Pardons – Internationally

We have provided a selection of examples of how pardons are used in countries such as Canada and South Africa. This is not an exhaustive list.


In Canada, the National Parole Board reviews pardon requests.  The Nova Scotian government officially pardoned and issued an apology to Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond in a ceremony April 15, 2010, attended by Premier Darrell Dexter and Minister of Justice Landry Ross. Desmond, an African-Canadian woman who died in 1965, was fined $20 and jailed overnight in 1946 on charges that stemmed from her refusal to leave an area of a theater reserved for white patrons. Dexter apologized to Desmond’s family, including her sister, Wanda Robson, and all African Nova Scotians for the government’s actions against Desmond.


South Africa

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was authorized in 1996 to pardon those who had committed political crimes during the apartheid era. The Amnesty committee was given the power to consider and decide petitions for amnesty, which included being absolved of all criminal and civil consequences of the applicant’s actions. The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act No. 34 of 1995 provided the basis of the committee’s power. In 2000, after the window of application to the TRC ended, President Thabo Mbeki established a process by which people convicted of political wrongdoing could apply for a presidential pardon.