July 21, 2009

There are a variety of reasons an individual with a criminal record may wish to obtain a pardon. A pardon works to seal your criminal record so that it does not appear when an inquiring party does a criminal records check. Having a criminal record can affect your chances of being accepted into certain educational programs, being hired for some types of jobs, advancing along some career paths, engaging in some forms of self-employment (such as purchasing a franchise, running a daycare, or doing work on contract), and doing some types of volunteer work. Having a criminal record can also affect your ability to be bonded, custodial rights relating to children, and your ability to travel to the United States and abroad. A criminal record can also jeopardize your Canadian Immigration status. A criminal record can cause stress, and thereby may have a negative emotional and psychological impact on one’s health. A pardon serves to eliminate this source of stress.

Before you can apply to obtain a pardon, you must meet the pardon eligibility criteria: First, there are time restraints which prevent you firm applying for a pardon until a specific amount of time has passed since the date your sentence was satisfied. Every criminal conviction ends with a disposition, which is the sentence the judge orders you to serve. Generally speaking, a disposition will end with a period of probation. At the end of that period, when there is nothing outstanding for you to do based on the disposition ordered by the judge in your matter, your sentence is said to be satisfied. For example, if you are sentenced to one year incarceration and one year probation, your sentence will be satisfied at the end of your probation; if you are sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 your sentence will be satisfied on the date that you pay; if you are sentenced to one year incarceration, one year probation, and a $10,000 fine and you do not pay the fine until three years after the end of your probation, your sentence is satisfied on the date that you pay the fine. You then must allow a specific time period to pass from the date the sentence is satisfied, before you may apply for a pardon. The amount of time varies depending on the type of offence you were convicted of:

  • Summary Offences: 3 years from the date your sentence is satisfied.
  • Indictable Offences: 5 years from the date your sentence is satisfied.

It is important to note that the date your sentence is satisfied is defined in reference to the sentence as ordered by the judge who presided at your trial and does not change if you are discharged early. Thus, if you were sentenced to one year of probation, but you are discharged from probation after 8 months, your sentence is not considered satisfied until the end of the year ordered in your disposition. It is also important to note that suspensions such as Driver’s license suspensions and gun license suspensions are not included in the calculation of when your sentence is considered satisfied. Thus, you may apply for a pardon despite having such a suspension.

The second criteria of pardon eligibility, is that you have no outstanding charges before the court. If you have outstanding charges, even if they are unrelated to the conviction you are attempting to have cleared, you may not apply for a pardon. The final criterion applies to individuals with more than one conviction on their criminal record. These individuals cannot apply for a pardon from specific convictions on their record — they must apply for a pardon from all convictions. In order to do so they must meet the pardon eligibility requirements for every conviction on their record. The appropriate amount have time must have passed since their sentences was satisfied for each offence on their record before they may apply for a pardon.

If an individual meets the eligibility requirements and wishes to apply for a pardon they must go through the Pardon Application Process. Individuals can obtain a Pardon Application Guide in one of three ways:

  • Online at,
  • By calling 1-800-874-2652 toll free and requesting a copy of the Guide, or
  • By mailing a written request of the Guide to:

Ontario General Office
Pardon Application Guide request
516 O’Connor Drive
Kingston, Ontario
K7P 1N3

The Guide will contain a copy of the Pardon Application form which you should fill out submit according to the instructions included in the Guide.

Your Pardon Application will be evaluated on a number of criteria. First, the National Parole Board will confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria described aboveyou’re your record consists exclusively of summary offence convictions, a pardon will be issued if you meet the eligibility criteria. If your record includes a conviction for an indictable offence, the National Parole Board will evaluate a number of “Good Conduct Criteria” to determine whether granting a pardon is appropriate in the circumstances. (The Board will treat hybrid offences as indictable offences unless you submit proof in your application that you were convicted summarily). Your pardon request will likely be denied, if one of the following occurred within the last five years:

  • You had your Driver’s License suspended
  • You entered into a Peace Bond
  • You were found to be drunk and disorderly in a public place
  • You were convicted of a provincial or municipal offence
  • You have overdue provincial fines
  • You made harassing telephone calls
  • The police know / suspect that you are involved with organized crime, gangs or terrorist groups
  • There is one or more outstanding warrant for your arrest
  • You have been under criminal investigation
  • You were involved in a situation that required police intervention

If one of these grounds is alleged against you the National Parole Board will inform you that it proposes to deny your application. You are then given an opportunity to respond in writing to the allegation. If you are subsequently denied you will have to wait one year before re-applying. We strongly advise that you seek legal advice at this stage of the pardon process, if you have not already done so when preparing your Pardon Application.

The estimated processing time for a Pardon Application is 8 to 24 months. It is possible to apply for an emergency pardon — which takes six months or less — however; you must meet certain criteria which suggest that your request should be expedited. These include:

  • job offer or existing job that requires a pardon (routine job hunting will usually not suffice unless you are job hunting as an unemployed professionals who must admit to a criminal record when submitting a resume)
  • You have an Education Degree and are applying for a Teaching License with an indictable offences (as some license programs automatically deny teachers on this ground)
  • Your school practicum requires a Pardon before placement
  • You are in the process of adopting a child
  • Bonding / licensing requirements
  • You require a work visa to work in a foreign country
  • You have been appointed as a Director to public companies or Director of a company going public

The Pardon Application Process can be complicated and we do not recommend that you apply without first obtaining some form of legal advice. Many criminal defence lawyers, including those at our offices, offer assistance with Pardon Applications.

If your pardon is granted, your criminal record will be sealed and removed from the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC)’s records. A subsequent criminal records search will reveal that you have no criminal record. According to the Criminal Records Act, your pardon can only be “unsealed” by the Solicitor General if he believes that doing so is in “the interest of the administration of justice” or “for a purpose related to the safety or security of Canada or any State allied or associated with Canada”. Thus, your pardon will only be unsealed in the unlikely case that doing so is a matter of national security. However, if you were convicted of a crime involving “vulnerable persons” (these are physical or sexual offences aimed at children, the elderly, the mentally or physically disabled or anyone else in a dependency relationship with the offender), that conviction will still appear on a “Vulnerable Person’s Search”. It will, however, be noted that you have received a pardon for the offence.

At Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers, we can assist you when you become eligible for a Pardon. Call us, at 416-658-1818.

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