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A Record Suspension/Pardon: Who Can Apply

Unlike many countries, Canada allows their citizens who have been convicted of a criminal offence to have their record removed from the public system. In turn, prohibiting others, including employers, police, and other organizations, from accessing any information regarding their past offences.

Record Suspensions, formerly known as pardons, is a system that has been present since the 1970’s and has granted over thousands of Pardon and Record suspensions over the last 40 years. Since the 70’s, the Pardon process has had a 96 percent success rate, meaning that out of the pardons granted every year, only 4 percent of the total has ever been revoked. Thus, the remaining majority of individuals have lived crime free since their pardon was granted.

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In 2012, the Parole Board granted Record Suspensions to over 90% of the individuals who applied for the application.

The success of the Pardon process can be linked to several factors, including the wait period that individuals must live crime free before applying for a pardon; the type of offences that are eligible for record suspension; and the closure, peace, and opportunities having a record removed brings to the lives of these persons.

Out of the 3.8 million Canadians that have criminal records there are few who are ineligible for a suspension.

Wait times:

For many Canadians, having a criminal record can affect many aspects of one’s life, including employment, education, travel, etc. Many Canadians want to have their records suspended as soon as the conviction is laid. However, the government requires an eligibility period for those with a criminal record. This means that individuals must wait until the time allotted has elapsed before they are eligible for a record suspension. This waiting period begins once all court imposed sentences are completed, including the payment of all fines. If anything remains unpaid or unsolved the individual will have to start the waiting period from the point their sentence is actually completed.

For example, if an individual has left a court fine from a summary conviction unpaid for five years, and attempts to apply for a record suspension, they will be ineligible. Once they pay their fine, the waiting period of five years will start from the moment they pay their fine.

The eligibility requirements for a Record Suspension are, one year for a stay of proceedings and absolute discharges; three years for conditional discharges; five years for summary convictions (e.g., D.U.I’s); and 10 years for indictable convictions (e.g., the more serious charges such as drug trafficking).

Life Sentences:

Although those living with a life sentence may be out on Parole, and may be living out in the community as law abiding, fully contributing, citizens, these individuals are ineligible for a record suspension. The severity of their offences, and the life sentence the convictions carry, means that these persons will be under the watchful eye of the correctional system for the rest of their lives. These individuals, although living in the free world, will have restrictions and there movements will be monitored for life. Although over time their restrictions may be reduces, they will not be allowed to have their record sealed from the public.

Sexual Assault involving a child

With the implementation of Bill C-10 by the former Canadian government, those who have been convicted of a sexual assault involving a minor are no longer eligible for a Record Suspension. Meaning that these individuals will have their full criminal history on their record and accessible to employers and others for the rest of their lives. The records will never be sealed.

Three indictable offences (x2 years in prison)

Similarly, the enactment of Bill C-10 imposed conditions on the number of offences individuals could have that would restrict their eligibility. Those with three indictable offences (e.g., theft, fraud, mischief, manslaughter) with a sentence of over two years of prison each, would now be unable to have their record suspended in Canada.

A Record Suspension is an important process and turning point in the lives of many individuals. The access to employment, education, and travel a record suspension provides considerably impacts those living with a record. It is essential to ensure that one is eligible for a record suspension and has completed their sentences prior to the eligibility period to ensure the success of their record suspension application.