So How Do You Get A Pardon In Canada?
I am asked this question virtually every day by people I meet, or visitors to my blog, when I tell them that I work with Express Pardons to help clear criminal records for our clients.
Not many people know, but over three million Canadians have a criminal record of some form or another. Thats a lot of criminal records. Whether it is a theft, assault, or drinking and driving offence, about one in every ten Canadians have a criminal record.
Think about that for a second. If you know ten people, chances are one of them has a criminal offence in their past. If you have a record, you are certainly not alone!
So how exactly do you get a pardon? Fortunately, the Canadian government, in its occasional wisdom, saw fit to create a section in the Criminal Code which allows the federal government to issue a pardon for any Canadian that has demonstrated they are of good character and remain law-abiding citizens (shown they are not likely to re-offend) for a certain number of years since their last offence. In other words, if it has been three years since your last minor offence, or 5 years since a more serious offence, you are eligible to be considered for a pardon.
The process of obtaining a pardon can be complex (imagine doing a complicated tax return, which takes up to 8 months or more to complete) but it can be done.
The first thing you need to consider is whether you want to do it own your own, or have it done professionally. Many Canadians do apply for a pardon on their own. This is often encouraged by local police, particularly in light of the exorbitant fees charged by some pardon service companies and lawyers. Unfortunately, they are statistically much less likely to succeed. Many applications are rejected by the Pardons Board because they are incomplete or incorrectly prepared. Also, many individuals who attempted to complete the application on their own never end up finishing the process. I know because they are now some of our clients. It’s easy to forget the paperwork on top of your fridge for months at a time, and by the time you return to the work, it has already expired and you must start over.
The advantage of a professional service is really two-fold. One, they can do it much faster, as they already have the contacts and knowledge of the process to streamline your application. Two, because of their experience, they can usually guarantee it. Plus, they do the work for you. Depending on how much you value your own time, let’s say $20/hr, you will be spending more money in your own time then you would be spending on one of the lower cost pardon service providers such as Express Pardons. Essentially, you can hire a professional service to guarantee your pardon for as little as $395.
Of course, if you simply don’t have any money to have your file professionally prepared, then you don’t have much choice but to do it on your own. This is a problem for a number of people who require a pardon since they are out of work because of their criminal record. It’s a vicious circle: can’t get a job without a pardon, can’t afford a pardon without a decent job.
If you are one of these unfortunate people, and you can’t afford $395, even on a payment plan, then you will have to work it out on your own. Here are some times to help you along your way.
Applying for a Pardon in Canada
The first step in applying for a pardon is to obtain your certified criminal record from the RCMP Identification Services in Ottawa. You will need to obtain a set of fingerprints for the purpose of a pardon from your local police, or from an electronic fingerprinting agency, such as IFS Canada. Electronic fingerprinting is more expensive but is preferable because it speeds up the pardon process by using the new CCRTIS system at the RCMP.
Once you have obtained your fingerprints, you must send it to the RCMP Identification Service, Civil Section in Ottawa, along with a $25 money order, made payable to the “Receiver General of Canada”.
In return, you will receive a certified copy of your criminal record, as it appears on the Canadian Police Information Centre, along with a “civil product” which has 4 of your fingerprints, along with RCMP disclosure details.
Congratulations, you have just completed the first step along the way to obtaining a Canadian pardon. Now you want to review your criminal record to ensure that it contains all of your criminal records. In more than 15% of cases, there will be charges missing from your record. If this is the case, you will have to obtain proofs of convictions from court archives. Proof of conviction means obtaining certified true copies of the originating “court information’ sheets from your original trial. Otherwise, for offenses that appear on your criminal record, you will need to have the courts complete and certify pardon court information forms bearing your unique parole board ID number.
In my next article, we’ll discuss step 2 in obtaining your pardon in Canada. If you are working through a pardon or just considering getting started, you really ought to consider a low-cost pardon service company such as Express Pardons. It is always a good idea to seek professional help with something as important to your life as clearing your criminal record.