The Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) is a monarch’s prerogative exercised in Canada by the Governor General or the Governor in Council.
Clemency is granted in exceptional circumstances in deserving cases involving federal offences, where no other remedy exists in law to reduce severe negative effects of criminal sanctions.
Clemency can be requested for numerous reasons, including employment, perceived inequity, medical conditions, immigration to Canada, compassion and financial hardship.
The Governor General or the Governor in Council grants clemency upon the recommendation of a Minister of the Crown. In most cases it is the Minister of Public Safety who makes the recommendation.
Role of the PBC
Under Section 110 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the PBC is authorized to investigate RPM requests for federal offences.
The role of the PBC in clemency cases is to review applications, conduct investigations (at the direction of the Minister of Public Safety), and make recommendations to the Minister regarding whether to grant the clemency request.
Principles used in the RPM decision process
The PBC uses general principles to provide for a fair and equitable process and to ensure that the RPM is granted only in very exceptional and truly deserving cases.
These principles include the following:
- That there must be clear evidence of substantial injustice or undue hardship that includes suffering of a mental, physical and/or financial nature;
- That it must be disproportionate to the nature and seriousness of the offence and the resulting consequences; and,
- That it must be more severe than for other individuals in a similar situation.
Each application is examined on its own merits, solely on the circumstances of the applicant, and may not be considered posthumously.