15 Jul How to Get a Pardon in Ontario, Canada
We think you’ll agree with us when we say:
Having a criminal record can be REALLY challenging.
When chatting with friends about the past and the future, does the topic of your criminal record ever come up? As with most personal matters, it probably depends on who you’re with. There are people you would likely never share this information with; people you want to impress, or whose judgment you legitimately worry about, such as fellow parents or coworkers.
On the other hand, there are some friends and family members who already know you have ‘a past’ and with whom you feel comfortable discussing the intimate details of your life. When discussing a criminal record, the idea of getting a pardon often arises. Perhaps you have already heard all sorts of things about getting a criminal pardon and aren’t sure what is really true and what’s just a myth. Maybe all the talk has even discouraged you from applying for a pardon because of the stories you have heard.
If you live in Ontario and you’ve searched, “pardons services Canada,” you’re not alone.
If you’re wondering about how to get a pardon in Ontario, Canada, you are certainly not alone.
In the 2015-2016 reporting year, over 4,500 Ontario residents applied for a pardon (now known as a record suspension).
If, like those thousands of Ontarians, you are interested in pardons, but aren’t sure how to go about it or whether it’s even worth it, please read on for everything you need to know about how to get a record suspension in Ontario, Canada.
What is a Pardon (Record Suspension)?
The term ‘pardon’ is no longer officially used, but since the new term ‘record suspension’ refers to the same thing, and since many people still use the term ‘pardon’, we’ll use these terms interchangeably.
In essence, a pardon (record suspension) is a way of setting aside a person’s criminal record such that it isn’t revealed during a criminal record search.
The record still exists, but it is in effect suspended so that it cannot be seen and therefore, for all practical purposes, it is invisible.
Why is a Pardon Important and Desirable?
While you may feel that you can carry on unaffected by your old criminal record, the old saying that the past comes back to haunt you is not something you want to experience when it comes to your record.
When a criminal record is tied to your name in the RCMP’s national database, it remains there, exposed to criminal record and vulnerable sector checks until a record suspension is granted.
This is true whether you’ve been convicted of one crime or twenty – and even if you weren’t convicted, your fingerprints and police files, court records, statements and the like will still remain in the system in connection with your arrest.
Everyone knows that vast digital storehouses of information exist on every single one of us, somewhere in the Cloud; everything from our social media activity to our food preferences and banking history is saved somewhere ‘out there’, so for Canadians with a criminal record, isn’t that just one more piece of arcane information out of sight and out of mind?
If a criminal record exists for you, it can hold you back from experiencing all the rights and privileges of citizenship.
Already, having a criminal record can prevent you from obtaining certain types of jobs, doing volunteer work, attending certain schools, obtaining certifications, and many other things that most Canadian citizens take for granted.
As new laws are enacted to get tough on crime, having a criminal record might soon affect much more.
That’s why getting a pardon (record suspension) is so important. It’s definitely something you should want to do, if you don’t already.
Benefits of Getting a Record Suspension (Criminal Pardon in Ontario)
For many clients of Dominion Pardons and Waivers, getting a record suspension takes a big weight of shame and fear off their shoulders – shame about the past, and fear that it will be discovered.
But there are some very tangible benefits to obtaining a pardon in Ontario, Canada.
Here are some of the reasons why to get a record suspension without delay:
- Anyone in law enforcement can see your criminal record instantly by loading CPIC, the Canadian Police Information Centre database. This may cause police and other law enforcement agencies to treat you differently when you have cause to come into contact with them – for example, at a routine traffic stop, or if you call law enforcement for assistance.
- If you try to cross the border into the US without a record suspension, you could be turned back without recourse, causing the failure of your travel plans, lost money on prepaid trips, lost business opportunities, and the inability to visit loved ones in the United States.
- Despite anti-discrimination laws, employers in a wide variety of industries ranging from driving/courier to casinos to car dealerships are now demanding a criminal record check as a condition of hire. Needless to say, anyone employed by any level of government and anyone dealing with finances in any form (securities, banking, insurance, etc.) will very likely not be hired if a criminal record exists.
- The existence of a criminal record makes you vulnerable in all your dealings with the legal system. For example, child custody or access may be restricted because of it, at a judge’s discretion
- It is virtually impossible to volunteer with anyone deemed vulnerable (such as children, the elderly, or the disabled) if you have a criminal record. Volunteer coordinators are authorized to check for a criminal record and access its contents.
- Landlords can ask for a criminal record check in addition to the standard credit check. In Ontario, a landlord is not supposed to discriminate based on these findings, but with rental units in short supply, the true reason for turning you down for an apartment could remain unknown.
3 Myths about Record Suspensions (Pardons)
A lot of people talk about pardons as if they know their stuff, but how much do they really know about getting a pardon in Ontario, Canada?
Here are 3 common myths about pardons that you need to know the truth about.
- If you weren’t convicted of an offense, there’s no criminal record.
FALSE – even if your charges were stayed, dropped or dealt with in an absolute or conditional discharge, a police file, including your fingerprints, photo, and local police records, will remain in CPIC indefinitely.
- After a certain period of time, all criminal records are expunged.
FALSE – a criminal record never truly disappears, and only remains hidden if you obtain a pardon (record suspension).
- Everyone who applies for a pardon receives one automatically.
