*this article was updated April 8, 2023
This article talks about some things you should know about record suspensions. Be aware that the law changes frequently, and may have changed by the time you read this. For a current and accurate statement of the law, or for representation, please book an appointment with me.
Record Suspension or Pardon?
A record suspension used to be called a pardon. Neither name is accurate. Your criminal record remains but is set apart from other criminal records in the Canadian Police Information Centre database. Your record suspension can be revoked or considered invalid for a variety of reasons.
Even if it is a current and valid record suspension, the legislation only requires federal agencies to respect it. Provincial and municipal organizations may not recognize it.
Watch out for red flags
Many people have called me after being confused and frustrated about their experience elsewhere in trying to obtain a record suspension. They complain about not receiving correct advice, not having a live person to talk to, the company going out of business after they have paid the fee, not receiving copies of their file, no further services if there is a hitch in their application process, only the bare minimum having been done on their application which led to a refusal, the application having been given to a student or clerk to complete without them having the necessary experience to present a good case...the list of complaints is long. The internet contains many false claims about applying for a record suspension. For years I have been writing on my websites about these companies taking advantage of unsuspecting applicants. Finally, the Parole Board included a section on their own website about this type of abuse, and the media is now broadcasting warnings. The CBC did a story in April of 2023 suggesting that an undercover investigation showed that one such company was opening files and charging in situations where the person did not even qualify for a record suspension.
Here are some red flags to consider when viewing advertisements for businesses who are selling record suspension services:
- They claim to be 'accredited by the RCMP'. The RCMP does not accredit any business for the purpose of preparing record suspension applications. The accreditation may be simply for the taking of fingerprints.
- They claim to 'guarantee' you a record suspension. Only the Parole Board can grant the record suspension, and their ultimate decision cannot be guaranteed in advance, though I can give you a good idea of the chance of success for your particular case.
- They claim it will assist with international travel. In fact, I have seen record suspensions hamper the ability to cross the border in some cases. We will discuss this, and what to do about it, during a formal consultation.
- They claim your criminal record will be removed. As discussed above, your
criminal record remains but is set apart from other criminal records in
the Canadian Police Information Centre database. We will talk about the implications of this, during a formal consultation.
- They are not lawyers and they discourage you from seeking the advice of a lawyer.
- They make it look like they are associated with the Canadian or federal government, perhaps by using certain words such as 'Canada' in a misleading context, or logos and colours that look like they are associated with the Canadian government.
- They claim they can expedite your file if you send them more money. Once you pay the money, there is no way to actually speak to a person at the organization. And as a matter of law, there is no fast track system offered by the government.
- The advice and information you receive appear to be form letters that have not been customized to address your specific situation.
Do you need a lawyer to help you with your application?
As the Parole Board says, there is no need to hire someone to help you with your application. They portray it as a simple process and warn against those who suggest it could be complex. Yet, in recent years the application process (for non-cannabis cases anyway) has become more stringent, with a higher standard to meet.
The truth is that for some cases it is complex and putting forward the most persuasive application is not always achievable without expert help. Against all odds, my clients have had successful applications because of the added value I was able to provide in assisting them. I have obtained pardons and record suspensions for clients in surprising situations, including when they had lengthy records. Many came to me only after an earlier attempt had failed or stalled. Some needed help obtaining missing documents or specific police reports, or benefited from direction with regard to additional materials (I have a special guide I wrote for clients on this).
In certain cases, it may not even be advisable to seek a record suspension. In other cases, it may be advisable but could be expensive and take time. In a consultation with me, we discuss whether a record suspension is really the best route for you, and I attempt to give you a realistic view of what it can achieve for you.
The implications and processes of record suspensions are far more complicated than they appear at first blush. Maybe you have already attempted an application - only to have abandoned it in anger and frustration. Still, a record suspension may be right for you. I can let you know and give you important tips for a successful application.
Call me to arrange an appointment at 613.203.4874. Visit my main website by clicking here.