Increased Waiting Periods for a Pardon

Waiting Periods for a Pardon – What happened?

Since the legislation from Bill C23B came into effect as a part of the Conservative’s omnibus crime bill, Bill C10 I have been getting a lot of frustrated people expressing their views on the topic on this blog. I just want to say that I understand and sympathize with all of you. For the sake of morbid curiosity here is a breakdown of the events that led to the new waiting periods.

In its original form Canada’s pardon program demanded a 3 year waiting period for summary offences and 5 years for indictable offences. The business man in me thought that was good enough and didn’t want to see any changes made at all. But another part of me spoke to people from time to time who had done some fairly nasty things and I had trouble seeing how they should be treated the same way as someone who had written bad cheque or grown a few plants. The law makes no further distinction between summary and indictable offences but perhaps it should.

When the Conservatives got their hands on Canada’s pardon program it introduced Bill C23 which would have changed the waiting periods to 5 and 10 years. With a minority government the Tories were unable to get the bill passed. But politics is an interesting beast (one that I am going to stay away from now that this debate is over with) and when the media gets involved things can happen quickly.

As Bill C23 was being debated it was “discovered” that Karla Homolka would soon become eligible for a pardon (anyone working in criminal justice understood this years ago the same day she was sentenced). No sensible person believes Karla Homolka should ever be eligible for a pardon under any circumstances but the nature of her plea bargain meant that she would. Some changes had to be made.

The NDP then split bill C23 and introduced Bill C23A which contained a measure to prevent Karla Homolka from being pardoned. It also re-distributed the waiting periods from 3 and 5 years to 3 and 5 years plus 10 years for serious personal injury offences and sexual offences. No one involved in criminal justice had an issue with this. 3, 5 and 10 years made sense.

But Bill C23A had left out a couple of the more punitive measures from Bill C23 and it was all left to be debated in Bill C23B, a debate which I took part in at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It was a total waste of my time, but that is another story.

When the Conservatives obtained its majority status the omnibus crime bill was introduced and in it the new waiting periods for a pardon contained in Bill C23B. Waiting periods for a pardon would now be just 5 and 10 years.

It is not clear why the Conservative’s felt the 5 and 10 years criteria is superior to 3, 5 and 10 years but that is the way it is.

If all of this is confusing and doesn’t seem entirely clear don’t worry. I participated in this debate from start to finish and I hardly get it. But one thing is clear. Any government that thinks a social program with a 96% success rate needs to be fixed is living in a strange world indeed.


Below: Rob Nicholson Justice Minister arguing in favour of the Omnibus crime bill which passed by a Conservative majority government.

Rob Nicholson arguing in favour of the Omnibus crime bill

Rob Nicholson and Vic Toews were the men responsible for increasing the waiting periods for a pardon.


Comment (0)
sean / April 14, 2012

My name is Sean. I am a single father of 2 kids. I got into a small confrintation 2 and a half years ago, and because of this i was charged. It was a mistake i admitted to it i paid my dues. Now i was looking forward to getting a pardon in a half of a year so that i can obtain a great job and be able to provide better for my kids. Now that this new 5 and 10 year waiting period is passed it just seams so unfair. I made a small mistake and everyone does it. ITS A MISTAKE why make is suffer for all this time for mistakes. My kids suffer not just me but my kids because its so hard to find a good job because of this. These people passing these laws are just unreal. Its not fair and i hope to god someone fights this and finds a better resolution. I am a live person and to make people suffer like this is not fair.

Birgit Davidson / April 16, 2012

Hi Sean,

You should write to your Member of Parliament and tell them exactly what you just posted here. The more emails they receive, the greater the chances that this law may be revisited in the future.


Al / April 21, 2012

i am in the process of getting a pardon i have been waiting now almost 2 yrs
but filed under old law but i feel i have been waiting to long as well
i am ready to go to ottawa and complain to them

Michael / April 23, 2012

HI Al,

You could certainly go to Ottawa and complain but everyone in the criminal justice system has been complaining about this and many others problems resulting from the Conservative government for a couple of years now, to zero effect. So I don’t think it would help at all. At best you might want to get confirmation that your application has not been lost.

Kind regards,


Lou / April 24, 2012

I started the pardon application process after the initial 3 year waiting period, before the law changed. I just received my documents back from the RCMP this month, which are required to submit along with my pardon application. They, the RCMP, were MONTHS late in providing my paperwork, so I just missed the March 2012 deadline to apply under the old law. Now I will have to wait 2 more years before I can be granted a pardon?? I find this extremely unfair, as I have no control over the delays at the RCMP. I submitted my request to them in a timely fashion, and yet I am now penalized for their administrative delays. This is preventing me from getting good employment. What can I possibly do in this scenario?

Ryan / May 11, 2012

same thing happened to me…sounds like RCMP may have been obeying orders to purposely delay. I should have made the March deadline were it not for the RCMP delay that was months longer than normal.

Michael Ashby / April 24, 2012

Hi Lou,

I’m afraid there is very little you can do at this point. The Conservative government simply refused to see reason and was happy to make these changes to the pardon laws. That the new law would keep people from working decent jobs and moving on with a law abiding life fell completely on deaf ears.

