Pardon refusal: What are the chances?

If you have completed your sentence, waited the applicable time period and maintained a clean record, you have a good chance of receiving a Record Suspension in Canada. A small percentage of otherwise qualified people receive a pardon refusal from the Parole Board of Canada.

In the reporting year 2015-2016, 94 percent of Record Suspension decisions were granted in favour of the applicant and six percent were refused. A Record Suspension is the Canadian government’s name for a pardon. It seals a criminal record in the national database.

Here are some common problems that may result in a pardon refusal.


Man in denim jacketThe eligibility requirements are the minimum standards that you must meet to apply for a Record Suspension.

  • If you have a summary offence you must wait five years from the completion of your sentence to apply.
  • If you have an indictable offence you must wait 10 years.
  • If you have unpaid fines that you forgot about, these will make you ineligible. You must pay the fine and then wait the five or 10 years.
  • Two types of records are now ineligible – Schedule 1 offences against a minor and more than three offences each carrying a sentence of over two years.

If you were convicted prior to 2012 and you live in BC or Ontario, you may be able to apply three or five years from the completion of your sentence. You may also qualify if you were already sentenced but became permanently ineligible when the law changed.


When you mail your Record Suspension application to the Parole Board of Canada, they will screen it to make sure everything is included and you have submitted the fee of $631 made payable to the Receiver General of Canada.

If any documents are missing, they may return your application or ask you to provide more information. Only 71 percent of applications make it through this step, which may be due to the complexity of the application or because some people who apply are not qualified or did not pay the fee. AllCleared can help you with the complexity, ensure you are eligible and get your application past this initial stage.

Measurable Benefit

The Measurable Benefit form is a required part of the Record Suspension application. You must demonstrate to the Parole Board how a pardon will help you. If the Parole Board is not convinced by your explanation, it can result in a pardon refusal.

Good conduct

One of the criteria of the Record Suspension application is that the person must have been of good conduct. If you have been convicted of an offence in the past five or 10 years, you are not eligible. However, you don’t need to be convicted for the Parole Board to determine that you weren’t of good conduct.

If you have multiple negative interactions with the police, you can be denied. These interactions can include arrests, warnings, fines and peace bonds. We have even seen people denied for having multiple traffic tickets.

Bringing the administration of justice into disrepute

Atrium of National Gallery with view of Parliament HillThe government brought in this criteria in order to prevent people with particularly serious records from receiving pardons. This allows the Parole Board more leeway to make discretionary decisions even when the person has met all the other criteria. They may consider the length of the person’s record, the seriousness of their offence and other related factors.

This may be a problem for someone with serious violent or sexual offences, or for someone who committed a string of offences with multiple victims. For example, if a person ran an investment scam that bilked a lot of people out of their savings, they could be refused.

However, don’t be afraid to apply if you meet the criteria as the Parole Board does grant pardons for these types of offences. For example, in the last reporting year, there were 41 Record Suspensions granted for aggravated assault and 21 for fraud over $5,000. The purpose of the Record Suspension is not to excuse what happened, but to help you get on back on track as a productive citizen.

Process for a pardon refusal

If the Parole Board of Canada is considering denying your application for a pardon, they will first issue a letter advising you of this and asking for a response. Normally, you will respond in writing although the Criminal Records Act does allow for an oral hearing.

In this case, you will have an opportunity to address their concerns, bring the focus back to evidence of good conduct and talk about the things you have done to show rehabilitation. You should also explain any incidents that they may have brought forward in their investigation.

If you receive a pardon refusal, you can reapply after one year. Maintain an excellent record, expand your rehabilitative efforts, and avoid any negative police contact during this time as this will help demonstrate that you can maintain good conduct.

If you would like to get started on a Record Suspension application or to check your eligibility, contact AllCleared today for a free consultation at 1-866-972-7366.


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Download our checklist to find out if you are qualified to apply for a Record Suspension. By completing this form, you will be subscribed to receive our newsletter and updates from AllCleared. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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  1. Barbara May 28, 2018 at 10:30 am - Reply

    If a record check in BC was done and it showed I didn’t have a criminal record. Does that mean I don’t have any criminal record then I can just travel as I please??

    • allcleared May 29, 2018 at 9:56 am - Reply

      Hi Barbara, If your record came back clear, you should have no problem applying for jobs, foreign visas or any other application in Canada that requires a record check. However, the US border has access to arrest records. If you were ever arrested and the charges were dropped or withdrawn, you probably won’t have a problem, although you might want to bring court records to prove it. If you had a conditional or absolute discharge, it’s a finding of guilt and you could be denied depending on what’s on your record. Not all types of charges will prevent a Canadian from crossing the US border. Contact us for a free consultation 1-866-972-7366.

  2. Steve Bonifacio June 5, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Hi are you saying if I want to go to China,Japan, Australia or Russia that I having a pardon for 30 years I would be able to get a visa ? No record would show

    • allcleared June 5, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

      Hi Steve, If your visa application requires a criminal record check, you will be able to provide them with a clean criminal record. Keep in mind that you could still be asked about arrests and charges on debarkation cards or when you arrive at the customs desk. One of the problems with travelling with a criminal record is that so few countries will post their policies. That’s why it’s a good idea to contact the Embassy or Consulate before booking travel. Otherwise, having a copy of your pardon with you can help you to demonstrate rehabilitation when you arrive at the customs desk. This can help you if the issue comes up, but it is not an absolute guarantee. Here is some more information about travelling to Australia with a criminal record.

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