Proposed Increase to the Pardon Application User Fee
On February 2, 2011, the Government of Canada announced its intent to have pardon applicants assume the administrative costs of processing a pardon application, which would increase the current pardon application user fee from $150 to $631.
In accordance with the User Fees Act, the Parole Board of Canada held an online consultation between February 10-27, 2011, to seek feedback from Canadians on the proposed user fee increase.
The Board thanks all those who participated in the consultation process.
A report on the results of the consultation is available below.
Consultation Report - Proposed Increase to the Pardon Application User Fee
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On February 2, 2011, the Government of Canada announced its intent to increase the user fee for a pardon. This increase would see users assume the administrative costs of processing a pardon application, and respond to workload increases and the additional costs required to process a pardon application under the new Criminal Records Act (CRA). This would increase the user fee from $150 to $631.
As part of this announcement, the Minister of Public Safety requested that the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) undertake consultations on the proposed increase to the user fee, as required under the User Fees Act (UFA).
The following report summarizes the results of these consultations, which have been shared with the Minister of Public Safety for his consideration in the development of the final user fee proposal to be tabled in Parliament.
In 1994-95, Treasury Board approved the introduction of a $50 user fee for the processing of a pardon application. The fee represented a portion of the costs incurred by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC or the Board) and the RCMP to process a pardon application. From this amount, the Board received $35 and the RCMP received $15.
Since the introduction of the user fee, the cost to the PBC to process a pardon application had risen substantially, making the pardon program unsustainable. To address this situation, the PBC sought to increase the fee. With the coming into force of Bill C-23A on June 29, 2010, and the resulting changes to the Criminal Records Act (CRA), an increase to the fee has become essential to ensure the sustainability of the pardon program.
In September 2010, the Minister of Public Safety tabled a proposal in Parliament to increase the pardon user fee to $150 as an interim measure. The $150 user fee was adopted by Parliament and came into effect on December 29, 2010. The current user fee of $150, from which the PBC receives $135 and the RCMP receives $15, covers the PBC's direct costs to process a pardon application under the CRA before it was modified in June 2010. It does not address the additional requirements of Bill C-23A.
The proposed increase to $631 is based on a cost-recovery approach and represents the cost of processing a pardon application following the coming into force of Bill C-23A in June 2010. The increase is a required measure to provide the Board with the capacity to manage ongoing pardon workloads, and to address operational changes to the pardon program as a result of legislative changes.
Without a further increase to the fee, the demand will continue to exceed the Board's capacity to respond to requests for timely pardon services. This will erode the Board's ability to meet its legislated mandate and to contribute to public safety.
A sustainable pardon program that can process annual volumes of pardon applications in a timely and cost-effective manner, consistent with the requirements of the CRA, benefits pardon recipients and Canadian society. A pardon frequently provides recipients with access to gainful employment, a key factor in rehabilitation and safe community reintegration. In addition, approximately 97% of all pardons awarded remain in force, demonstrating that the vast majority of pardon recipients remain crime-free in the community. A pardon can also provide recipients with increased access to education, housing, insurance and travel opportunities.
Canadians in general will benefit from a sustainable pardons program in several ways. Quality pardon decisions leading to long-term rehabilitation of pardon recipients helps to reduce crime and contributes to community safety. The pardon user fee also reduces the use of tax dollars to fund the pardon program. In addition, access to employment as a result of a pardon helps to reduce demands on the social assistance network, providing a benefit to all Canadians.
This section outlines the results of the online consultation undertaken by the PBC on the proposed increase to the user fee for processing a pardon application, which was conducted with clients and service users in accordance with the requirements of the UFA.
The Board hosted a consultation on its website between February 10 and 27, 2011. Through this consultation, members of the public were invited to submit their comments on the proposed user fee increase by e-mail or regular mail.
The online consultation was promoted on the Government of Canada's official Consulting with Canadians website; a number of GOC websites, including Service Canada, Public Safety Canada, and Correctional Service Canada; and via email notification to various stakeholders, as well as numerous pardons companies. The consultation was also promoted on the Board's 1-800 toll-free pardon information line. In addition, a notice of the online consultation was included in all written correspondence with pardon applicants during that time period. Notices promoting the consultation were also distributed and posted within Correctional Service of Canada institutions and parole offices.
