Criminal records and pardons (record suspension)
This page gives general information only, and is not meant to replace legal advice from a lawyer.
The federal law dealing with pardons changed effective March 13, 2012. The new rules:
- Changed the term ‘pardon’ to ‘record suspension’. This page therefore uses the term record suspension
- Increased waiting periods for applying for a record suspension
- Limit who is eligible for a record suspension.
You do not need a lawyer or other representative to apply for a record suspension. If you have questions about or want to apply for a record suspension, you should contact the Parole Board of Canada at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca or call their Record Suspension info line toll free at 1-800-874-2652.
Q - Does everyone who has been convicted of an offence have a criminal record?
Anyone who is 18 years of age or older and has been convicted of a criminal offence has a criminal record. If you have been convicted of a provincial offence - for example, a ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act, Liquor Control Act, or Protection of Property Act - you will not have a criminal record for that offence. Go to the ‘Tickets’ page for information about provincial summary offence tickets.
Q - Who can find out that I have a criminal record?
A criminal record is not a public document. Your neighbour or your boss cannot contact the police and find out if you have a criminal record. However, police, judges, crown prosecutors, border services officers, and other officials may see your criminal record. For example, police use criminal records when they are investigating crimes, and judges use the information when sentencing someone who has committed crimes in the past.
Also, sometimes you may be asked about your criminal record, or you may be asked to consent to provide a criminal record check or vulnerable sector check, such as if you are applying for a job or for some types of volunteer work, particularly those involving children or other vulnerable people.
Having a criminal record may seriously affect your ability to obtain employment or volunteer positions, and to travel internationally.
Visit the Canadian Police Information Centre ('CPIC') website at www.cpic-cipc.ca and the Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cr-cj/ for more information about criminal records and criminal record or vulnerable sector checks.
Q - What is a record suspension?
If you get a record suspension the RCMP and any other federal agency or department that has a record of your conviction must keep your record separate from other criminal records. Once you have been given a record suspension, information about your conviction cannot be given out by the RCMP or other federal agencies without the approval of the Minister of Public Safety Canada.
Also, the Canadian Human Rights Act forbids federal agencies and departments from discriminating against a person who has a pardon or record suspension.
Q - Are there limitations to a record suspension?
Yes. A record suspension will not erase your conviction.
Also, even if you receive a record suspension, you will still have a driving or firearms prohibition if there was one related your conviction. If you were convicted of a sexual offence and you get a record suspension, the record will be kept separate but will be flagged in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) computer system. This means you may be asked to consent to let your employer see your record if you want to work with children or other vulnerable persons.
You should also keep in mind that the RCMP and other federal agencies or departments must keep your record separate, municipal and provincial police services and courts do not have to do so, although most do.
Lastly, a pardon or record suspension will not guarantee you entry or visa privileges into another country, so if you are planning to travel abroad you should contact that country’s consulate or embassy to find out its policies regarding criminal records and pardons/record suspensions.
You will find more information about criminal records and international travel online at:
Q - How soon can I get a record suspension?
You have to wait a certain length of time after the completion of your sentence before you're allowed to apply for a record suspension.
Your sentence is complete when three things have happened:
1. You have paid all fines, surcharges, costs, restitutions and compensation in full; and
2. You have served all of your time, including jail, house arrest, parole and statutory release; and
3. You have satisfied your probation order conditions.
Once your sentence is complete you can apply for a record suspension after waiting:
- 5 years for a summary offence;
- 10 years for an indictable (more serious) offence.
As of March 13, 2012 a record suspension is not available if you were convicted of:
- sexual offences involving children, listed in a schedule to the Criminal Records Act. There are some limited exceptions;
- more than 3 offences where the Crown treated it as an indictable offence, and you were sentenced to jail for 2 years or more for each offence.
Contact the Parole Board of Canada at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca, or call their Record Suspension Info Line toll free at 1 800 874 2652 for further information.
Q - I received a discharge or other non-conviction. Do I need to apply for a record suspension?
No. If your record is an absolute or conditional discharge you do not need to apply for a record suspension. Discharges are automatically removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system – 1 year after the court decision if you got an absolute discharge, and 3 years after you are discharged on conditions in a probation order (conditional discharge).
If you received a discharge before July 1992 you should contact the RCMP’s Record Suspension and Purge Services at Box 8885 Ottawa, ON K1G 3M8 Fax: 613-957-9063 or www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca For more information visit the RCMP’s Record Suspension and Purge Services web page at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
You do not need to apply for a record suspension if charges were dismissed, stayed or withdrawn.
Q - How do I apply for a record suspension?
You will have to complete an application form. You can get the application form and a free Record Suspension Application Guide from any parole board or RCMP office or by contacting the Parole Board of Canada toll free at 1-800-874-2652, or online at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca.
Q - Can I apply again if I don’t get a record suspension?
If the Parole Board does not grant you a record suspension, you have a right to re-apply after one year.
Q - Is there an application fee to get a record suspension?
Yes, there is a $631 processing fee for the application
Q - Do I need a lawyer to apply for a record suspension?
No, you do not need a lawyer or other representative to apply for a record suspension.
Q - Where can I get more information on record suspensions?
To get a record suspension application kit or help and information about record suspensions contact the Parole Board’s record suspension line toll free at 1-800-874-2652. Also, visit the Parole Board’s website at www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca
Updated January 2017