Record Suspension (Pardons)
Even a minor criminal record can prevent a person from traveling or studying abroad, and can make pursuing a career all but impossible—especially for professionals and those working with vulnerable persons, such as children or the elderly. Pardons are valuable because they remove the stigma of a criminal record from those who have paid their debt to society and have demonstrated their willingness and ability to abide by the law.
Pardons prior to Bill C-10
The Canadian pardons system has historically had two stated aims:
(1) to assist the individual with a criminal record in moving forward in his or her rehabilitation, and
(2) to enhance the safety of communities by motivating the individual to remain crime-free and to maintain good conduct.
In the past, an individual convicted of a minor criminal offence could, three years after completing his or her sentence, apply to the B
oard for a pardon. If the offender had not been convicted of another offence in that three-year period, approval was automatic. People convicted of more serious offences had to wait five years before applying for pardon—but if the offender was “of good conduct” and had not broken the law during that five-year period, approval was likewise virtually assured, no matter the nature of the crime. Theoretically at least, a denial could be challenged in the courts.
After Bill C-10: “Record Suspension”
Bill C-10 aims to increase the scrutiny that offenders face throughout the pardon process. The word “pardon” itself is to be replaced with the less definite term “record suspension.” Whether an individual receives a record suspension is now to be within the absolute discretion of the National Parole Board. In other words, Bill C-10 removes the supervisory role of the courts.
- The eligibility periods/waiting periods to apply for a “record suspension” have increased to five (5) years for summary conviction offences.
- The eligibility periods/waiting periods to apply for a “record suspension” have increased to ten (10) years for all indictable offences.
- In general (although there are certain exceptions), individuals convicted of sexual offences against minors and individuals convicted of more than three (3) indictable offences, each with a sentence of two (2) years or more are ineligible for a “record suspension.”
Approval will no longer be assured. In addition to assessing whether the offender was “of good conduct” during the ten-year waiting period, the National Parole Board will consider whether granting a pardon if it:
(1) would provide a measurable benefit to the applicant,
(2) would sustain his or her rehabilitation in society as a law-abiding citizen, and
(3) would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
The bill also institutes a “three strikes” rule: those convicted of more than three indictable offences will be barred from receiving a record suspension. Likewise, convictions for sexual offences against minors (and other offences listed in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act) will never become eligible for suspension.
Another category of offence has been created (in Schedule 2 of the Criminal Records Act) for certain sexual offences which remain eligible for record suspension. When an offender who has been convicted of one of these offences is granted a record suspension, the record is “flagged” so that, while the offender’s criminal record is suspended, nevertheless the conviction will appear on searches should the offender ever apply for a job working or volunteering with vulnerable persons.
Furthermore, the processing fee for a record suspension application has increased from $150 to $631 (as of 23 February 2012).
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