In Canada there is no way to get a pardon without paying for it. Regardless of whether someone prepares an application on their own or uses the services of a third party.
The cost of getting a pardon can be broken down into two parts which we will take a closer look at.
- The cost of preparing the application, which is variable.
- The Parole Board of Canada’s submission fee, which is the same for everyone.
The cost of preparing a pardon application in Canada.
Below we will review the various costs associated with the pardon program.
The first step to preparing a pardon application is getting your RCMP report. In most of Canada you can request an RCMP check through the local police service. Fees range from a minimum of $25 to over $100. Many police services only offer the service for a few hours a week and some don’t provide any fingerprinting services to the public at all.
You can also request an RCMP report through an RCMP-accredited third-party fingerprinting service. Most services charge between $75 and $125.
The next step is getting information from the courts. Some courts provide this information for free, but the vast majority charge fees. Some charge one small flat fee of $5 or $10, but others will charge one fee for conducting a search and then an additional fee for each conviction on the record. So you might pay $20 for a search and then $30 for each conviction. Often the fee structure is so complicated that the applicant just needs to submit the request and wait to be billed, which can be frustrating because you don’t know if you’ll be pay $2 or $200.
Local Police Check
The applicant also needs to get at least one Local Police Check. Many smaller police services don’t charge for this check, but if your police service charges a fee you can expect to pay an average of about $60. If you’ve moved towns within the last five years, you’ll need to get a police check from each jurisdiction, so the costs can mount up.
All applicants have to cover these basic costs but unfortunately many applicants will have to pay other fees as well. For example, many applicants have to provide a sworn statement, which means paying a fee to a notary. And, for various reasons, it may be necessary to do an information request with a police service. Again, fees for information requests vary significantly.
Parole Board of Canada Submission Fee
Once the application is ready the applicant needs to cover the Parole Board of Canada’s submission fee. Unlike the fees involved with preparing the application, every applicant will pay the same submission fee. This fee cannot be waived or reduced for people who cannot afford to pay.
For most of the history of the pardons program, there was no submission fee. The Canadian government understood that society as a whole benefits from the pardon program because it means fewer people are prevented from getting honest work due to a criminal record. In 1995 a modest user fee of $50 was introduced to help cover costs incurred when granting pardon applications. But in 2010, the Harper Government increased the fee to $150 and although this meant getting a pardon was more expensive, it was still affordable to the vast majority of Canadians.
Unfortunately in 2012 the Harper Government made a number of changes to the pardons program, one of which included another drastic increase to the PBC filing fee which was increased over 400% from $150 to $631.
According to the government, the applicant would now have to cover the full cost of reviewing and investigating their application, which they calculated to be $631. So, according to the government’s math, someone with a single conviction for stealing a loaf of bread should pay the same fee as someone convicted of thirty offences, no matter how serious.
For most people the increased submission fee is a worthwhile investment if it means that they can find a better job, travel more easily and do volunteer work without worrying about a criminal record holding the back. But for many low-income individuals the $631 filing fee is out of reach.
Of course many of these people can’t pay the fee because their criminal record prevents them from getting a decent job – or any job at all. One of the main benefits of the pardons Canada program has always been to help people in exactly this situation. The increased fee has seriously undermined this benefit.