Kind regards,

Dalbert / June 25, 2012

In Canada, we are democracy, so pathetic political parties like the Conservative Party have the right to exist, too. But this is the most detrimental party a society can ever have. What the Conservatives fail to see is how this is hurting Canadians. I had never been in trouble with the law, except in 2001, when a man was harassing my wife and matrimonial home. Despite calling the police and the police talking to this man, he continued to harass my home; so we got into a fight. Didn’t kill him, didn’t maim him, didn’t blind him, didn’t cripple him, regrettably, but ended up getting charged. Like everyone else, this is preventing from getting a decent job to provide for my three children. If you go on welfare (which I won’t), they harass you and keep you under mental anguish until you find a job, but you cannot find a job, so what do you do? Oh and by the way, writing to your MP is a waste of time because they won’t do anything. Sure, it is what they advise you to do but that is an old political rhetoric the government wants you to believe: Vote for your MP, who will help you and will represent you in Ottawa, BS. I refuse to allow these clowns to make fun of me, especially the Conservatives.

Dalbert / June 25, 2012

Canada has lost its sovereignty: Something else that it is unfair is when you have a criminal record and they fingerprint you at the Canada-US border. You tell me if this makes any sense: I know a man, who 25 years ago was caught driving under the influence in London, which definitely was a bad thing. He paid his dues—that was 25 years ago.

Although, a DUI is a major offence, he did not kill anybody and was not involved in any car crash; he was pulled over. But the offence is what it is; I have no problem with that. After that he had been in the US countless times. But recently (June, 2012), he was going to the US with his wife and the Americans downloaded his record, fingerprinted and photographed the guy. Now, he has a record with the US government.

Here is my question: What crime did he commit in the US? Why is Canada allowing the US government to do that? Why has Canada lost its sovereignty? Why is the Canadian government allowing the US to treat Canadian citizens like terrorists? Before you say, yeah but it is an offense to try to enter the US with a criminal record, let me say this: I get it. But why not send a citizen back and say, you are not allowed to visit or enter the United States?

Why [Canada] not demand they have a process in place, where they will not be allowed to fingerprint and photograph you? Because once they download your record, you have a record in that country even though you have committed no crime there. Here is the meat of the potato: Money. The US is acting like a pimp and Canada like one of its call girls is allowing the Americans to raise funds. The US is using this to make money, because to apply for a Waiver you have to spend almost $1000 (Americans).

I get it: Stop me at the border, don’t let me visit or travel there until I have a clean record, but to fingerprint and photograph me, especially if I committed no crime there is pathetic and an abuse of process! To not recognize a Canadian pardon once they download your record as evidence that you are getting your act together is an abuse of process.

Birgit Davidson / June 25, 2012

Hi Dalbert,

It is a vicious circle, isn’t it? Just keep in mind that it is a 2-way street and Canada can access the records of US citizens and refuse them entry at the border too. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic but, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the traveller to determine the entry requirements of a given country.


Sunny / July 18, 2012

I believe this change is outrageous and BS. I understand criminals need to be punished but what about those who are first time committed and also good as in going to school and getting their lives back on track. Just because of one stupid mistake they have to wait 10 years in order to be eligible. I hope these laws are revised and changed for people who are innocent but convicted. Only murderers, sex offenders, and etc should be punished more viciously. Voting for the conservative party was a HUGE mistake!!! and if these laws are not changed, best believe I WILL NOT BE VOTING FOR THEM IN THE NEXT ELECTION!!

Kyle Pistawka / July 20, 2012

Hi Sunny,

I would not disagree with you that in many cases these new laws may be heavy-handed and can absolutley be a obstacle to people getting their lives back on track. But as you say the Conservative party ran on a “tough on crime” platform and Canadians voted for them.


Mike / August 8, 2012

I have a question or clarification, since I can’t find a straight answer….

I was arrested in September 2007 for an indictable offence (marijuana possession for the purpose – it was a misunderstanding / medical). I was “convicted” by cutting a deal to plead guilty on one charge (based on the discussion with my lawyer that I would be eligible to get a pardon 5 years later) and not waste anymore money/time by going to trial.. I finished my sentence including probation October 2009. Therefore under the old pardon laws, I was eligible to apply for a pardon on October 2014.

Now with the new laws and the change to “Record Suspension,” do I have to wait until October 2019? Doesn’t this violate my rights as it significantly changed the options available to me , as I would have fought the charges and gone through a trial if I knew that i had to wait 10 years for a pardon/record suspension. Am I correct here? Or am I grandfathered in and still get to apply on October 2014? Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.

Kyle Pistawka / August 10, 2012

Hi Mike,

You are correct that under the new laws you are not eligible until October 2019. Unfortunatley any application not submitted to the government before the laws changed must abide by the new rules (and your application could not have been submitted as you were early under the old laws as welll). I hope this clarifies things for you.


Leroy miller / November 23, 2013

Hey Sean.Am feeling the same way too.after 7yrs a still waiting for a pardon so I can move with my life ,not fair

Tom / January 16, 2014

The new law is a money making scam by the government, it’s been 10 years and I was told I had to re apply do to the time frame.
The RCMP told me is ten years from the time you paid, I paid in 2008 so the paper work is good till 2018.
Know they want $680 more to process the papers this is after I paid $1160!!!
We need a police investigation on the government stealing money for services not done.
If it was you or I we would be in jail for Fraud!!!.


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