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What is the difference between a pardon/record suspension and a file destruction/purge?

File Destruction

When it comes to the concealment of records there are different options available depending on the circumstances of an individual. A file destruction for instance, is needed when an individual was charged, fingerprinted and had to attend criminal court but was ultimately not convicted. Applying for a file destruction ensures that police records, photos, court records and other information in your file at the time of the arrest are permanently destroyed. Most importantly, it ensures your fingerprint number (FPS) is cancelled ensuring that finger print information is completely purged.

If an individual fails to tend to their record, it can affect their ability to find employment opportunities, inhibit volunteering and cause trouble when crossing the border into the US. This is due to the fact that information will still be available in the Canadian Police Information Centre’s (CPIC) database and will provide a ‘hit’ during any record checks.

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Each local police force has distinctive record checks along with a set of steps to follow to ensure that information is properly purged. It is also possible to suppress information – or remove a specific entry from your record check in some circumstances. While suppression conceals a specific entry during a record check, the information will still exist in the police database.

General Factors to be Considered

According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the following factors will be considered by the police for a file destruction/purge or suppression.

  • Was it a formal charge by the police?
  • If not charged, what were the interactions with the police or circumstances at hand?
  • If charged, how did the case end?
  • Was it very serious or non-violent?
  • What was the nature of the interaction or allegation?
  • How is this record impacting an individual’s life?
  • How long ago did this event take place?
  • Are their human rights considerations? (in relation to mental and physical health)
  • Could the release of this information result in possible discrimination?

Record Suspension/ Pardons

A record suspension or pardon, keeps a judicial record of a conviction as a separate aspect of an individual’s criminal record. This means that law abiding citizens have a true chance to reintegrate into society after their conviction when an application is successful and a Canadian pardon is granted. A pardon will also seal all information about the conviction from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database however it will not be destroyed like a file destruction.

It’s important to note: If you are convicted of a new offence once you’ve obtained your pardon, it could lead to a reactivation of your file in the CPIC database.

The pardon does however, help with removing disqualifications that come with having a conviction, increasing an individual’s ability to for instance, work for the government or be eligible for Canadian citizenship. Federal agencies will also not be able to give out information about the conviction unless they have the approval from the Minister of Public Safety Canada.

Both file destructions and Pardons are in line with concealing information in order to better the lives of individuals who have been arrested. The difference between the two stands clear: those who are not convicted, do not need a pardon and a file destruction is needed to remove information from the CPIC database. Those who were convicted, need to apply for a Canadian pardon to have a record suspended and concealed – but information will remain in the CPIC database unless a new conviction is presented.