New Pardon Legislation May Affect More Than You Think

There is currently a Criminal Rehabilitation program in place for those who have been convicted of a crime in a foreign country and wish to clear their record so that they can travel to or immigrate to Canada. Once an application for rehabilitation is approved, your criminal record will be cleared in the eyes of the Canadian federal government and you will be allowed to enter and leave the country without obtaining prior authorization, subject to your citizenship.

Clearing your criminal record in the eyes of the Canadian federal government allows for easy travel in and out of the country, and makes your chances of obtaining any immigration status (refugee, landed immigrant, etc.) in Canada much more likely.

In order to be eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation, you must (1) have committed an act outside of Canada that would constitute an offence under a federal statute, (2) have been convicted of, or admitted to committing the act, and (3) have let five full years pass since the completion of the full sentence or sentences (including jail time, fines and probation). Please note that you are automatically deemed rehabilitated if it has been 10 or more years since the completion of the sentence imposed.

The current concern for the Criminal Rehabilitation process is that it is designed to be congruent with Pardons, a process whereby a successful Canadian resident could have their criminal record eliminated or pardoned in the eyes of the federal government. This process is essentially the same as the Criminal Rehabilitation process, but it is for crimes that were committed in Canada.

However, the previous Pardon process has been drastically altered which seems to mean the Criminal Rehabilitation process will also soon be subject to the same or similar changes. The Pardon process required that applicants had completed their entire sentence and had demonstrated that they were law-abiding citizens (as proven by references from local law-enforcement).

This process is now referred to as the Criminal Record Suspension process, and reforms to the requirements have caused a major decrease in the amount of record suspensions granted. Besides the new name, new requirements include:
1. The crime-free waiting period is lengthened to 3-5 years for summary offences and 10 years for a serious offence which could apply to suspend indictable convictions,
2. Anyone with more than 3 convictions for indictable offences is disqualified from ever applying,
3. Those convicted of child sex offences are disqualified from ever applying,
4. And the fee of the application process has almost quadrupled. It now costs approximately $631.00 to apply.

Considering the drastic differences between the previous requirements and the new ones, as well as the potential affects on the Criminal Rehabilitation process, the reforms have been thoroughly criticized by individuals and collective groups alike. The Canadian Bar Association said these changes were, “both unnecessary and counterproductive” in an interview with CTV News.

The burden of a criminal record (regardless of the country where the crime was committed) can infringe on the ability to travel, buy real estate, volunteer or obtain a job. Permitting the dissolution of a criminal record is viewed as an excellent deterrence technique, because the “clean slate” is a powerful incentive to avoid reoffending.

Keep in mind the intended congruency of the Criminal Record Suspension process and the Criminal Rehabilitation process. The updated criteria for assessing good conduct for Criminal Record Suspensions is anticipated to soon affect the assessment for good conduct within the process of Criminal Rehabilitation.

Assessing Good Conduct: Record Suspensions to Criminal Rehabilitation

– The applicant is responsible for obtaining and providing verifiable documentation that demonstrates good conduct.

– If the applicant did not reside in Canada during the time period, an attestation of good conduct from law enforcement where they resided must be obtained and provided by the applicant.

  • In terms of Criminal Rehabilitation, the applicant may be required to obtain attestation of good conduct from law enforcement where they are a permanent resident.

– The board is responsible for validating the information brought forward by the applicant, as well as making a careful and critical examination of the information being brought forward by the applicant. The decisions made by the board must be based on factual information. The type of documents that may be considered includes:

  •  Information from the police about a non-law abiding behavior that did not result in a charge, or that did result in a charge which was subsequently withdrawn; [Note: the relevance of this information depends on the severity of the charge, or the relation of the charge to the conviction for which the record suspension (or criminal rehabilitation) is requested.]
  • Any record of absolute or conditional discharges;
  • Information about convictions under provincial, territorial and federal statutes;
  • Representations provided by, or on behalf of, the applicant;
  • Any information submitted to the board by others with knowledge of the case, such as victims.

Should these changes also apply to the Criminal Rehabilitation application process, processing times will lengthen and the amount of applicants successfully deemed rehabilitated will lessen.

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