Interview: Pardon Applications of Canada CEO Chris Ketko
by Eugene Ohotnikov, Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada
Chris Ketko’s introduction into the Pardon and U.S. Waiver industry revealed a desperate need for a different approach to service. In 2010, when Chris and business partner, Anthony Bauer, started to work as employees for a Toronto-based Pardon and Waiver firm, they became suspicious that the company was not honoring its service commitment to clients. Payments were being accepted, but it wasn’t clear that work was being completed. Chris started asking questions — too many questions. He was fired without explanation.
Only days later, Pardon Applications of Canada (“PAC”) was born, with the ambitious vision of setting a new standard of credibility, service and results in an industry that had been neglected. And the 5-star reviews started pouring in. Today, Pardon Applications of Canada boasts an A+ BBB (Ottawa) accreditation, a 4.7/5 customer review rating, and just shy of 100 5-star reviews from actual clients. Over the last 10-years, PAC delivered, and did so credibly, serving more than 1 million total clients, Pardon requests and inquiries.
Ketko says the concept was simple: the people that answer the phone are the same people that do the work. No call centers, no outsourcing. The company mission includes “…to treat every application as if it were our own.”
In this brief interview by Eugene Ohotnikov, Pardon & Waiver CEO Chris Ketko shares how PAC has succeeded in earning consumer trust and reveals more about the company’s approach to working with applicants, all of whom had issues with the law. Chris also sheds light on the impact of Covid-19 on obtaining a Canadian Pardon and further comments on the government’s recent reduction of Pardon filing fees.
Eugene: You started in the industry from within and soon decided to establish your own company. How did you plan to make a difference? What was the mission and belief system behind creating Pardon Applications of Canada?
Chris Ketko: When I discovered that I had been working for a dishonest company, it was a punch in the gut. I could not understand it. Not even considering the obvious moral and legal repercussions, which were deal-breakers on their own, it doesn’t even make sustainable business sense. I wanted to prove that you could run a business in this industry with honesty and still be profitable and add value to people’s lives. I feel like we do that everyday.
Eugene: The industry PAC is working in is unique as it addresses the needs of people who have had issues with the law at some moment in their lives. What is it like working with thousands of applicants, all of whom have a criminal record?
Chris Ketko: That’s a fair question, but it may surprise some to know that the vast majority of individuals in Canada who hold a criminal record are good people. Typically, these individuals made a mistake many years ago, accepted and fulfilled the consequences of that mistake, and went on to live law-abiding, honest and successful lives. It is a common misconception that Pardons in Canada are for common criminals who never learn their lesson. That could not be further from the truth. Pardons are for good people who have fully paid their debt to society, made reformative changes, proven over a period of years that they are lawful, and demonstrated a commitment to go forward in life as a fully law-abiding member of society. Our job is to support applicants with the strongest Pardon application possible before it is submitted to the Parole Board of Canada for their independent review and decision. We aren’t the judge, and we aren’t the jury. We treat our clients like we would any other business — with respect and care.
Eugene: In Canada, there is a number of other companies offering Pardon and U.S. Waiver services. What is your opinion regarding your Pardon service competitors?
Chris Ketko: The ones that have been around the longest have failed the industry. Some hide behind a fake “government” or “non-profit” image, only to pressure applicants into a fee and perform poor service. They combine this with hidden pricing and aggressive tactics. One specific competitor we “secret shop” regularly hangs up on you in less than 10 minutes if it becomes clear you don’t have a credit card. At Pardon Applications of Canada, we often spend 30-60 minutes with a new potential applicant whether they start a file, make a payment — doesn’t matter. That’s our competitive difference. There’s a reason Pardon Applications of Canada was able to enter the industry and be immediately successful and grow over a 10-year period. The market was craving a transparent and credible service.
Eugene: The outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 had an impact on most spheres of life in Canada, including the public sector. How did it influence the Pardon industry? What are the changes PAC had to make to adapt to the new pandemic reality?
Chris Ketko: Like most industries, it has had an impact. Not so much on our service, but with our employee base and third-parties we work with. For example, courts, police and the government of Canada are all agencies we communicate and work with regularly. They have all experienced challenges and backlogs, and in some cases, this has affected the timeline of Pardon and Waiver applications. But most applicants understand that and their patience has been rewarded. Another example is that PAC got more remote-service based, a common trend amongst businesses. However, all work and communications continues to be completed in Canada with no outsourcing.
Eugene: In December 2021, the government announced that it will make Pardons more affordable by reducing the Parole Board filing fee. The new fee of $50.00 was already introduced on January 01, 2022. Do you consider this a positive step for the industry?
Chris Ketko: Very positive! This is one of the direct costs to applicants applying for a Pardon. It’s not the only cost, of course, but it was a big one at $657.77. Now that has been reduced to $50.00. Pardon Applications of Canada was able to pass on that savings to applicants who were truly grateful. This is something we’ve been lobbying for.
About the Author
Eugene Ohotnikov is a Research Analyst with Pardon Applications of Canada and legal copywriter on a broad array of subjects including family law, estate planning, immigration, taxation, real estate, conveyancing, startups, and more. Eugene holds a Master’s degree in law. During his career, Eugene has developed legal content for law firms and clients from the US, Canada, China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Contact Pardon Applications of Canada via Schedule a call.
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