A criminal record can be detrimental to finding and keeping employment in the modern economy. A pardon – also referred to as a record suspension – can be requested to remove criminal convictions from someone’s record. Canadians can apply for a pardon from the Parole Board of Canada after a certain amount of time following the completion of a criminal sentence. The sentence could include a term of imprisonment or probation or the payment of a fine.

The Parole Board of Canada looks at two main factors when considering an application for a pardon. First, the board must be satisfied with the applicant’s behaviour since the conviction, and secondly, that the conviction no longer reflects that applicant’s current character and the black mark should be removed from the record. A pardon, however, will not remove any prohibitions that accompanied a conviction, such as a driving or a weapon possession prohibition.

The length of the waiting period to apply for a pardon depends upon the severity of the crime. In general, the waiting period is ten years for indictable offences – those where the punishment was a fine of more than $5000 or imprisonment for more than six months – and five years for summary offences. However, there are some situations where a pardon will not be granted, including some sexual offences, life sentences, and multiple serious convictions.

Sexual Offences

Convictions for some sexual offences, specifically those involving victims under the age of 18, can make an individual ineligible for a pardon. In order to successfully apply for a pardon, there are additional criteria that must be met. An applicant must be able to demonstrate that they were less than five years older than the victim and did not use, or threaten to use, violence, intimidation or coercion during the offence. Also, the applicant must not have been in a position of trust and that the relationship to the victim was not one of dependence. If the offence did not include any of the above elements, the applicant may be eligible for a pardon.

Life Sentences

Life sentences make an applicant ineligible for a pardon. The waiting period does not begin until after the sentence is complete. Therefore, in cases that include a life sentence, such as murder, an applicant would not be eligible for a pardon because the sentence would not be completed within the lifespan of the applicant. A life sentence goes beyond a term of imprisonment. Even after a granting of parole, an applicant would still be ineligible for a pardon. This ineligibility would include anyone designated as a dangerous offender, a label that is attached for life unless successfully appealed.

Multiple Convictions

An applicant may be ineligible for a pardon if they have too many convictions. This does not include just any conviction. Only convictions for offences that carry a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life are considered. Many indictable offences can carry a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, especially those involving firearms or where death has resulted. An individual is ineligible for a pardon if they have been sentenced to imprisonment longer than two years for this type of serious offence on more than three occasions.

Need more information? Contact the team at DDSG Criminal Law to speak to an attorney.