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How Do I Apply For a Pardon?

A pardon is formally known in Canada as a record suspension. It is offered to those who were convicted of a criminal offense, but have completed their sentence and can demonstrate they are now law-abiding citizens.  

A pardon will keep your criminal record separate from other criminal records. This means that a search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database will not show you had a criminal record, nor that you were issued a record suspension. However, a pardon does not imply that you were falsely convicted or that the crime didn’t occur.

By seeking a pardon, you are indicating that criminal behaviour is no longer part of who you are and that your past criminal history should no longer haunt you.

Pardons or record suspensions are issued by the Parole Board of Canada. You need to complete your sentence and then meet specific eligibility requirements. If you have met the criteria set by the Parole Board, you need to prepare an application.

Why Should I Apply for a Pardon?

You could be at a serious disadvantage with a criminal record. You can have trouble with:

  • Getting a job or a promotion.
  • Travelling to other countries, particularly the United States.
  • Getting volunteer work.
  • Getting bonded.
  • Obtaining an apartment for rent.
  • Obtaining child custody.
  • Adopting a child.
  • Being approved for a mortgage.
  • Being approved for some educational opportunities.
  • Being approved for Canadian citizenship or permanent residence.

Even if your criminal record has not yet impeded your life, it probably will at some point. People usually only think about getting a pardon when the impact is immediate. Getting a record suspension can give you peace of mind well in advance of any problems and it is an acknowledgment that you shouldn’t have to suffer for any mistakes you made in the past. For this reason, it is a wise idea to apply for a pardon once you immediately become eligible.

Who Can Apply for a Pardon?

Anyone can apply if they were convicted of a criminal offense under a Canadian act or regulation. Even if you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can still apply. If you were convicted in another country and it was transferred to Canada under the Transfer of Offenders Act, you can apply, too.

What Methods Can I Use to Apply?

There are three ways in which you can apply for a pardon. There are pros and cons to each approach.

  1. By yourself. You can fill out the application on your own and it won’t cost you anything for the application (you  will still need to pay a filing fee to the Parole Board), but you’ll need to go to a third-party accredited agency to handle obtaining your fingerprints for certification purposes with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). You can download the record suspension application instructions and forms. Just be aware that you will have some reading to do: the PDF version of the application guide is 28 pages long and is filled with bureaucratic speak. Also, the rules of eligibility can change without notice, which can complicate matters for you if you are not up-to-date with the latest changes.
  2. By hiring a lawyer. If you don’t feel confident in doing the application yourself, you can hire a lawyer to help. If you want the job done right or already have a lawyer familiar with your case, this may be a good option for you. However, the drawback is, unlike doing the application by yourself, you will be paying more for the services of a good lawyer.  
  3. By hiring a pardon services agency. If you still want someone else to do the application and don’t have money for a lawyer, you can request the services of a less expensive Canadian pardon service provider. However, they may not be as familiar with any nuances of your case.

How Likely Will My Pardon Application Succeed?

If you have waited the requisite five or 10 years after the sentence was imposed and completed, if you have all of the supporting documents and if you have no further criminal charges or convictions, the federal government will probably issue you a record suspension. However, your application will not be successful if:

  • You committed a sexual offense against a minor.
  • You had more than three convictions that added up to more than two years of prison.
  • You are not forthcoming with your past involvement with the police and the courts, such as not paying any outstanding fines or if you have a recent charge.

If your application is turned down, you will have to wait one year before you can apply again.

How Long Will It Take to Process My Pardon Application?

It can take anywhere from a year or two for a record suspension to be processed and granted. Be aware, though, that you also have to spend time collecting police and court documents for your application. Getting those documents together can take an average of three to 10 months. This means that it’s a particularly good idea to start collecting your documents well in advance of your eligibility date.

What Will Happen to My Criminal Record After I Have Been Granted a Pardon?

If you have been granted a record suspension, the records of a pardoned or suspended offense will be kept separate and apart by the RCMP. That information will not be disclosed without approval from the Minister of Public Safety – and that rarely happens. Almost all municipal and provincial police agencies will also not disclose your criminal record unless you have a prohibition order or are in the sex offender registry.

Basically, if you have been pardoned, it is like the crime never happened. In the case of obtaining employment, employers can only ask if you have been convicted of a crime for which a pardon was not granted.

Contact Us

Ordinarily we would ask you to contact us but we think it makes the most sense to try to complete the documents yourself.

If you still want to talk to a lawyer about getting a pardon, Armoured Suits offers a complimentary 30-minute private consultation. Contact Armoured Suits by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at [email protected] to book your meeting today, and find out if hiring a lawyer is the right choice for you when it comes to getting a pardon application together.