January 28, 2016

Record Suspensions for Criminal Convictions in Canada: Changes May be on the Way!

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Having a criminal record can make international travel and migration difficult. This is no less true in the context of Canadian immigration. For those applying to enter Canada on a temporary or permanent basis, having a criminal record can potentially result in criminal inadmissibility as well as an unsuccessful application. Additionally, for individuals already in Canada with temporary or permanent resident status, being convicted of a crime in Canada can result in status revocation and removal from the country. If this occurs, the individual will be unable to return until the convictions has been removed from their record or a temporary resident permit is obtained.

Article 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the Act) sets out the circumstances in which a foreign national or permanent resident would be considered inadmissible, whether convicted inside or outside of Canada. It also addresses situations of possible consideration to overcome criminal inadmissibility, inclusive of: being deemed rehabilitated, applying for rehabilitation to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and obtaining a pardon or record suspension.

With respect to convictions that occur inside of Canada (according to the Act), there is no option to be deemed rehabilitated or to apply for rehabilitation. In most cases, the sole recourse is to obtain a record suspension (formerly referred to as a pardon) from the Parole Board of Canada (PBC).

Prior to 2012, getting a record suspension from the PBC was relatively easy and inexpensive. However, in 2012, changes to the Criminal Records Act came into force, making obtaining a record suspension in Canada more difficult. Among the more significant changes were quadrupling application fees (from $150 to $631, even for less serious offences) and a considerable increase in the waiting period before a person would be eligible to apply for a record suspension after completing their sentence.

Unsurprisingly, these changes resulted in a staggering drop in the amount of record suspension applications received by the PBC. Compared to 2011-2012 levels, the amount of applications received last year dropped by over fifty percent.

Many critics have called these changes punitive and disproportionate because the old system was generally considered to be working fine. To wit, the recidivism rate for individuals who obtain record suspensions was last measured to be less than 1 percent.

However, good news may be on the way for those people (including foreign nationals and permanent residents) with Canadian criminal records seeking a second chance through obtaining a record suspension. CBC news spoke recently to Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, who vowed that the changes made in 2012 may soon be reversed.

It remains to be seen what changes will be implemented by the new government and when these changes will occur; a reduction in fees and waiting times is expected, along with a return to the term “pardon”. Stay tuned for updates.

For more information on Criminal Inadmissibility, please click here.