In Canada, when an individual is convicted of a criminal offence as an adult, they will have a permanent criminal record for the rest of their lives. This criminal record will appear on background checks and when travelling and can cause issues for people even decades after their conviction. The only way to remove a criminal record is to apply for a pardon or record suspension.
In 2012, the Canadian government passed legislation changing the name of the pardon to record suspension. In practice, the outcome is the same for both, though there are some minor administrative differences.
A pardon occurs when the government agrees to seal an offender’s criminal record so that it can no longer be viewed. The record is not destroyed, but it will not be available to anyone. An individual who has been pardoned will have a clean criminal record, including employment background checks and vulnerable sector checks. The record may only be viewed by the government, and only in extraordinary circumstances.
A record suspension is essentially the same as a pardon. The Canadian legislature changed the name from pardon to record suspension in 2012. Like a pardon, a record suspension means the government has agreed to seal, or “suspend” the individuals record. While the records are not destroyed, they are kept separate and apart from other criminal records in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). This means the record will not be available to anyone, and the accused will have a clean criminal history. Only government officials can access the record, and only in extraordinary circumstances.