Are Criminal Pardons Becoming Inaccessible to Average Canadians?

First, to be clear, Criminal Pardons in Canada are now called “Record Suspensions”. The basic concept is relatively the same though.

When I first started law school I was taught that obtaining a Criminal Pardon was a relatively straightforward and affordable process for most people with older criminal records. With recent legislative changes this is no longer the case. Today obtaining a Pardon in Canada is an expensive and fairly complex process (yet another good reason to consider the viability of a vigorous defence to any criminal charge).

The Parole Board of Canada has published a guide to obtaining Record Suspensions that walks you through the process. To summarize, obtaining a pardon is now a ten step process that will set you back a bare minimum of $631 in the form of a government application fee. Should you use a lawyer to walk you through the process the cost would be significantly higher. That said, for many people it should be possible to go through the pardon process by yourself, and the guide linked above is certainly a good starting point.

In any event, the Canadian media is reporting that applications for Pardons dropped by more than 40% after the new legislation was enacted. This means that for an increasing number of Canadians a criminal conviction will be with you for the rest of your life. This is significant because a criminal conviction can seriously impact employment and travel opportunities.

I urge all Canadians to keep the new inaccessible pardon process in mind when deciding how to proceed after being charged with a criminal offence.

And remember, as always, don’t speak to the police.