Understanding the Process For Obtaining a Pardon Now Known As a Criminal Record Suspension

A pardon allows people with criminal records to move forward in life with a clean slate.  A pardon enables people who were previously convicted of a criminal offence; but have completed their sentence and demonstrated that they are now law-abiding citizens, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other active criminal records.

Pardons are issued by the Federal government of Canada.  This means that any search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) will not show that the person had a criminal record or that the person was issued a pardon/record suspension.

In March 2012, the former Conservative Government passed legislation regarding Pardons in Canada.  The Omnibus Bill (Bill C10), also known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act.  Among other statutes, Bill C10 amended the Criminal Records Act., R.S.C. 1985, c. C-47 and did so in respect of the pardon process and criteria.  Below is a summary of the law as it pertains to obtaining a criminal record pardon in Canada:

The word “Pardon” is now replaced with the words “Record Suspension”. A Record Suspension has the exact same affect as a Pardon. It is just a change in terminology.  To be granted a Record Suspension:

1.  The applicant must not have been convicted of an offence involving sexual activity relating to a minor – as set out in a schedule of specified offences – unless the applicant can demonstrate s/he was “close in age” and that the offence did not involve a position of trust/authority, bodily harm or threat of violence/intimidation;

2.  The applicant must not have been convicted of more than three (3) offences prosecuted by indictment, each of which received more than two (2) years of jail time.

Why Get a Pardon

If you have a criminal record, you are not alone.  Nearly one in seven adult Canadians has a criminal record of some kind.  For the millions of Canadians who have a criminal record, whether a criminal record for a relatively simple summary conviction or a criminal record for a major indictment, a criminal record may impair:

  • The person from travel into the United States;
  • The person from obtaining employment;
  • The person from finding a place to live;
  • The person from becoming licensed in various professions;
  • The person from acquiring student aid; and
  • The person from volunteering for most community based organizations.

To begin, do note that the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) has exclusive jurisdiction to grant, refuse to grant, or to revoke a pardon/record suspension.  As a record suspension (or a pardon) is an invaluable to those persons with a criminal record who are seeking employment or who are seeking travel opportunities, persons seeking a record suspension (or a pardon) should start the pardon application process as early as possible; especially whereas, for federal matters, many months may be required to gather, complete, and file, the necessary paperwork that is required to begin the filing process.  Furthermore, the application must be completed free of errors as even a minor mistake may cause significant delays within the process.

The Eligibility Criteria For Geting a Pardon

Eligibility for obtaining a pardon may be confusing as there are several different sets of criteria affecting eligibility, which includes:

  • The severity of the charge(s);
  • The length of time since the charge(s) occurred; and
  • The place where the charge(s) occurred.
How Does a Person Apply For a Pardon In Canada?

The process for applying to receive a pardon in Canada requires a person:

  1. To get your Convictions, Conditional and Absolute Discharges form (Criminal Record) from the RCMP in Ottawa and, if required, your Proof of Conviction documents;
  2. To get your Court Information for all offenses;
  3. To get your Local Police Records Check(s) for all locations you have lived for the past 5 years;
  4. To get your Proof of Citizenship or Immigration Documents (if born outside of Canada);
  5. To fill in the Schedule 1 Exception Form (if applicable, complete all sections);
  6. To ensure that the Record Suspension Application Form is completed accurately; and
  7. The ensure that the Measurable Benefit/Sustained Rehabilitation Form is completed accurately.
How Long Does It Take to Apply For a Pardon In Canada?

The average processing time at the National Pardon Centre for issuance of a pardon is six (6) months to twelve (12) months from the start to the finish.  This period includes the time to for the steps required to complete the government paperwork; however, time frames cannot be guaranteed as some pardons will be processed faster while other pardons will be processed slower.  Generally, pardons involving serious charge(s) take longer.

How Much Does Getting a Pardon Cost?

The cost to prepare a pardon application differs among various companies. This cost includes court documents, pictures, and any other needed authentication processes.  A good idea is to budget approximately $1500 for the entire process, from the start to the finish, for obtaining a pardon; however, this is not a set amount.

Additional Resources For Information About Pardons:

Pardons Canada

Services of Canada

National Pardon Centre

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