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How do the American and Canadian Pardon Processes Differ?

Article by Drew Wiliams

American film and television are so pervasive throughout foreign populations that they have forced changes in other governments’ regulations. For instance, in the Dominican Republic and Argentina, so many citizens kept dialing 911 in order to reach the emergency services that both countries ended up switching the actual number to 911. As well, many French citizens ask, “Vous avez un mandat?” to police, even though French police do not need a warrant in order to be able to search homes. Since the process of handing out American pardons is so well known, so widely discussed (especially towards the end of any President’s term), and so incredibly different, it might be useful to illustrate the differences between it and the Canadian system.

Under the American system, if you wish to be pardoned, then essentially you must make the President want to pardon you. This is because under Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution, the President (and no one else) is given the ‘power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment,’ with no additional restrictions. This means that the President may grant pardons to anyone, at any time, for no reason other than personal whim. In fact, the President can even pardon people who haven’t been charged with a crime, much less convicted. In practice, though, American pardons are often heavily politicized, with their conferral being dependent upon whether it is deemed politically prudent for the President at the time.

In Canada, however, there is a specific process you must go through, and if it is completed properly, you cannot be denied a pardon. To begin with, an individual wishing to be pardoned must first have served the entirety of their sentence as well as paying all fines, restitution and compensation ordered. Next, they must wait three, five or ten years depending on the type and nature of their offence(s). After this, they must collect and correctly complete a series of time-sensitive forms and applications and submit them to the National Parole Board (NPB). Once all these requirements are met and the NPB processes the paperwork, the individual is bestowed with a pardon.

Clearly these systems are vastly different. The Canadian process is based on the rule of law, whereas the American one is largely arbitrary. It should be noted though that there are procedures in place to help the American system be more principled. The Office of the Pardon Attorney exists to assist the President in his exercise of executive clemency. Those wishing to be pardoned submit their application to the Pardon Attorney, who reviews the file and, in conjunction with the Attorney General, prepares a recommendation for the President as to whether or not this person should be granted clemency. However, this recommendation is exactly that: a recommendation. It is in no way legally binding, nor must the President defer to or consult it in any fashion when making his decision. Thus the actual receipt remains entirely arbitrary. It is interesting to note that should the Attorney General recommend that an applicant not be granted a pardon and the President make no action to the contrary within 30 days of receiving the submission, the application will be denied and the case closed (Title 28, Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1.8, Code of Federal Regulations).

The above comparison illustrates the key difference between the American and Canadian pardon processes. A Canadian applicant will not be denied a pardon simply because someone decides that it isn’t a good time or that it conflicts with unrelated political goals. Once an individual completes their sentence, pays all compensation and waits a predetermined length of time, there is nothing preventing them from completing the pardon process and being granted clemency except properly filled-out paperwork.

About the Author

Drew Williams is an author specializing in the pardon process. He is interested in reading informative pieces on uncommon subjects.

BANGKOK, Oct 17 – The government are trying to delay the royal pardon process for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a core leader of the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) Chatuporn Prompan charged Saturday. Mr Chatuporn, a member of parliament from the opposition Puea Thai Party, told the UDD demonstrators gathering at Government House that the demonstration of the so-called Red Shirt protesters on Saturday was meant warn the government not to ignore its claim that at least 3.5 million have petitioned in support of Mr Thaksin, who fled Thailand last August to avid a two-year jail term for corruption being served. However, Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga earlier denied UDD charges that the government was delaying the petition process. He said the UDD should have submitted its petition to the corrections department which he said is responsible for considering the issue, not the prime ministers office. The premiers office was forced to send the document to the office of the permanent secretary for justice which then passed it to the corrections department, wasting time. He said considerable progress had been made, but the delay was caused by the UDD submitting the petition to wrong office in the first instance. The UDD said it convened the demonstration at Government House to mark the passage of 60 day from when its petition seeking government action toward a royal pardon for deposed ex-premier Thaksin as its deadline has

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