On December 21, 2021, the Minister of Public Safety announced that the Government of Canada will be significantly reducing the application fee for record suspensions. As of January 1, 2022, the cost of applying for a record suspension will be $50, reduced from the current cost of $657.77.
A record suspension, formerly known as a pardon, allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence to have their criminal record kept separate from other criminal records. To obtain a record suspension, the individual needs to have completed their sentence and demonstrated that they are law-abiding citizens for a prescribed number of years.
A record suspension removes a person’s criminal record from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database so that a search of CPIC will not show that the person has a criminal record or a record suspension.
Under the Criminal Records Act (the “CRA”), the Parole Board of Canada is the only federal agency responsible for ordering and revoking record suspensions for convictions under federal laws. While the CRA applies only to records kept by federal organizations, most provincial and municipal criminal justice agencies also restrict access to their records once they are informed that a record suspension has been ordered.
According to the federal government’s recent press release, the significantly lower fee will improve access to record suspensions, particularly for lower-income individuals. Obtaining a record suspension helps to remove the stigma of a criminal record so that people can access housing, employment, education and volunteer opportunities. In this way, says the release, “the record suspensions improve public safety through reduced re-offending and victimization.”
As per the Minister of Public Safety:
“By lowering the high cost of applying for a record suspension, we are removing a barrier to the successful reintegration of people with criminal records who have completed their sentences and are living law-abiding lives. This is yet another measure the Government of Canada is putting in place to make our criminal justice system more fair and effective, and our communities a safer place for all.”
In an effort to further remove barriers to safe and successful reintegration, the government states that it will continue exploring the automated sequestering of some criminal records for those living crime-free. This will be done in consultation with provinces, territories and municipalities, as well as other key criminal justice stakeholders.
Record suspension applications are processed by the Parole Board of Canada. In addition to the prescribed fee, applicants are also responsible for any additional costs associated with the application, such as fingerprinting, obtaining copies of criminal records and court documents, and requesting police checks. A guide for applying for a record suspension is available here. It is important to note that there are special instructions for people convicted of simple possession of cannabis and at least one other offence.
Many employment and rental applications today request permission to conduct a criminal records search. Therefore, criminal records can be a roadblock to reintegrating into society, making it more difficult for a person with a criminal record to obtain gainful employment and housing.
Both the federal and provincial human rights Codes provide protections for offences for which a pardon has been granted, thereby increasing the importance of being able to obtain such a suspension. The federal Human Rights Act includes “conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted” as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Similarly, the Ontario Human Rights Code provides that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment and a right to be free from harassment in the workplace, without discrimination due to a record of offences. This, however, does not apply to jobs working with a vulnerable population, such as children and the elderly.
While the reduced fee makes it cheaper now to apply for a record suspension, there are still limits to what a record suspension does. For example:
- A record suspension sets aside a convicted offence, but it does not erase the convicted offence
- A record suspension does not guarantee entry or visa privileges to another country
- A record suspension is still flagged in CPIC for former sexual assault offenders. When an individual applies to work or volunteer with a vulnerable sector group (i.e. with children or the elderly), a vulnerable sector check will identify that the individual was convicted of a sexual offence for which a record suspension was received.
In addition to the above limitations of a record suspension, a record suspension may be revoked or cease to have effect. This may happen if a person is:
- Convicted of a new indictable offence, or in some cases, a summary offence
- Found no longer to be of good conduct
- Found to have made a false or misleading statement, or hidden information when they applied for the suspension
- Found to have been ineligible for a record suspension at the time the record suspension was ordered
If a record suspension is revoked or ceases to have effect, the record of the offence(s) is added back into the CPIC database and will be produced during criminal record checks.
At Hicks Adams LLP, our experienced team of criminal lawyers are adept at navigating the criminal justice system. We travel throughout Ontario to support our clients and ensure they are never left standing in the courtroom alone. To find out how we can help you, call us at 416-975-1700 or reach out online to schedule a confidential consultation.