Pardons - Canada and Elsewhere
By now, readers of this blog should be at least superficially acquainted with the Canadian pardons
process. The basics were mentioned in the previous post, but if you need a quick refresher, you can find
one here (just skip to the third paragraph). Either way, it seems fairly obvious that pardons wouldn't be
the same everywhere, so the question is then: "How do they vary from country to country?"
We know that the Canadian pardon process is based on the strict rule of law, whereas the American one
is almost completely arbitrary. The President decides who to pardon and when to pardon them, even
regardless of whether or not they've committed a crime (for a detailed explanation, see the link above).
Compare this with South Africa, where pardons are only granted to people who have admitted guilt for
extremely minor offences and waited 10 years after their conviction.
The only restriction on the American president's power of clemency is that he cannot grant it to anyone
who has been impeached. That's the only restriction. Compare this with India and Italy, which use a sort
of hybrid system in between the Canadian and American versions. In India, the power to pardon still
rests with the Governors (for minor offences) and President (for everything else), but both are legally
bound by the advice of their respective Council of Ministers, which means they are not free to simply
grant clemency on a whim. As well, each exercise of pardon power can be subject to judicial review,
providing another layer of checks against executive capriciousness. In Italy, however, the President only
needs the consent of the Minister of Justice to grant pardons.
In some other countries, pardons act differently as well. We know that in Canada, a pardon makes your
criminal record and convictions inaccessible to the authorities (with certain conditions), and can only be
applied for after your sentence has been served. In France and Chile, though, a pardon does not remove
your convictions or your criminal record, it can only remit or commute your sentence. Chile also offers
'general pardons', which apply to all those covered by the applicable law passed in National Congress.
Spain, on the other hand, does not offer general pardons, and in fact does not reinstate any auxiliary
rights removed as a result of having a criminal record unless explicitly mentioned in the pardon
We see now that pardons can vary not only by what they do, but also by who grants them, how they can
grant them, when they can grant them and what they can grant them for, at the very least. And this is
without delving into any of the serious legal technicalities.