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(This page courtesy of the pardon experts at Brooks and Marshall)

What is a pardon?

Under the Criminal Records Act, the National Parole Board has the ability to grant, deny, or revoke pardons for convictions under federal acts or regulations of Canada.

When a pardon is granted, federal records pertaining to your conviction are erased or separated from any other files the government might have on you. Access to the records is restricted.

A pardon is not an official recognition that you were wrongly convicted. A pardon means that the Crown believes that you deserve the chance to live your life without the shadow of a past conviction hanging over you.

Who can apply for a pardon?

If you have completed your sentence, you can apply for a pardon if you were convicted of an offence:



If you were convicted under a Canadian federal statute, you do not have to be a Canadian citizen to receive a pardon.

What a pardon will do for you

You can say that you have received a pardon for the offence.

In other words, you get some personal satisfaction.

Federal records can't be disclosed. Once a pardon is granted, any federal agency, including the RCMP, that has records of your conviction must keep those records separate from any other file they have on you. They cannot tell anybody else about that information without permission from the Solicitor General of Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Act says that no one can discriminate against you if you have been pardoned for a conviction. That means that you are eligible for a job with the federal government or any agency covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act. It also means that you should receive the same federal services as anybody else without discrimination. (You should be aware, though, that most of the discrimination you could encounter in daily life is probably covered by your provincial Human Rights Act, and not by the Canadian Human Rights Act. The provisions relating to criminal convictions are different in each province. According to the British Columbia Human Rights Act, you cannot be discriminated against if you have a criminal record, which is a little broader than the Canadian Human Rights Act).

What a pardon cannot do for you

It can't clear your name if you have never been convicted.

A pardon can't be granted if you have never been convicted of a criminal offence. In other words, a pardon cannot be given if charges against you were dismissed, stayed, or withdrawn. (If you received a discharge, there is still some action you can take to erase records - see "Discharges", below).

The charges against you could still be on the RCMP computers.

If the charges are on the RCMP computers, the RCMP will also have fingerprints and information taken at the time of the arrest. You can ask the police force that arrested you to retrieve this information from the RCMP and destroy it. However, that police force is free to deny your request.

Foreign governments may not recognize a pardon.

Therefore, getting a pardon does not necessarily mean that you will be able to enter or obtain a visa for another country.

A pardon does not change the past

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence, a pardon does not "erase" the conviction; it only limits access to the RCMP/federal record of it. You have still been convicted and there are probably many unofficial records of that fact.

The Parole Board advises that if you have been convicted of an offence and then get pardoned, you should tell anyone who asks that you have been pardoned for an offence that took place some time ago.

A pardon does not eliminate any sentence or prohibition you receive as a result of your conviction

A pardon will not be considered until your sentence has been completed and a certain period of time has gone by. (see "How to apply for a pardon", below) .

A pardon also will not return any privilege that was taken away from you as a result of the conviction. For example, if you are prohibited from driving, obtaining a pardon does not mean that you will be able to start driving again. If you are not permitted to own a firearm, a pardon won't change that.

A pardon is a federal creature and applies only to records kept at the federal level

Even if you receive a pardon, provincial and municipal authorities don't have to erase or restrict access to your records. Fortunately, many provincial and municipal bodies voluntarily cooperate with the spirit of the pardon and restrict access.

In order to make sure that provincial and municipal authorities consider restricting access, you MUST notify them that you have received a pardon.

No application to provincial offences

If you have been convicted of an offence under a provincial statute - for example, dangerous driving - then the Parole Board has no authority to pardon you.

A pardon is not forever

A pardon AUTOMATICALLY has no effect if, after the pardon has been granted, you are ever convicted of an indictable offence.

Your pardon can also be revoked if your behaviour is considered to be poor or you receive a summary conviction, or if you lied on the application for parole.

How to apply for a pardon


You must complete a waiting period. It is calculated from the date that you completed your sentence or paid your fine. If you received

then your waiting period is five years from the end of the sentence.

For a summary conviction, that waiting period is three years.


Get a Pardon Application Kit from the National Parole Board. This can be obtained from any regional office of the Parole Board. Mail from the National Parole Board about a pardon is sent out in an unmarked envelope.


Complete the forms and obtain the documents as outlined in the Pardon Application Kit, and return it to the National Parole Board.


The Parole Board will consider your application. It will confirm that you have completed a waiting period, that you have not been convicted of any later offence, and will look into your behaviour generally since you completed your sentence.

The Parole Board attempts to conduct its inquiries discretely. In some situations the Board may interview or require a community investigation.


The Parole Board will inform you whether your application has been granted or refused.


If you were given an absolute or conditional discharge, you haven't been convicted of an offence and a pardon can't be granted.

However, if you were given the discharge after July 24, 1992, then the RCMP will automatically remove all information about the discharge from their computers. If you received an absolute discharge, the information will be erased one year after the court decision. If you received a conditional discharge, the information will be erased three years after the court decision.

If you were given a discharge before July 24, 1992, then the information will not be removed automatically. However, you can request that the information be deleted by writing to:

Director, Identification Services
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
P.O. Box 8885
Ottawa, Ontario
K1G 3M8
Attention: Purge Unit

Include your complete name, the name that was used when you were given the discharge, your date of birth and the date of the discharge, if you know it.


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