REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

has the honour to present its

FIFTH REPORT


Your committee, to which was referred the document “The Parole Board of Canada’s User Fees Proposal” dated August 17, 2011, has, in obedience to its order of reference of Tuesday, September 27, 2011, examined the proposed user fee.

Your committee recommends that, in accordance with section 5 of the User Fees Act, the Senate approve the proposal from the Parole Board of Canada to increase current fee for the processing of a pardon application from $150 to $631.

Your committee has also made certain observations which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

John D. Wallace
Chair


APPENDIX TO THE FIFTH REPORT OF THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSITUTIONAL AFFAIRS ON THE PAROLE BOARD OF CANADA’S USER FEE PROPOSAL

OBSERVATIONS

On 27 September 2011, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate tabled a copy in the Senate of a user fee proposal from the Minister of Public Safety, pursuant to section 5 of the User Fees Act. This proposal indicated the Parole Board of Canada’s intention to increase the pardon application user fee from $150 to $631. The Board noted that the current $150 fee, which came into effect on 29 December 2010, does not cover the indirect costs of processing a pardon application, nor does it address the additional requirements of Bill C-23A (S.C. 2010, c.5), which amended provisions of the Criminal Records Act in June 2010 to increase the number of factors that must be considered by the Board in considering pardon applications. The Board stated that its current $631 proposal 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.

The Parole Board’s proposal was deemed referred to this committee for review pursuant to rule 28 (3.1) of the Rules of the Senate on 27 September 2011. The committee held three public hearings on this matter, with witnesses appearing from the Parole Board of Canada, the John Howard Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Association des services de rehabilitation sociale du Québec, the Pardon Society of Canada, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation, the Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children, and the Respect Group Inc. Submissions in writing were presented by the St. Leonard’s Society, the Canadian Bar Association and Canadian Parents of Murdered Children and Survivors of Homicide Victims Inc.

This committee has recommended that the Senate approve the present pardon application user fee proposal, but also wishes to make the following observations with respect to the processing and approval processes of the Parole Board when considering future pardon user fee applications:

  1. With respect to each user fee proposal that is referred to this committee, section 5 of the User Fees Act requires the committee to provide its recommendation as to the “appropriate user fee.” In this regard, it is the opinion of the committee that the identification and calculation (including all cost allocation assumptions) of each of the “cost elements” that are required to be included in all user fee proposals pursuant to sub-section 4(1)(d) of the User Fees Act, should be provided in a manner and form that is both detailed and comprehensive.
     
  2. Sub-section 4(1)(a) of the User Fees Act requires the Parole Board “to notify clients, and other regulating authorities with similar clientele” of a user fee proposal. The committee is of the opinion that the User Fees Act should be amended to require all such future notifications to be provided more broadly to members of the general public, and in relation to user fees for pardon applications, to include organizations and groups that represent victims of criminal offences or provide assistance, comfort and support to victims and their families.
     
  3. The committee is of the opinion that the User Fees Act should also be amended to provide that with respect to all future user fee proposals, the consultation period that is required between the “regulating authority” (in this case the Parole Board) and clients and others as contemplated by section 4 of the Act, be for a minimum period of thirty days.
     
  4. As mentioned previously, the current user fee proposal that was tabled in the Senate states that the proposed fee of $631 is designed to provide the Parole Board with “a full cost-recovery approach for pardons.” In other words, all of the direct and indirect costs that are associated with the processing of pardon applications are to be borne by those to whom these pardon granting services are provided (including all additional costs which may arise as a direct consequence of the coming into force of Bill C-23A). One of the consequences of Bill C-23A was to add new criteria for the Parole Board to consider when determining whether a pardon should be granted to an applicant who was convicted of an indictable offence. In this regard, the committee is of the opinion that the Minister of Public Safety and the Parole Board should seriously explore the possibility, and merits, of establishing a “two-tier” pardon user fee structure whereby the pardon application fee that would be paid by an offender convicted by way of indictment, would differ from that paid by one who was convicted summarily. The committee is of the view that such a change would be entirely consistent with the rationale behind the Minister’s “full cost recovery approach for pardons,” in that it contemplates all pardon granting costs which are associated with convictions by way of indictment being allocated to, and borne by, those applicants to whom that circumstance applies, and in a similar fashion to those applicants who were convicted summarily.
     
  5. The committee is of the opinion that the Minister of Public Safety and the Parole Board should also seriously explore the possibility, and merits, of creating a more streamlined and cost efficient procedure for granting pardons in respect of summary conviction offences that do not include sexual offences.

In conclusion, following their thorough review and consideration of these observations, the committee respectfully requests that within the following twelve month period, the Minister of Public Safety and the Parole Board of Canada provide the committee with their written responses and analysis, including cost breakdowns where applicable, with respect to each of the committee’s observations.

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