This sounds good, but it seems to rest on the assumption that the current system doesn't emphasize public safety. And if that assumption is wrong, then any proposals that depart from the current system might well make the public less safe.
At present, people convicted of an offence can apply for a pardon a few years after they have completed their sentences. Those convicted of relatively minor (summary conviction) offences must wait three years, and those convicted of more serious (indictable) offences -- such as James -- must wait five years.
Upon receiving a pardon application, the National Parole Board must confirm that the applicant has not been convicted of any further offences. If so, the board is required to issue a pardon to those convicted of summary conviction offences.
If an applicant has been convicted of an indictable offence, the board must also determine if the applicant "has been of good conduct," and this requires looking not only at criminal convictions, but at charges that have been withdrawn, stayed or dismissed, at convictions under non-criminal provincial statutes such as those governing traffic safety, and at suspected or alleged criminal behaviour.
Assuming the applicant passes all these tests, the board will typically grant a pardon. A pardon can also be revoked or cease to have effect if the person is convicted of a further offence, ceases to be of good conduct or if further information suggests the pardon should not have been granted.
Upon receiving a pardon, a person's criminal record is not erased, but is removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), which means that it will not show up when an RCMP officer searches CPIC. This does not apply to local police forces, though they often cooperate by restricting access to a criminal record if a pardon has been granted.
Certainly, a pardon can be of benefit to the person who receives it, because many employers now subject applicants to a criminal record check. Yet the entire process is clearly designed with public safety in mind.
The extensive background checks are conducted to ensure the applicant no longer represents a threat to the public.
And since offenders who are successful in gaining employment are much less likely to reoffend, pardons can help to reduce rates of recidivism, and reduce the chance that offenders will rely on social assistance.
The success of the pardon system is evident from the statistics: Since 1970, more than 400,000 people have received pardons, and 96 per cent of these are still in effect, meaning the vast majority of pardon recipients remain crime-free.