In Canada, when an individual is convicted of a criminal offence1, they obtain a criminal record, which is retained for the remainder of their life. For individuals who have successfully completed their sentences, the continued existence of a criminal record can present challenges to obtaining employment, traveling, and/or reintegrating into society. Fortunately, some convicted persons are eligible to apply for a records suspension, which effectively removes their criminal record.
Once an individual has been convicted of an offence, their conviction is recorded in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, where it remains forever. However, where an individual meets certain eligibility criteria, they can submit an application to the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to have their record removed from the CPIC database. The PBC is the only official federal agency with the power to grant, refuse, and revoke record suspensions, and as such is the recipient agency for all applications. For individuals seeking to submit an application, it is important to note that while the PBC can grant an Order suspending one’s criminal record from CPIC, it does not result in a removal of fingerprints from the system.
In order to be eligible for a records suspension under the Criminal Records Act (CRA), an individual must have completed their sentence, and be able to demonstrate to the Board that they are law-abiding citizens who have been of good character for the following time periods following completion of their sentence2:
- 10-years for an indictable offence, or a hybrid offence where the Crown proceeded by indictment; and
- 5-years for a summary conviction offence, or a hybrid offence where the Crown proceeded by summary conviction.
There are prescribed categories of offences for which convicted individuals cannot apply for a records suspension even after the prescribed time. These offences are listed under Schedule 1 of the CRA, and mainly include sexual offences involving children. Additionally, for individuals convicted of a single offence listed under Schedule 3 of the CRA, which includes simple possession of specified Schedule II substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, an individual may be eligible to apply for a records suspension immediately after completing their sentence.
Where the PBC is satisfied that all of the eligibility criteria are met, and that the conviction should no longer adversely affect the individual, the criminal record will be removed from the federal CPIC system. However, it is important to note that the PBC retains the power to revoke a records suspension in certain scenarios, the most common of which is the commission of a subsequent offence.
Applying for a records suspension can be a daunting and cumbersome process. If you or someone you know is seeking to apply for a records suspension, it can be beneficial for them to speak with a lawyer to better understand the process, and obtain key information that can assist them based on their conviction(s) and circumstances.
1 For individuals convicted of an offence for which an absolute or conditional discharge is given, their criminal record automatically ceases to exist one year the granting of the absolute discharge, and for conditional discharges, three years after completion of the terms of sentence.
2 The Criminal Records Act eligibility periods also differ for individuals convicted of “service offences”. Information relating to applications for persons convicted of service offences under the National Defence Act are outside the scope of this article.