Pardons in Canada

It is important to realize that pardons in Canada are no longer officially called pardons. As  a result of the Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill, bill C-10 the term pardon in Canada has been replaced with record suspension. Therefore from a narrow view of the matter pardons in Canada no longer exist. However, since a record suspension is the same thing as a pardon, it is still possible to get a pardon in Canada. The record is sealed and that is all that really matters.

This term pardons in Canada was changed because the Tories felt that it implied the government was forgiving criminals and because a tough on crime stance rings very well with the electorate. This plus a few high profile cases of the wrong people receiving pardons allowed the Tories to capitalize on the public’s outrage and the general misunderstanding of what a pardon is supposed to do.

The truth is that a pardon in Canada is not about forgiveness. Instead it is about completing the rehabilitation process and allowing previous offenders to return to the workforce unimpeded. If you think finding work is difficult these days you should try looking for work with a criminal record.

This is why the pardons program in Canada has been so successful. Only 4% of people granted a pardon (now a record suspension remember) ever have the pardon revoked which is a very high level of success for a social program. Pardons in Canada are very much a part of keeping crimes as low as they possibly can be.

To become eligible for a pardon in Canada the rules are simple and clear. You must complete your sentence and stay out of trouble with the law and then you must wait either 5 years or 10 years until your eligibility time arrives.

If you were charged with only summary offences you are eligible for a pardon in Canada 5 years after completing your sentence.

If you have indictable offences you must wait 10 years before becoming eligible for a pardon in Canada.

There are some exceptions of course. People with Sexual offences involving a child are no longer eligible for a pardon in Canada. Similarly anyone with more than 3 indictable offences, each of which was punished by more than 2 years in prison, is no longer eligible as well.

If you have a criminal record I highly suggest you get it cleared. You can call it a pardon or you can call it a record suspension because they are both the same thing.  The bottom line is that even if a criminal record is not affecting your life right now there is a very high possibility that one day it will. And since it’s possible in Canada to have a pardon for your charges and clear your record, failing to do so is more than likely going to be a costly mistake.



Comment (0)
Mark / January 10, 2013

Hi Michael,

I have an indictable MJ cultivation conviction and I completed the sentence March 2007. Unfortunately I made a mistake a picked up a summary conviction that was completed Feb 2009. When can i get record suspensions for these charges ?

Justaguy / January 13, 2013

2017. welcome to Fascist Canuckistan.

– Yours,

Just a guy who went from being able to get a pardon in 2 years, to needing to wait 8.

Michael Ashby / January 14, 2013

It does seem a little draconian. The current government in Ottawa is disappointing on many levels but in terms of criminal justice it is downright destructive.

I wish I could change things for you.

Kind regards,

Dave / January 15, 2013

I was a customer of the National Pardon Centre and have no chance of getting a pardon for an offence of theft in 1995. All because someone at a courthouse made a mistake in the process of a paid restitution. Because of that error, the courts want double the original paid amount ($3000). The National Pardon tried since the passing of Bill 23A to track down what happened before bill c10 was passed, but the courts are useless to try and correct their own errors.

As it stands now, to get a record suspention, I have to pay $6000 and wait 10 years after it is paid, so if by some chance I could pay it now, it was 2023 for a suspention for something dumb a drunk buddy and I did when we were 19. 28 years!

The restitution was paid off in 1999 and the victim refuses to write a letter to say he got it, because he thinks he will get $6000 more if he doesnt. Whats pathetic is he filed we had stolen $13,000 from him, which he got through insurance! The real amount was $300 and files proving he was embezzelling from his own company and business partner.

All I can hope for is that the legislation will change in time if the tories are gone.

Until then….life becomes increasingly hard as a criminal record is a heavy burden.

Eleanor Petersen / January 20, 2013

You were arrested, went to court and were convicted of a crime. In Canada you are eligible to apply for a Pardon. If you were not convicted, you do not qualify for a Pardon but still have a criminal record. You must apply for your record to be purged.

Reverend Doug Ponto / November 6, 2015

My pardon no longer works: it is now a lie. I just got the results of a records check and the entails of my 1986 conviction is all laid out. Apparently all the money I spent in the early 90’s is now a waste of money. I have to have a regular records check and if what was sent to me is any indication of my pardon, there is no longer a pardon or records suspension. No, I have had no more convictions. All that changed us the government, and my good behaviour is rewarded with this lie!!

Michael Ashby / November 6, 2015

Hi Reverand Doug,

I’m not sure what you really mean. Sometimes pardons are not processed correctly and charges remain active when they shouldn’t be. But the program still works. You may want to have someone look into your situation and see what is really happening.



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