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Record Suspensions

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a Pardon in Canada?

If you have been convicted of an offence under a federal law and you have finished your sentence, after several years, you may be eligible for a pardon.

Pardons are now known as “record suspensions”. The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is the government body responsible for granting record suspensions. Certain criminal convictions are not eligible for record suspensions.

A record suspension does not undo, cancel or erase your convictions. A record suspension restricts access to records under federal jurisdiction. Your criminal record is not deleted or purged. Instead, your criminal record will be kept separate and apart from other (non-suspended) criminal records.
 
Having a conviction disqualifies you from contracting with the federal government or obtaining Canadian citizenship. A record suspension will remove these types of disqualifications. But certain obligations will remain, such as driving or weapons prohibition orders.

The Criminal Records Act dictates how criminal record suspensions are to be managed by the Parole Board of Canada.

Why does Canada offer record suspensions or pardons?

In Canada, we believe that offenders can be rehabilitated and are expected to resume regular participation in society. The Parole Board of Canada helps offenders eventually rejoin the general public as law-abiding citizens. The PBC’s first objective is the protection of society. 

Why apply for a record suspension or pardon?

A record suspension can make your life easier by removing certain legal barriers to normal life as well as the stigma of a conviction.

Having a conviction can block you from jobs, educational opportunities and housing. A criminal record can create significant problems in child custody negotiations.

A Canadian conviction will block your immigration plans. Your immigration application will be denied due to “criminal inadmissibility”. You can remove this barrier by getting a Canadian record suspension. A Canadian record suspension removes the barrier of criminal inadmissibility due to your Canadian convictions only. If you have convictions in other countries, you may be inadmissible due to those also.

Once you are granted a record suspension, your conviction information will not appear during regular background checks. Certain restrictions will also be removed, such as not being eligible for Canadian citizenship.

Can my record suspension be cancelled or revoked?

Yes. If you re-offend, your record will be reopened. The PBC has sole discretion over record suspensions and can order, deny and revoke them. 

Your record suspension can also be revoked if the PBC has evidence that:

  • you are no longer of good conduct, or
  • you knowingly made a false or deceptive statement when you applied, or
  • hid information when you applied.

Which criminal convictions are eligible for a record suspension or pardon?

You may be eligible to apply for a record suspension if you were convicted as an adult of:

  • an offence in Canada under a federal act or regulation, such as the Criminal Code of Canada, or
  • a crime in another country and were transferred to Canada under the International Transfer of Offenders Act (or the now-repealed Transfer of Offenders Act).

Certain offences are not eligible for record suspensions, particularly sexual offences involving children. There are specific exceptions to this, so ensure you check if you are eligible anyway.

Which offences may not be eligible for a record suspension or pardon?

You may not be eligible for a record suspension if your first offence was committed on or after March 13, 2012 and you were:

Per Step 6 of the Guide, if you were convicted of a Schedule I offence, you may apply for a record suspension IF the PBC can be satisfied that:

  • you were not in a position of trust or authority over the victim,
  • the victim was not dependent on you,
  • you did not threaten, attempt or use violence or any type of coercion on the victim, and
  • you were less than 5 years older than the victim at the time of the encounter.

Do I need a record suspension if I received an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge?

No. You do not need to apply for a record suspension if you received an absolute or a conditional discharge.

Discharges should disappear automatically from your criminal record. Absolute Discharges disappear one year from the date you were sentenced. Conditional discharges disappear three years from the date you were sentenced.

Sometimes the discharges do not disappear, even though they should have. Discharges from before July 24, 1992 were not automatically removed.

If your discharge is still on your record, you need to formally request that the RCMP purges it. Contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pardon & Purge Services for more information.

Can I get a record suspension for a marijuana-related conviction from before marijuana was legal?

Yes. If your only conviction is simple possession of cannabis, you can apply for a Cannabis Record Suspension. The forms and process are simpler than the full record suspension application. There is no government fee to apply for a Cannabis Record Suspension.

If you have any other convictions, you must use the regular record suspension application process. The cannabis offence does not count in your waiting period.

You need to submit court or police records that show your offence was for cannabis only.

Will a record suspension mean I can travel to other countries easily again?

Not necessarily. Even with a Canadian record suspension, the fact of a past conviction can still create problems with travel outside of Canada.

Other countries may not recognize the record suspension. They will treat you like you have a current conviction. A conviction can block you entirely from some countries. This depends on the country’s laws and can also depend on the type of offence. It is your responsibility to check the foreign visitor requirements for each country before travelling to it.

The United States may require a Travel Waiver. These waivers are expensive and need to be applied for months in advance of the planned travel. US Customs and Border Protection has articles on:

A Cannabis Record Suspension is like a regular record suspension in that it doesn’t erase your criminal record, it simply sets it aside. A Cannabis Record Suspension may also not be recognized by other countries. Drug offences of any kind are very serious in many countries. Ensure you check your eligibility to travel to each country before you book your trip.

