Public Safety Minister Vic Toews unveiled sweeping changes Tuesday that he said are meant to tighten up Canada's system of criminal pardons.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews talks about a bill to do away with pardons Tuesday at an announcement attended by Christine Carretta, whose sister was murdered, and Sheldon Kennedy, who was sexually abused as a young hockey player and who learned recently that his abuser was pardoned. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Toews said the proposed changes would eliminate pardons and replace them with more narrowly defined criminal record suspensions.
The push for changes to the pardon system stemmed from the case of Graham James, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to sexual assault. Sheldon Kennedy, who went on to play in the NHL, and a second unnamed player had come forward with accounts of the sexual abuse they suffered when James coached their Western Hockey League teams from 1984 to 1995.
"As all of you are aware, the pardon of convicted sex offender Graham James was deeply offensive to Canadians, to victims and to our government," Toews said during a news conference in Ottawa. "It demonstrated the need to take action to prevent such an outrage from happening again and to ensure our system of justice is not brought into disrepute."
Toews said his reform legislation would make it impossible for those convicted of sex offences against minors to have their criminal records suspended, except in a case where the applicant can demonstrate he or she was “close in age,” and that the offence did not involve a position of trust or authority, bodily harm or threat of violence or intimidation. Continued...