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Crime Statistics

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, there were 4,919 pardon decisions rendered, 96% of which were granted and 4% denied. In terms of accessing or taking part in the process of getting a pardon, it can take an average of 12-24 months for the application to be processed. In some less complicated cases, the timeline can be shorter, being closer to around 6 months, however, certain applications can take over 24 months if an indictable offence or complicated record is involved.

Number of Pardons Decisions Rendered
Applications Granted a Pardon
Number of Record Suspension Rendered
Applications Requiring an Appeal

Our Experience with Appeals

In 2020, the Firm conducted one of the most complex pardon appeals in its File No. 19****8. The client had 15 convictions in three separate cities over several years. As a result of the client’s extensive history of substance abuse, violence and criminal behaviour, his record suspension application was denied by the Parole Board. Over nearly half a year, the Firm built a portfolio for the offender demonstrating the underlying reasons for his previous criminality, and why they were no longer present today. After demonstrating that the client was of good character the client was granted a record suspension for all his past criminal convictions.

In 2023, Donich Law secured a pardon for a client with a lengthy criminal history in Case No. 3****5. After initially applying for a pardon for several criminal offences including mischief, assault, failure to comply with a probation order, breach of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and theft under $5,000, the client received a proposal to deny from the Parole Board. The Parole Board cited two Provincial Offences tickets from the previous five years, citing this as evidence of the client’s bad conduct. Donich Law provided legal representations to address the Board’s concerns and the client’s Pardon was granted.

In 2015, the Firm represented an individual applying for a record suspension after being convicted of assault and possession of a schedule 1 substance in File No. 15****3. The Parole Board proposed denying the client’s application stating that he had not been of good character since his last conviction. He had been investigated and prosecuted for similar offences and 2003 and 2008. The Firm was able to illustrate that the client’s past offences were dated, occurred when he was young and during a particularly difficult period in his life. This was contrasted with the client’s current lifestyle to show that he had overcome many obstacles to become a functioning member of society who is of good character.

In 2014, the Firm represented a client whose record suspension application had been denied in File No. 14****3. The Parole Board sought to deny the application after the client was convicted of a subsequent Highway Traffic Act offence, siting that as evidence that he had not been of good conduct. The Firm was able to demonstrate that the client had changed his life for the better and the record suspension application was ultimately granted. The Firm was required to produce extensive legal submissions related to the matter including evidence from his prior court proceedings.

In File No. 14****2, the Firm represented a client applying for a record suspension after being convicted of robbery with violence in 2002. The Parole Board proposed denying the client’s application as a result of numerous traffic violations. The Firm argued that the traffic violations did not offer an accurate picture of the client’s character and ultimately secured the record suspension on appeal. The Firm produced a significant volume of legal submissions and evidence to support the underlying prejudice the client was facing as a result of being denied. This ultimately led to a reconsideration of the Parole Board’s position on appeal.

Consequences of a Criminal Record

In 2022, the Firm represented a client served with a Proposal to Deny from the Parole Board in Case No. 8****. Having had applied for a record suspension for an impaired driving and failure or refusal to comply with demand convictions, the Parole Board proposed to deny the client’s application, citing subsequent negative interactions with law enforcement in the preceding five year period. The Board cited three specific incidents, a ticket for speeding, a ticket for disobeying a stop sign, and a warning for speeding. The Board alleged that these incidents were not reflective of a citizen who demonstrates good conduct. The Firm provided lengthy submissions to the Board, addressing their concerns, and providing a more wholesome picture of the client. The Record Suspension was ultimately granted.

In 2017, the Firm represented a prominent businessman in File No. 17****1. In that case, the Parole Board was attempting to revoke the client’s record suspension for assault. The Parole Board sought to revoke the pardon because of a subsequent conviction for impaired driving. The Firm pulled the transcripts from the impaired guilty plea and was able to show the offence was not nearly as aggravating as the Parole Board initially believed. Ultimately, the Firm was able to reinstate the prior record suspension notwithstanding a further conviction for impaired driving.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who Determines if a Record Suspension is Granted?

The Parole Board is the governing body which grants record suspensions. Acting as an independent administrative tribunal, the Parole Board makes conditional release and record suspension decisions, and clemency recommendations. It facilitates the timely reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens. The Parole Board is made up of no more than 60 full-time members alongside a number of part-time members.

