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Every day from February 21st -28th, I am going to talk about a different Crime Issue that has an impact in our community. I know that people in Brant are concerned about justice and crime prevention.  It’s only fair as crime is a huge issue here in Brant riding.

There’s a dangerous trend that is starting to creep into our justice system thanks to the proposals of our current government. A government that continues to be more concerned with appearing to fight criminal activity rather than getting people out of the crime cycle.  I’m very concerned about a two tiered justice system becoming entrenched in Canada. In many ways we are on that path.

I talked a lot about this trend in my piece about white collar crimes. That piece showed how people who commit white collar crime are often getting away with it at a huge cost to us.  When someone commits a crime, is convicted, serves their time and moves on we should facilitate that.  We want to get people working, we want to get them out of poverty, and we want to get them off the system and paying into the system instead.

Earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews presented a proposal that would see the cost of applying for a pardon more than quadruple, from the current $150 fee to a cost of $631. This proposal came just a few months after the fee rose from $50 to the current $150 price. Here is what the Minister had to say on the issue according to an article by the Canadian Press:

“People aren’t entitled to pardons, that’s something that society decides to provide in appropriate circumstances. We believe that where an individual has been convicted of a criminal offence, as a result of his own or her own deliberate act, society shouldn’t have to pay for the removal of that criminal conviction.”1

The cost of the criminal justice system is skyrocketing in this country in no small part because of the building of giant corporate super prisons, which will need to be staffed.  These private manufacturers are gaining billions of dollars when the general consensus is that we don’t need them due to a consistently falling crime rate.  The private prison business benefits while we the tax payer lose again, and again and again.  In an effort to put more money into the prison systems to pay for prisons and added bureaucracy (Mr. Harper what about youth recreation, gang diversion and exit programs, prevention and policing?) the Conservative government is raising the fee for a pardon.

The proposed increase to the cost of pardons will be the subject of public consultations under the User Fees Act, however no such dates have been announced as of yet. However if the local trend is an indication of how the current government treats public consultation, these meetings are likely to be under-publicized and held at a time and place that few people will actually be able to attend.

We need to continue to take a leadership role in making sure that all Canadians have the same opportunities in this country, regardless of their financial situation. I believe for example that if someone commits a drug offence when they were 19 and pays their debt back to society a pardon should be accessible.  We want qualified people to be able to work, to contribute and to move out of criminal activity.  Instead raising the cost of a pardon will limit qualified, reformed convicts even of less serious crimes in their options for employment.  I don’t want to live in a Canada where if you are a rich white collar criminal you have access to a pardon but if you are poor and just as deserving you do not.   That’s a two tiered justice system.  It’s a bias system.  It’s immoral and it’s unpractical.  Work is the key to sustainability and diversion from criminal acts.  We need to get people working who deserve it.  Limiting them from doing so seems tough, but it’s actually tough on the taxpayer instead of effective.

Raising this fee from $50 to $631 in less than one calendar year shows that our current government is only concerned with justice for those who can afford it. We deserve a government that cares about everyone and seems crime and rehabilitation as community issues.  We need a justice system that is fair and equal for all.  Our government shouldn’t encourage a two tiered system that puts down those who might reform just for the benefit of criminals with deep pockets.

1http://ca.news.yahoo.com/cost-applying-pardon-more-quadruple-under-tory-proposal-20110202-094456-029.html

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