How to Get a Record Suspension in Canada

Farid Zamani
Farid Zamani
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You made a mistake, got convicted for it, and served your sentence. But, what next? Can you build a life without your past haunting you?

If you or someone you know has a criminal record, you know how frustrating it can get when trying to procure work, start a business, get an apartment, travel, gain custody of your kids, or get any opportunity in life. A record is publicly accessible, and, as such, it pops up when a background check is done against your name, leading to discrimination and lost opportunities.

The good news is, under the Criminal Records Act of Canada, convicted persons who have fulfilled their sentence, proved that they have been rehabilitated and are now law-abiding citizens can have their records removed from public access (sealed) by applying for a record suspension.

But is everyone eligible? How do I apply for my record suspension? Well, let’s dive in to find out about the application process and more.

What Is a Record Suspension?

A record suspension, formerly referred to as a Pardon, is a chance for persons with past criminal convictions to seal their mistakes and open up their future. It’s only an option once you’ve satisfied your sentence, shown that you’re now a law-abiding member of society, and if you meet the set eligibility requirements.

When you’re convicted of a crime, your criminal record is entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre(CPIC), where it’s publicly accessible to the police and other authorized agencies. As mentioned earlier, active criminal records make it difficult to travel, advance your career, find employment, rent, volunteer, and more. If you get a pardon, your criminal record will be removed from the active CPIC database and will no longer be publicly accessible.

Getting your record sealed doesn’t mean that the CPIC will delete it from the database. It’s removed from active criminal records in that it doesn’t show up when a background check is done or reveal that you received a pardon. The only way to access your criminal record after it’s sealed is through the Minister of Public Safety authorization, which only happens in exceptional circumstances.

Record Suspension Eligibility

Before requesting for a record suspension, it’s crucial to ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements. Some of the factors that determine if you qualify are listed below.

  • Complete all your sentences, such as incarceration, fines, probation, or community service. This is the only way to start the official waiting period. Note that prohibition orders, such as driving and gun ownership prohibitions, do not count as part of your sentence.
  • Get through your waiting period while maintaining good conduct, i.e., not getting into trouble with the law. The waiting period depends on the severity of your crime.
    • Summary offence – the waiting period is 5 years after completing your sentence.
    • Indictable offence – the waiting period is 10 years, and it starts immediately after completing your sentence.

Note that some factors make you ineligible for a pardon in Canada. These include:

  • Sexual offences involving minors and other offences listed in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act. There are a few exceptions to this rule.
  • If you have been convicted of three or more indictable offences and received a sentence of two or more years for each of them.

Even if you’re eligible for a pardon, the Parole Board of Canada has the final say on whether to approve or deny your application based on many factors, including the seriousness of the offence committed and your conduct since conviction. Also, if granting your request will “bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” the board can deny your application.

How to Apply for A Record Suspension in Canada

A record suspension is not issued automatically. If you have a criminal conviction that you want sealed and are eligible, you must apply to the Parole Board of Canada for a record suspension. The application is quite extensive and lengthy because many court checks and police documents are needed to support your request for a pardon. Therefore, it’s advisable to start visiting the relevant public record departments to request the necessary documents months before your waiting period is over.

Note that only those CONVICTED of a crime can apply for a record suspension. If your charges were dismissed, withdrawn, or stayed, you do not need to apply for a record suspension.

Here’s a summary of the steps taken during your record suspension application process:

  • Get a copy of your criminal record and proof of conviction from the RCMP.
  • Complete the Court Information Form. Visit the court you were convicted in and have them fill this form. It details your conviction and shows whether you completed the imposed sentences.
  • Obtain the required record checks from the local police department.
  • If you were in the military, get a certified copy of your Military Conduct Sheet.
  • If you’re not a Canadian citizen by birth, obtain your proof of citizenship documents.
  • If your conviction is listed in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act, complete a Schedule 1 Exception Form.
  • Fill the Sustained Rehabilitation Form.
  • Attach a copy of your government-issued ID.
  • Once you have completed your application and attached all the relevant documents, make the required submission fee of $657.77 and mail your record suspension request to the Parole Board.

Having an experienced lawyer by your side can make the application process easier. They’ll handle everything and ensure that all the required documents and forms are present before submitting your application.

How Long Will It Take to Get My Pardon?

The whole process takes between 10-24 months. The exact time taken to get your pardon varies as per the criminal offence involved, the time required to collect your documentation, and more. Here’s a general breakdown of the timeline:

  • 3-10 months to prepare your application and collect the relevant documents
  • 6 -12 months for the government to process your application.

Given that the process is quite lengthy, it’s advisable to start preparing your application months before you’re eligible for a record suspension.

Vulnerable Sector Check

If you’re granted a record suspension for a sexual criminal offence, your record may be revealed during a criminal record check if you’re looking to work within a vulnerable sector. A vulnerable sector check is intended to protect vulnerable youths, children, and the elderly.

FAQs

How much does it cost to get a criminal record suspension?

The total cost of applying for a record suspension includes charges for digital fingerprinting, obtaining police documents, court checks and more. The charges vary as per your location and the number of offences on your criminal record. There’s also a $657.77 submission fee payable to the Parole Board of Canada.

Do I need to apply for a record suspension if my charges were discharged?

Record suspensions are meant for convictions and not discharges. A discharge means that the court found you guilty of a crime, but you were not convicted.

The RCMP automatically purges criminal records for discharged charges as mandated by the Criminal Records Act. An absolute discharge is purged after one year and a conditional discharge after three years. For a conditional discharge to be purged, you have to meet all its given conditions.

Since the RCMP automatically destroys discharges, you do not need to apply for a pardon. However, it’s still important to confirm that your discharge was purged correctly.

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