A Brief History of the Criminal Records Act in Canada
Throughout history, humans have sought out rules and laws to help protect themselves and their loved ones from crime; to govern their societies; as well as to provide a fair and just environment for everyone to live in.
These rules and laws weren’t only designed to provide individuals with much-needed safety and equity, but they were also created to govern what happens to a person when they fail to abide by the law. In the middle-ages and in the past, extremely severe, brutal punishments such as torture or death were often sentenced to criminals for breaking the law. However, over time, we’ve learned that there are much better ways to deal with criminals. There are many factors to consider when deliberating on how a criminal should be sentenced.
Thankfully, the penal system has come a long way and today, it’s significantly more fair, just, and humane than ever before.
In Canada, one modern piece of legislation that continues to help make the penal system more civil is known as the Criminal Records Act. Below, we’ll examine the history, as well as the current status of the Criminal Records Act in Canada.
The Criminal Records Act (1985)
In 1985, the Progressive Conservative government lead by Brian Mulroney enacted legislation known as the Criminal Records Act, which has subsequently given birth to today’s modern method of resolving crime in Canada.
At its core, the Act was designed specifically to address types of criminal offences and sentencing recommendations. In addition, those who’ve been convicted of a criminal offense have the opportunity to apply for a Pardon to permanently seal their criminal record. Once a Pardon has been granted, the individual’s criminal record is kept separate from the publicly visible database known as CPIC. This database is accessed by the RCMP via criminal background checks.
Although the Criminals Records Act was first introduced in 1985, it has since undergone two major reforms, which have also re-shaped the Pardon process for the greater good of public safety.
Bill C-23A – Limiting Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
The first major amendment to the Act was introduced as Bill C-23A, which was titled as the Limiting Pardons for Serious Crimes Act. And in June 2010, the Bill received Royal Assent, putting the new piece of legislation into effect nationwide.
In addition to making the Pardon application process more extensive for applicants by requiring additional information about their recent conduct in the community, Bill C-23A also tweaked the wording of Section 4 in the act as follows: 4. A person is ineligible to apply for a Pardon until the following period has elapsed after the expiration according to law of any sentence, including a sentence of imprisonment, a period of probation and the payment of any fine, imposed for an offence:
(a) 10 years, in the case of a serious personal injury offence within the meaning of section 752 of the Criminal Code, including manslaughter, for which the applicant was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two years or more or an offence referred to in Schedule 1 that was prosecuted by indictment, or five years in the case of any other offence prosecuted by indictment, an offence referred to in Schedule 1 that is punishable on summary conviction or an offence that is a service offence within the meaning of the National Defence Act for which the offender was punished by a fine of more than two thousand dollars, detention for more than six months, dismissal from Her Majesty’s service, imprisonment for more than six months or a punishment that is greater than imprisonment for less than two years in the scale of punishments set out in subsection 139(1) of that Act; or
(b) three years, in the case of an offence, other than one referred to in paragraph (a), that is punishable on summary conviction or that is a service offence within the meaning of the National Defence Act.
Bill C-10 – Safe Streets and Communities Act
The next amendments to the Criminal Records Act came in 2012 in the form of Bill C-10, also known as the Safe Streets And Communities Act, which in part made the following changes:
● the term “Pardon” was to replaced by the term “Record Suspension”;
● The waiting period for summary offenses was increased from 3 to 5 years, and from 5 to 10 years for indictable offenses;
● Individuals with more than three indictable offenses became ineligible to apply for a Record Suspension if each conviction resulted in a jail sentence of two years or greater;
● Individuals convicted of sexual crimes against children and other extremely serious offences became ineligible to apply.
About the Author
Joel LaForest is a Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada and the owner of The Hobo Marketing Co., specializing in writing about law, finance, health, and wealth.