Prime Minister Stephen Harper says ex-convict Karla Homolka will be able to apply for a pardon this year.
It’s the latest in a series of frustrations the prime minister said he has felt in the last few weeks about the weaknesses in Canada’s justice system.
Harper said the news that murderer Clifford Olson is receiving government pension benefits in jail was compounded by revelations by The Canadian Press that hockey coach Graham James received a pardon for sexual-abuse convictions.
Homolka, who was convicted in the sex-slaying of three girls, is also eligible to apply for a pardon through a system that grants 99 per cent of applicants their wishes, Harper noted.
“For many years, the vast majority of Canadians have found this deeply offensive. Now, they find it unacceptable,” Harper told a victims’ rights conference.
“Yet, for now, the law remains. And the law will allow Karla Homolka to apply for a pardon this year.”
As a result, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he has been asked to table legislation to tighten the pardon system by this fall at the latest.
Toews says he prefers legislation to regulatory changes to the pardon system, because he’s not convinced rule changes would address what happened in the James case.
“I think that simply looking at it by way of making administrative changes doesn’t appear to be sufficient,” Toews said.
He noted that the government made some changes in 2007, but they didn’t address all the problems of the pardon system, and didn’t prevent James from being pardoned.
Harper said that situation is unacceptable.
“Even though he ruined the lives of boys who just wanted to play hockey, he can travel without having to admit his criminal record.
“That, too, is offensive. But that, my friends, is how the laws have been written over the past few decades. Written when soft-on-crime attitudes were fashionable and concern for criminals took priority over compassion for victims.”
Public opinion in Canada has swung from thinking the pardon system is merely “offensive” to finding it intolerable, Harper said.
“The problems run deep, but we will keep pushing forward,” Harper said.