Record Suspension (Pardon) Reform

Date: 2020-10-23

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Branch/Agency: CSCCB


Reforming the record suspension program (commonly known as a ‘pardon’) was committed to in the 2020 Speech from the Throne.

Proposed Response:

Record Suspension (Pardon) Reform


On September 23, 2020, Parliament reconvened with a Speech From the Throne, that recognizes that progress must be made throughout the criminal justice system. All Canadians must have the confidence that the justice system is there to protect them, not to harm them. The fact that Black Canadians and Indigenous Peoples are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, must change.

The Government committed to taking steps to ensure that the strong hand of criminal justice is used where it is needed to keep people safe, but not where it would be discriminatory or counterproductive. It will do so through the introduction of legislation and investment making that takes action to address the systemic inequities in all phases of the criminal justice system, from diversion to sentencing and from rehabilitation to records.

Reforms to the criminal justice system to address over-representation:

Efforts to reduce the overrepresentation of marginalized segments of society, including those in Black and Indigenous communities, are required.  The Department of Justice is working to advance options consistent with this commitment.  Public Safety will support work in this regard.

These important reforms to the criminal justice system will respond to calls for change that have been made by many stakeholder organizations and caucus members, including Black Parliamentary Caucus. They will also respond to some of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the calls for justice from the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  They will also support the Government’s Anti-Racism Strategy.

Record suspension (pardon) reform:

The Criminal Records Act (CRA) has undergone significant legislative change between 2010 and 2012. These changes had the effect of limiting access to pardons, currently known as record suspensions, by lengthening waiting periods before individuals could apply, making some offences ineligible for pardons, introducing new criteria as part of the application review, and changing the term from ‘pardon’ to record suspension. In addition, the application fee was increased from $50 (fifty) to $150 (one hundred and fifty) in 2010, and then to $631 (six hundred and thirty one) in 2012 to reflect full-cost recovery. After a recent increase in accordance with the Service Fee Act the current cost to apply for a record suspension is $644.88, plus associated costs related to obtaining necessary documents.

In 2016, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness commented on the changes made to the pardons program, and the government subsequently committed to reviewing that program. In May and June of 2016, the Parole Board of Canada conducted online consultations on the Record Suspension Program User fee. Most respondents found the application fee ($631) to be a barrier to applying for a record suspension. In November and December of that same year, the Department of Public Safety consulted with stakeholders and partners on the review of the Criminal Records Act and with the public through online consultations. In general, the process for obtaining a record suspension was found to be complex, and waiting periods for applying were found to be too long.

In December 2018, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) released its thirtieth report on M-161, Record Suspension Program. This report listed seven recommendations and observations in support of record suspension reform, including, but not limited to, reviewing the record suspension process, examining record suspension in other jurisdictions, considering regulating third party entities, and examining a mechanism to make record suspensions automatic in specific circumstances. The Government tabled its response to SECU on April 10, 2019, reaffirming its commitment to help reduce barriers associated with having a criminal record and addressing the issues of accessibility, terminology, and automatic record suspension.


Prepared by: Rachelle Goyette, Senior Policy Advisor, 343-551-6542
Approved by: Trevor Bhupsingh, A/Assistant Deputy Minister, Phone 613-769-3042

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