Canada's sex offender legislation: 'tough on crime', short on smarts!

What started it all

During the week of April 5, 2010 the Canadian media reported that Mr. Graham James, a hockey coach who was convicted of sexually abusing two of his former players in 1997 and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, was pardoned by the Canadian National Parole Board on Jan. 8, 2007.

When questioned about the pardon Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper and his government, erected on a ‘tough on crime’ platform, stated that they were completely surprised to hear about the pardon and that they considered it to be a “deeply troubling and gravely disturbing” development that demands an explanation from the parole board as to how they "can pardon someone who committed such horrific crimes that remain shocking to all Canadians.”

The Prime Minister made immediate promises that his government would take action quickly to prepare legislation to limit pardons for serious offenses, in particular those of a sexual nature; to that end he had asked Public Safety Minister Vic Toews “to propose reforms that will ensure that the National Parole Board always and unequivocally puts the public's safety first.”

While Mr. Toews acknowledged that there is no way to actually revoke Mr. James’s pardon, he says that he is focusing on the future; “I’m more concerned about looking at the broader issue of how pardons are granted and the legislative provisions governing that decision,” Mr. Toews said, vowing to consult with his department and victims’ and police groups. “The option is legislative change” he said. These changes, Mr. Toews argues, is essential because he believes that “certain types of criminals cannot be rehabilitated [and] pedophiles are especially difficult to rehabilitate, if ever”.  As a result the government sees a need to "change the Criminal Records Act, which doesn’t call on the National Parole Board to differentiate among criminal offenses or take account of the serial nature of some crimes."

On May 11, 2010, Mr. Toews, without having first initiated a prudent study on the subject by a parliamentary committee, announced that the government had proposed legislative changes to the Criminal Records Act in the form of Bill C-23, Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act.

The political parties are considering rushing to support BILL C-23, without first carefully considering its likely ramifications; such an action is both reprehensible and dangerous to the safety of our citizens. Please, take a moment to review the information presented within the following pages...