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Crime and Punishment

Pardon overhaul toughens rules, changes nomenclature Add to ...

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has crafted wide-sweeping reforms to the rules governing criminal pardons.

Under new legislation unveiled by Mr. Toews on Tuesday, pardons will no longer be called pardons, they will be called "record suspensions." Criminals will not be permitted to apply for a pardon if they have committed three serious offences or crimes against minors.

The amount of time between a criminal's release from prison and the day they can apply for a pardon has been significantly increased. Some people will have to wait as long as 10 years. And the onus is now on the applicants to prove they have been rehabilitated.

Accompanying Mr. Toews at the news conference announcing the proposed reforms was former National Hockey League player Sheldon Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy, of course, was the victim of his former hockey coach, Graham James. Mr. James was convicted in 1997 of sexually assaulting Mr. Kennedy and another unnamed player when the boys were teenage players with the Swift Current Broncos of Canada's Western Hockey League.

"It's not about Sheldon Kennedy being a victim," he said. "It's about solutions."

It was reported early last month that Mr. James was issued a pardon by the National Parole Board in 2007, a revelation that both startled and infuriated Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Prime Minister met with Mr. Kennedy before the news conference in his office - an indication of the personal interest he is taking this matter. Mr. Harper was particularly upset that Karla Homolka, who was convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of three Ontario schoolgirls, would have been eligible for a pardon later this year.

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