FALSE – The approval rates for Canadian pardons vary from year to year. In 2015-2016, 28 percent of record suspension applications were denied for various reasons.
We have spent some time discussing the nature of pardons, why they are important, and why it’s essential to get credible information when it comes to a future free from the stigma of a criminal record.
Now we will look into what is necessary to obtain the record suspension itself.
How Do You Go About Getting a Pardon in Ontario, Canada
Is it really any surprise that the Canadian government doesn’t make things easy for people applying for a criminal pardon?
In addition to the usual paperwork, ID and verification procedures that any government document requires, a bill passed in Parliament in 2012 changed the rules to make it more difficult to obtain a pardon.
They also changed the name from ‘pardon’, with its connotations of forgiveness and starting anew, to ‘record suspension’, making it very clear that while the criminal records of successful applicants are not revealed in criminal records checks, the record itself won’t be erased.
To wade through the legal-ese is an onerous task. To simplify it, we have noted the major changes that are most likely to affect Canadians applying for a pardon:
-Major fee increase from just $150 to over $600
-Steps must be taken to indicate rehabilitation
-Longer wait times before you are eligible for a pardon
-Some offenses are no longer pardonable at all
Of course, even with these barriers, thousands of criminal pardons are granted each year. The key is to know what you’re doing before beginning the process of applying for a record suspension – because one mistake mid-process can lead to rejection, and you will have to start all over again.
Here is how to go about applying for a pardon, step by step:
- Use the Government of Canada’s Record Suspension Self-Assessment Tool
- Download a Record Suspension Application Guide (instruction booklet) from the Parole Board of Canada. Read the instructions carefully so as not to miss anything
- Print out an application form at pbc-clcc.gc.ca
- Obtain a copy of your criminal record from the RCMP
- Contact the local police service for the city you currently reside in, as well as each city or town you have lived in during the last 5 years, as long as you were there for 3 months or more. Obtain any criminal records from these cities.
- Obtain your court information (there are differing levels of courts) and proof of conviction(s) if applicable
- Secure any needed immigration documents
- Pay the costs associated with obtaining copies of these documents
- Get fingerprinted at a certified fingerprinting centre
- Submit an application fee of $631 along with all the above mentioned information and your completed application form.
An alternative is to retain a Canadian pardon services firm such as Dominion Pardons & Waivers, who will perform these all of these complex & daunting tasks efficiently and accurately on your behalf allowing you to get on with your life while your pardon application is being prepared and processed for you.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Pardon in Ontario, Canada
The changes to the law surrounding record suspensions that were made in 2012 lengthened the time period that offenders have to wait before they can apply for a pardon in Ontario, Canada.
After the sentence has been served in its entirety (including probation and parole requirements), the waiting period is now 5 years for summary offenses and 10 years for indictable offenses.
However, due to the processing time of 6-18 months from the Parole Board’s end, it is wise to prepare an application before the eligibility time has entirely run out.
This ensures the fastest possible receipt of your pardon once you are eligible.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Pardon in Ontario, Canada
As previously noted, the application fee for a pardon in Ontario, Canada is now $631 – a cost which is prohibitive to many who are stuck in lower-paying jobs or receive social assistance due to the significant employment barriers a criminal record can represent.
Fortunately, some Ontario Works offices will provide some financial assistance towards defraying the cost of obtaining a record suspension.
In addition to the application fee, professional pardons and waivers firms charge a fee for their legal services, as would any paralegal or lawyer who undertakes to assist you with a pardons application.
Pardon (Record Suspension) Eligibility in Ontario, Canada
Once you have served your sentence, paid any necessary fines, compensation and restitution, and abided by/fulfilled all the conditions of your parole/statutory release, your waiting period for a pardon begins.
But that’s not the whole story.
If you have been convicted of a sexual offence, your file will be ‘flagged’ in the RCMP system and the record will still be revealed on a vulnerable sector check.
Sexual offences involving a child are no longer pardonable.
Further, if you have had more than three indictable offence convictions for which you received a prison sentence of two years or more for each, you are not eligible for a pardon.
In addition, to be eligible for a pardon under the new legislation, you must be:
-of ‘good conduct’ since the discharge of your latest sentence (meaning that you have not been convicted of any new offences)
-have no new charges pending
-have no outstanding fees or government fines owing (including traffic tickets).
Where to Get Help with a Record Suspension in Ontario, Canada
Like every other government application form, the Record Suspension Application form and all its associated attachments were designed to be completed by an individual.
However, many individuals, especially those with language barriers or learning issues, find they don’t have the language skills or the technical know-how to complete the Canadian pardon application.
Wading through the legal terminology and compiling all the supporting documentation can seem overwhelming and daunting, to say the least.
That’s why we recommend that you hire a reputable, experienced pardons and waivers firm to provide you with the representation and skill needed to navigate the system.
If it’s time for a fresh start, call Dominion Pardons & Waivers and seize your opportunity to shed the dead weight of your criminal record.
We would be happy to determine your eligibility for a pardon right away and begin the process for you with understanding, complete confidentiality and aggressive advocacy.
For a speedy pardon in Ontario, Canada, Dominion Pardons & Waivers is the logical choice. Call us at 1-888-974-4159 to see if you qualify for a record suspension now.