A criminal record can be a significant barrier to travelling abroad, as there are many countries will refuse entry to those found to have been convicted of a criminal offence in the past. A criminal record also prevents an individual from working in a variety of employment situations where there is contact with children, the elderly, or persons with disabilities in the so-called “vulnerable sector”. Additionally, individuals with criminal records are excluded from certain registered professions which require a licence to practice. For residents of Canada who are not yet citizens, a criminal record can have a variety of consequences, including loss of permanent residence status and denial of an application for Canadian citizenship.
To seal your criminal record, a record suspension, formally known as a pardon, must be obtained. According to the issuing authority, the Parole Board of Canada, a record suspension “…acknowledges that an individual with past convictions has demonstrated, over time, his integration through law-abiding behaviour in the community.”
The formal recognition that a former offender has undergone positive changes and deserves to have their criminal record “forgotten” is an important part of the Canadian criminal justice system which balances rehabilitation and community safety. The Parole Board of Canada has recorded more than 460,000 granted record suspensions (pardons). In 2020-2021, a total of 7,443 record suspensions were granted, of 9,140 applications.
There are, however, some important restrictions. Generally, record suspensions are only obtainable after 5 years in the case of summary convictions, and 10 years for indictable convictions. Also, offenders who carry more than three convictions for indictable offences with lengthy sentences, and individuals who were convicted of sexual offences against children are not eligible to apply for a record suspension. As of 1 January 2022, the processing fee for a record suspension application is $50.00.
On 10 June 2021, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, introduced Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which did not receive a second reading and therefore has not become law. To read the latest proposed changes to the pardon/record suspension system, click here.
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