How to qualify for pardons in Canada

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Anyone with a criminal conviction on record in Canada may legally submit an application for a pardon in Canada, provided a certain amount of time as elapsed since their conviction. Under the Criminal Records Act, pardons in Canada are granted by the National Parole Board. It’s important to note that the granting of a pardon does not excuse or erase the criminal record, it simply means the record will be removed from the CPIC database and it will not be accessible through any background checks, although there are certain limitations on this. The Solicitor General of Canada, for example, maintains the right to divulge information about your conviction(s) even if you have received a pardon, in some circumstances.

You do not have to be Canadian citizen or even a permanent resident in Canada to apply for a Canadian pardon. For summary (lesser) offences, you must wait until three years elapse from the date you were charged, until you have served your sentence and any parole periods, and/or all damages and costs have been paid before you can apply for a pardon. If you were convicted of an indictable offence, the waiting period is five years from the date of the charges. This five-year waiting period also applies to those who spent more than six months in prison, were penalized in excess of $2,000 or were discharged from the Canadian military or a police force.

During the years after the charges were laid, one must have lived a law-abiding life. The National Parole Board will consider a variety of factors when determining whether the person has lead a law abiding life, including suspected criminal activities, private accusations against the applicant, including discharged and withdrawn charges.

Should the applicant’s pardon application be approved, his or her criminal file will be removed from the CPIC database. What that means is, should a criminal background check be performed on the person, there will be no “hit” on the system. It will be as though the criminal record did not exist, although the record still does exist in reality. There are some cases in which the record will be revealed, such as if your crime was of a sexual or violent nature and you are applying for a job in which you would be working with children. This is known as a “vulnerable sector” background check and no criminal record, even those for which the person has received a pardon, is excused from such a check.

If you have been convicted of a crime in Canada and have served your time and paid your dues, you may want to apply for a pardon. Receiving a pardon opens many of the doors that having a criminal record closes, namely job opportunities, travel and custody matters. Know that the process is a long one and that it can be somewhat complex, but there are services out there designed specifically to help people prepare their pardon applications and to help them through the process.