Noted above, section 1.1 of the Regulations outlines the test for deciding whether to grant a pardon. As discussed, there are several factors that come into play such as a threat to the safety of Canada or serious personal injury. Under the Act, we look to section 4.1(1) which lays out that the Parole Board may suspend a record if they are satisfied that the applicant was of good conduct, hasn’t been convicted of another offence and that suspension would be beneficial to them. In terms of “good conduct” referenced in both of the tests, the Parole Board will check for any negative interactions with law enforcement and could potentially use any minor issue to deny an application. This can include interactions as minor as a speeding ticket in some cases.

Pardon vs. Record Suspension

A pardon in Canada is when an individual is forgiven for their crime with a “cancellation” of the relevant record. This occurs when the individual has completed their sentence and demonstrated they are a law-abiding citizen. Essentially, their criminal record is hidden from the public. This is usually granted by a head of state or through Acts of Parliament in countries around the world. However, in Canada, the Parole Board usually grants pardons. The governing law here is the Criminal Records Act.

Beginning March 13, 2012, the Federal government implemented changes in the way pardons would be granted in Canada. This occurred with the introduction of Bill C-10 (the Safe Streets and Communities Act). Amongst other items, such as the ineligibility for a record suspension when the conviction is of a sexual offence involving a minor, the term “pardon” was replaced with the title “Record Suspension.” The Act states at section 2.3 that a record suspension is evidence of the fact that the Parole Board was satisfied with an applicant’s good conduct and that the conviction should no longer reflect adversely on the applicant’s character. Subsection (b) further solidifies this by ensuring that judicial records of the conviction be kept separate and apart from other criminal records. Whether an individual receives a record suspension or a pardon will depend on the date of their conviction.

What is a Proposal to Deny?

When an individual makes an application for a pardon or record suspension, the Parole Board will review it and make a preliminary decision. Meaning they will review the individual’s application and any other documents they can find about the individual, including any subsequent negative interactions they may have had with law enforcement. If subsequent negative interactions with police are discovered, they will list these out in a letter to the accused. This letter is called a Proposal to Deny.

A Proposal to Deny is essentially the Parole Board’s way of informing that they are considering rejecting the application. However, it should be kept in mind that this is not a complete denial, because the Parole Board will give the individual an opportunity to respond and address the concerns. It is important to retain counsel at this point to prepare submissions, as once the Parole Board has formally denied the application, it cannot be reopened. The only way to appeal would be a judicial review.

What are the Effects of a Pardon/Record Suspension

In general the consequences or penalties of one’s conviction, including fines and prohibitions will be cancelled when a pardon or record suspension is granted. An individual’s record gets sealed from public information access. Further, once a pardon comes into play, an individual’s criminal record check will state that “no criminal record was found.” It’s important to note that an employer cannot ask if you have received a pardon either. Background checks including vulnerable sector checks will no longer show an individual’s criminal history.

Under section 2.3(b) of the Act, it states that unless a record suspension is subsequently revoked or ceases to have effect, the suspension requires that the judicial record of the conviction be kept separate and apart from other criminal records and to remove any disqualification or obligation to which the applicant is, by reason of the conviction, subject under any Act of Parliament (other than a few sections listed within the Criminal Code). In summary, this means that an individual is allowed to truthfully state, for example during a job application, that they have no criminal record, since the past results will not be viewable.

Who is Eligible for a Pardon/Record Suspension?

Under the Criminal Records Regulations and Criminal Records Act it can be determined who exactly can be granted a pardon. In doing so, section 1.1 looks at various situations that may bring the administration of justice into disrepute – meaning no granting of a pardon. There are numerous considerations (subsections (a) to (j)), however, some more significant ones include: a threat to the safety of Canada, serious personal injury, serious physical or psychological injury, harming of children or vulnerable persons and whether there was a pattern of criminal activity present.

Under the Act, section 3(1) explains who the applicant is for an application of record suspension. This is generally a Canadian who has been convicted of an offence under the Act. Further, section 2.3 looks at the actual record suspensions. Accordingly, there will be a record suspension when there is evidence that the Parole Board was satisfied that the applicant was of good conduct and their conviction should no longer adversely reflect on their character.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.