As a result of the online consultation, 1,086 responses were received (1,056 e-mails, 30 letters).
Submissions were received from individuals representing a wide range of backgrounds and interests, including:
- Past, present and future pardon applicants;
- Friends and/or family of people with a criminal record;
- Members of the general public with no criminal record;
- Municipal and federal representatives;
- People who work within the criminal justice system either for the government or a variety of private agencies, including agencies working with offenders and victims;
- People who work for Aboriginal organizations;
- People who work in employment organizations;
- Owners or staff of pardon companies;
- University professors;
- Students in criminology or other fields;
- School teachers and principals;
- Pensioners; and
- Retired public servants.
The following provides an overview of the main themes raised by respondents who supported and did not support the proposed increase to the pardon user fee. Many individuals raised more than one of the comments listed.
Those respondents who supported the proposed increase to the user fee generally indicated that a person who commits a crime should be responsible for the fees associated with processing the pardon.
They also felt that the pardons system should not be subsidized by hardworking, law-abiding citizens/taxpayers.
Do not support
A large proportion of respondents who did not support the proposed increase to the user fee indicated that the increase would pose a financial burden to applicants, making it difficult or impossible for many to apply for a pardon.
These respondents also indicated that the proposed fee would make applying for a pardon difficult or impossible for people needing a pardon to help them obtain employment or pursue their education.
Many of these respondents also viewed the proposed fee as an additional punishment to that already imposed by the court.
They also indicated that the proposed fee would make a pardon inaccessible to many individuals, thereby impacting the contributions pardons can make to the rehabilitation of individuals and lower levels of crime.
Some of them also felt that the proposed fee would represent an additional tax by the Government.
A number of respondents said there should be a sliding scale for the fee, with the amount varying according to the seriousness and nature of the crime, or by their ability to pay, while others indicated that a pardon should be automatically granted after the passage of a certain number of years.
The inability to pay the proposed fee as a barrier to obtaining a pardon to facilitate travel to other countries was also raised by some respondents.
Some also indicated that they thought the proposed fee increase was politically-driven.
A large number of respondents who stated their opposition to the proposed fee increase gave no specific reason.
In terms of a breakdown of the responses received, 1,074 individuals/organizations did not support the proposed fee increase while 12 were supportive of the proposed increase.
Of the 12 respondents who expressed support for the proposed increase, the most common reasons expressed were that:
- A person who commits a crime should be responsible for the fees associated with processing their pardon; and
- Pardons should not be subsidized by hardworking law-abiding citizens/taxpayers.
Of the 1,074 responses received that did not support the proposed increase, the three most common reasons expressed were as follows:
- It would pose a financial burden for applicants, with many unable to pay the increased fee;
- It would make it difficult or impossible for people to apply for a pardon who need one to help them obtain employment or pursue their education; and
- It amounted to further punishment to that already imposed by the court.
Under the UFA, a regulating authority that receives a complaint about a proposed user fee during the consultation period must try to resolve the complaint in writing.
If the complaint is not resolved to the complainant's satisfaction, the complainant may request that the regulating authority refer the complaint to an Independent Advisory Panel (IAP).
Following the consultation period, the Board responded to all those who had submitted input by email or regular mail. It also informed respondents of their right to request that their complaint be referred to an independent advisory panel if they were not satisfied with the Board's response to their input.
Independent Advisory Panel
A total of 16 official complaints were received by the PBC, requesting referral to a Panel.
For reasons of economy and efficiency, the Board formed one Panel to address all complaints, in accordance with the UFA.
The IAP Panel, which was formed on May 16, 2011, is comprised of:
- Ms. Martine Gravelle – Director of Corporate Services, PBC, selected by the Parole Board of Canada;
- Ms. Lucie Joncas – lawyer, and Chair of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada, selected by majority vote by the complainants; and
- Mr. Nicolas Bellemare – a lawyer and professor at l'École du Barreau du Québec, who was selected by Ms. Gravelle and Ms. Joncas – as the 3rd member of the IAP.
The Panel is mandated to prepare a report with its findings and recommendations for resolving the dispute and send this report to the PBC as well as to complainants.
The Independent Advisory Panel's recommendations, will be presented to the Minister of Public Safety for consideration and will form part of the package the Minister will table in Parliament.