One in three northerners a felon

Does the character to your left look suspicious? How about the one on the right? If both are upstanding citizens then there’s a high chance…

Does the character to your left look suspicious?

How about the one on the right?

If both are upstanding citizens then there’s a high chance that you’re the crook.

One in three people living in Canada’s North has a criminal record, according to a National Parole Board estimate.

Compare that to the board’s estimate in southern Canada: 10 per cent.

“(The northern number) seems high,” said Yves Bellefeuille, the board’s Pacific regional director.

“It is an issue that it’s a lot more in percentage than in the lower part of Canada.”

But there’s a reason for that, he said.

Many people in the North don’t know about Canada’s pardon program, and they don’t have easy access to the service.

“There are private programs that assist people in getting pardons, but those are mostly in bigger centres,” said Bellefeuille.

Meanwhile, the RCMP estimates there are 6,000 criminal records in the Yukon.

But that doesn’t mean there are 6,000 people with criminal records. One person may be responsible for 25 records.

The National Parole Board is urging Yukoners, and all Canadians, to apply for pardons.

“Don’t wait until the last minute.

“It’s a long process — you must get your fingerprints taken and your criminal record from the RCMP, your local police records and your court documents.

“If you are eligible for your pardon, don’t wait — apply for it,” said Bellefeuille.

The process of applying for a pardon is different depending the type of offence committed.

There are two types of convictions under the criminal code — summary and indictable.

If a person’s record stems from a summary conviction then there’s a three-year waiting period once they’ve completed their sentence before a pardon can be issued.

If they are not convicted of another offence within those three years, they can apply for a pardon and a pardon will be issued to them.

If the criminal record stems from an indictable offense there’s a five-year waiting period.

During that five years the offender must be “of good conduct,” which means “no suspicions or allegations of criminal activity,” said Bellefeuille.

Then they may apply for a pardon and a panel of experts at the parole board would decide whether to grant the pardon.

“It’s a much lengthier process at the parole board and it’s a lot more work for the applicant,” said Bellefeuille.

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