBC.
On May 4, 2017, Bill C-224 (An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (assistance — drug overdose)/Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act) received Royal Assent and came into force. The bill amended the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to exempt from charges for possession a person who seeks emergency medical or law enforcement assistance for themselves or another person following overdosing on a controlled substance. The bill exempts offenders on parole from being suspended, or directly revoked with breaching a condition not to possess drugs.
On June 19, 2017, Bill C-16 (An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code) received Royal Assent and came into force. The Bill amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. The enactment also amended the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.
On June 22, 2017, Bill C-44 (An Act to Implement Certain Provisions of the Budget Tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and Other Measures / Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1) received Royal Assent and came into force on April 1, 2018. This section of the Budget enacted the Service Fees Act, which replaced the User Fee Act. The Act requires that performance standards be established in relation to certain fees and that responsible authorities remit those fees when the standards are not met. This affects the Board’s Record Suspension program.
In addition, there were three court decisions and one court matter that had an effet on the Board’s conditional release and record suspension programs.
On April 18, 2017, the Supreme Court of British Columbia released its decision in the matter of Chu v. Canada (Attorney General). The Court held that the transitional provisions of legislation that had amended the Criminal Records Act (CRA) in 2010 (by Bill C-23A (Limiting Pardons for Serious Crimes Act)) and in 2012 (by Bill C‑10 (Safe Streets and Communities Act)) to increase waiting periods for obtaining record suspensions and change eligibility criteria were contrary to sections 11(h) and (i) of the Charter.
On June 14, 2017, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Charron/Rajab v. Canada (Attorney General) declared the retrospective application of changes made to the Criminal Records Act to be a violation of the Charter after considering the Chu decision.
Following the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s decision (Attorney General of Canada v. Chu), the Board resumed processing pardon applications from residents of British Columbia where the offence was committed prior to the implementation of the amendments to the Criminal Records Act in 2010 and 2012. On June 14, 2017, following the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision (Charron / Rajab v. the Queen), the Board resumed processing pardon applications for similar cases of residents in the province of Ontario.
On June 7, 2017, as a result of a court matter (the Dorsey case), the Board determined that dangerous offenders (including dangerous sexual offenders and habitual criminals) serving indeterminate sentences should not be subject to subsections 123(5.01) and 123(5.2) of the CCRA for the timing of their next legislated review (these sections were added to the CCRA through Bill C‑479, and served to increase the period of time between legislated parole reviews for offenders who met certain legislated criteria). Rather, these offenders are subject to a separate, specific regime under subsection 761(1) or 761(2) of the Criminal Code.
Implications for the Board
Bills C-224 and C-16, as well as the Dorsey case are expected to have a negligible impact on the Board’s operations due to a small number of cases that would fall under the Board’s jurisdiction.
It is expected that Bill C-44 will likely have a negligible impact on the Board’s record suspension program as the Board was already subject to the User Fees Act. Over the last five years, the Board reported on average 20 cases a year that took longer to process than required by service standards, or under 0.5%.
The court cases in British Columbia and Ontario impacted the Board’s record suspension workload in 2017/18 as it is now necessary to process applications against multiple legislative regimes. The Board received 5,200 pardon applications and 638 record suspension applications, reclassified as pardons, which reopened the pardon program.
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