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The Speaker of the Senate Noel Kinsella makes his way to speak with the media in the Senate Chamber Monday December 2, 2013 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. An error-riddled parole bill that would make some violent federal prisoners wait years longer for a chance at early release will be revived Thursday. After the Senate withdraws the wrong version of the bill, Mr. Kinsella will bring forward the correct version of the bill, and it will be debated again – as if for the first time.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

An error-riddled parole bill that would make some violent federal prisoners wait years longer for a chance at early release will be revived Thursday, cleansed of some, but not all, of its mistakes.

The House of Commons sent the wrong version of the Fairness for Victims bill to the Senate in June for final approval. The Senate debated it and sent it on to a committee for detailed study. After The Globe brought that error to light, Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer publicly acknowledged the mistake as he opened the fall session and said the bill had been reprinted and sent in its proper version to the Senate. From there, it would be up to the Senate to decide what to do, he said.

Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu will ask the Senate on Thursday to withdraw the wrong version of the bill. The Liberals in the Senate will support the request. Then Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella will bring forward the correct version of the bill, and it will be debated again – as if for the first time.

"It's as if what took place before never happened," James Cowan, the Opposition Leader in the Senate, said in an interview. "We'll co-operate with that. The House of Commons made a mistake and they sent us the wrong bill, so this is the process we have to go through to rescind what we did."

The bill has been controversial not only because it would alter the principle of regular parole review, but because it was sponsored by an individual member of Parliament, Conservative MP David Sweet, which is unusual for such a major reform. Private member's bills receive less scrutiny than government bills, and critics have accused the government of using them as convenient way to introduce new policies.

Currently, federal prisoners whose first attempt to gain parole is rejected must wait two years for their next review. But the bill would make those convicted of violent crimes wait up to five years after a rejection.

The issue is retroactivity – adding a new punishment to people already convicted and sentenced. For those who are already in prison, it would require a second rejection to bring a wait of up to five years – a provision that some lawyers say appears to run afoul of a recent Supreme Court ruling on retroactive punishment in a separate parole law.

Even apart from the issue of retroactivity, there are still mistakes aplenty and at least one nonsensical section in the bill as approved by the House of Commons, according to Mary Campbell, who was the Public Safety department's director-general of the corrections and criminal justice directorate until her retirement last year. She was the first to notice that the House of Commons had published the wrong version of the bill on its website in June.

One mistake, she said, says that inmates who cancel a hearing within 15 days without good reason may lose their next scheduled hearing. But another section of an existing law says 14 days.

The nonsensical section, she said, authorizes the National Parole Board to make transcripts of hearings available to victims. But "the reality is the Parole Board does not do transcripts of parole hearings," she said. "So why talk about a transcript in law if it's simply not available?"

The bill, C-479, has received strong backing from the Conservative government. It was on a list of nine bills the Senate was told to approve in principle and send to committee in the final two weeks before the summer recess. And Roxanne James, Parliamentary Secretary to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, had asked a Commons committee to make several changes to the bill to correct errors and make it apply retroactively to current prisoners.

Liberal Senator George Baker raised the issue of retroactivity the first time around, and is promising to raise it again.

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