Make sure you keep copies of all of your pre-record suspension documents (criminal record check, proofs of conviction, court information, police reports). You may need to show these documents to apply for special visas and/or to border guards.

If I have convictions in other countries as well as in Canada, can I still apply for a Canadian record suspension or pardon?

Yes, you are still eligible under certain circumstances. You must be eligible to apply based on your Canadian conviction(s). If you have convictions in other countries that have equivalent offences in Canada, you must also disclose them in your record suspension application.

The PBC can only suspend your Canadian record, but they do consider your overall behaviour. The PBC is trying to decide whether you are ready to rejoin society as a law-abiding citizen.

Do I need a lawyer or agent to help me apply for a record suspension?

No. You do not need anyone to help you prepare and submit your record suspension application. You can do the process yourself and contact the Parole Board of Canada directly if you have questions.

The Canadian government does not regulate the paid preparation of record suspension applications.

If you are hiring a person to help you with your record suspension application, ensure that they are part of a legitimate organization. This may include being a service provided by a law firm or a third-party organization recommended by a lawyer.

Be aware, no one can guarantee that your record suspension will be granted by the Parole Board of Canada. The PBC is independent and cannot be influenced by anyone. Having your application prepared by a third party does not speed up your application processing time, nor does it move you ahead in the line.

If you do hire a lawyer, notary or paralegal (Ontario only), you can check with their provincial law society that they are members in good standing.

How easy is it to get a record suspension application accepted for processing?

It depends on how good you are at paperwork. From 2019-2021, the Parole Board of Canada rejected about 1 in 5 applications at the first screening.

According to the Parole Board of Canada’s Record Suspension Program Reports to Parliament:

Record Suspension Application Statistics for 2019-2020

  • Total Applications Received = 12,241
  • Accepted for Processing = 9,587 (77%)
  • Rejected at Screening = 2,643 (21%)

Record Suspension Application Statistics for 2020-2021

  • Total Applications Received = 9,137
  • Accepted for Processing = 7,443 (81%)
  • Rejected at Screening = 1,537 (17%)

Reasons for rejection at screening include “ineligibility, no payment, wrong processing fee and/or missing documentation.”

If you do decide to go through the process yourself, ensure that you have carefully read the application package. The requirements must be followed.

Acquiring all of the documents can be time-consuming. Check the PBC website often to see if the package, forms and any requirements have been updated.

How long does it take for a record suspension application to be processed?

The processing time for applications that are ultimately granted is 6-12 months, depending on the type of offence. If the Parole Board of Canada is considering denying the application, that can take up to 24 months. It is also possible for all processing times to exceed these service standards.

The service standards for processing record suspension applications are (current as of January 4, 2022):

  • For offence(s) tried summarily, the applications will be processed within 6 months of acceptance.
  • For offence(s) tried by indictment, the applications will be processed within 12 months of acceptance.
  • If the PBC is proposing to refuse to order a record suspension, this will require up to 24 months after application acceptance to complete.

When the Parole Board is thinking about refusing your application, they may give you a chance to supply more information. They may even give you a hearing. The extra steps are why it takes so much longer. 

How likely is it for a record suspension to be ordered or granted?

Very. Once applications are accepted for processing, then the success rate is good.

The Record Suspension Program 2019-2020 Report to Parliament and the Record Suspension Program 2020-2021 Report to Parliament indicate that:

  • about 95% of accepted applications for summary offence(s) are successful, and
  • about 90% of accepted applications for indictable offence(s) are successful.

In 2020-2021, all accepted Cannabis Record Suspension applications were successful. However, 1 in 3 of the submitted Cannabis Record Suspension applications were not accepted for processing. Most were not accepted because they needed more documents to prove the substance was only cannabis.

How much does it cost to get a record suspension or pardon?

On January 1, 2022, the federal application fee payable for a record suspension application was reduced to $50.00. Before 2022, the application fee was $657.77.

The federal government has reduced the record suspension application fee to remove barriers to the successful reintegration of rehabilitated individuals into society.

The applicant is responsible for all other costs, which include (these are estimated, as they can vary widely by location):

  • $75 - Electronic Fingerprinting Service (per set)
  • $25 - RCMP Criminal Record Check
  • Up to $200 - Court Information Forms and Records Searches (per court)
  • $55 - $150 - Local Police Records Checks (per residence location)
  • Up to $250 - Courier and Postal Fees

If you prepare your record suspension application yourself, expect to spend up to $750 if you have a single conviction, and have lived in only one location over the past 10 years.

If you have lived in multiple locations and have convictions in more than one court location or country, expect to spend $1,500 or more.

If you hire a lawyer or other consultant to assist you with your application, expect their fee to be an additional $1,000 – $4,000, depending on who you hire and the complexity of your situation.

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