Sheldon Kennedy to meet Stephen Harper in effort to change system that pardoned Graham James

The Canadian Conservative government’s proposed legislation to replace Canada’s pardon system is getting a boost from former NHLer and abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy.

Kennedy is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, after which Toews will announce proposed legislation that will make it more difficult for convicted sex offenders to be granted pardons. The legislation will be introduced into the House of Commons later in the day.

The impetus for the changes was when Canadians and the government learned that Graham James, who had been convicted for sexual assault in 1997, received a pardon from the National Parole Board in 2007. James originally had received a three-and-a-half year sentence after being convicted of sexual assault against two teenage hockey players, one of whom was Kennedy.

It’s believed the legislation will change the Criminal Records Act to give the National Parole Board the power to deny pardons to violent offenders, including those convicted of murder and some sex offenders.

“The legislation will take action to ensure the National Parole Board has the tools it needs in order to maintain the accountability of offenders convicted of serious crimes,” said Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Toews. “The comprehensive legislation Minister Toews plans to introduce will give Canadians greater confidence in the integrity of the system and help make our streets and communities safer.”

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As it stands now, the parole board has little discretion in granting pardons once statutory criteria have been met, which includes being of good conduct and not committing any crimes since the offender’s release. Offenders can apply for a pardon five years after they have served their sentences and while a pardon does not entirely wipe the slate clean, it does not require the offender to acknowledge he or she has a criminal record when applying for a job, traveling or applying for an apartment.

In James’ case, his name is still on record with the Canadian Police Information Centre database and it would be flagged if he were to try to work or volunteer with minors.