New Pardon Legislation under Bill C-31 proposes revisions to the Criminal Records Act that further remove barriers for individuals with criminal records who have served their terms and are otherwise law abiding. A pardon can mean the difference between successfully reintegrating into society or returning to crime.

The Trudeau government has long recognized that the pardon system is in need of repair. In 2016, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pledged to revamp Canada’s pardon system. If ever enacted into law, the proposed bill would reduce pardon eligibility terms to three years for summary offences and five years for indictable offences, down from five and ten years. Additionally, the law proposes to eliminate the current ineligibility for a pardon for individuals who have committed more than three indictable offences, reversing another restriction on getting a pardon. They also propose to invest in program modernizations for the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), including developing a new online portal to make the application process simpler and quicker.


Our experienced team helps you with your record suspension application (Canadian pardon) so you can advance your career, volunteer at your kid’s school, travel, and live your life without the stress of your past holding you back.


Eligibility for a Pardon

To help ensure that the pardons program works fairly and effectively, the legislation proposes to amend the Criminal Records Act to reduce wait periods for obtaining a pardon to three years for summary offences and five years for indictable offences. To ensure public safety, certain serious offences would be ineligible. These disqualifying offences include convictions for sexual offences against children; terrorism offences with a minimum 10-year sentence; and offences carrying a life or indeterminate sentence. Additionally, the proposal recommends that non-payment of a fee or other monetary punishment imposed as part of the sentencing does not renew the waiting period.


Cost of a Pardon

The Government of Canada proposes to significantly reduce the application fee to an amount as low as $50 to make pardons more affordable. A record suspension or pardon Canada cost cannot be completed for free. As of March 31, 2021, The Parole Board of Canada charges $657.77 for a pardon application. However, bear in mind that this is just the last expense owed to the Canadian government once the pardon application is ready to submit. There are expenses other than the application cost to consider. The Canadian government has steadily increased the basic application fee over the years. At one time, it was a mere $50 out of the recognition that everyone in society benefits when people are able to reintegrate into society. Then the fee was raised to $150, and since then, it has more than quadrupled to $657.77.

Learn more about what costs are associated with getting a pardon.


The Pardon Process

The first step will be to get your convictions, conditional and absolute discharges form (Criminal Record) from the RCMP in Ottawa and, if required, your Proof of Conviction documents. You will also need your Court Information for all offenses and your Local Police Records Check(s) for all locations you have lived for the past 5 years. You will need your Proof of Citizenship or Immigration Documents (if born outside of Canada) and if applicable, fill in the Schedule 1 Exception Form. Once you have gathered all of these documents, you will need to complete the Record Suspension Application Form with 100% accuracy and the Measurable Benefit/Sustained Rehabilitation Form  in order to gain final approval.

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Summary Offence vs Indictable Offence

The nature of the offence for which you have been charged will dictate the type of judicial process that will apply to your case. Additionally, it will establish any maximum or minimum penalties you may face if convicted.

Summary offences are less serious. They carry a maximum monetary penalty of $5,000 in fine and/or six months in prison. Certain summary offences have stiffer penalties. Among them are violations of a probation order.

Indictable offences are more serious offences and include theft over $5,000, burglary, aggravated sexual assault, and murder. Maximum penalties for indictable offences include life in prison. Certain indictable offences carry mandatory minimum penalties.

Hybrid offences may be prosecuted on a summary or indictable basis. Crown counsel determines how the offence will be prosecuted.

Learn more about the types of offences.


Other Proposals under Bill C-31

The Government of Canada will also provide $22.2 million over 5 years for community based organizations to offer support services to help people complete pardon applications, and increase awareness of these support services, as well as of the PBC’s role as the federal agency responsible for the administration of the pardons program and its information resources for applicants. This will help ensure people have access to the right information about the pardons process and reduce reliance on third-party, for-profit companies that provide misleading information and charge high fees.

To further reduce barriers to pardons, the Government will evaluate automating the sequestering of some criminal records for less serious offences for persons who live crime-free, in cooperation with provinces, territories, and municipalities, as well as other major criminal justice stakeholders. Other nations, like Australia and the United Kingdom, have similar systems that expunge criminal records for less serious offences after specified periods of time for persons who remain crime-free, alleviating the need for a pardon application. This review will examine the feasibility of implementing such a system in Canada.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, introduced legislation, Bill C-31 An Act to Amend the Criminal Records Act and make consequential amendments to other acts, which proposes to reduce barriers to pardons for individuals with criminal records who have served their sentences and are living law-abiding lives. A pardon helps remove the stigma associated with a criminal record, allowing individuals to access housing, work, volunteer opportunities, and education, all of which are necessary for a person’s safe and successful reintegration into society as a productive citizen.

Summary of Bill C-31
An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This enactment amends the Criminal Records Act to, among other things,
(a) replace the expression “record suspension” with the term “pardon”;
(b) reduce the applicable waiting period before a person may apply for a pardon from 10 years to five years if the person is convicted of an offence that is prosecuted by indictment, and from five years to three years if the person is convicted only of an offence punishable on summary conviction;
(c) provide that Parole Board of Canada employees may exercise certain powers and perform certain duties and functions of the Board;
(d) remove the pardon ineligibility of persons who have been convicted of more than three offences prosecuted by indictment for each of which a sentence of two years or more was imposed;
(e) make persons who were convicted of a terrorism offence for which a sentence of 10 years or more was imposed ineligible for a pardon;
(f) amend the factors to be considered by the Board when deciding whether to grant a pardon;
(g) allow for identification following a DNA match in the same manner as following a fingerprint match; and
(h) remove the exception to automatic cessation of effect of a pardon for those convicted of an offence under subsection 320.‍14(1) or 320.‍15(1) of the Criminal Code.
The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.
The Canadian government is working to increase pardon access and to address systemic disparities in the criminal justice system. These evidence-based reforms will put public safety first by assisting in the reintegration of persons who have demonstrated to be law-abiding citizens while also taking victims’ needs into account. Additionally, it would streamline the decision-making process for less serious offences, allowing for more timely and straightforward processing of these applications.


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