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Law Talk: Pardons

Community Legal Services | Opinion | March 5th, 2012

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
Please note the Federal government is in the process of updating the pardon process. Please make sure to check its website,, for up-to-date information as these changes are announced.

Even if you've been convicted of a crime and served your time, you may not have to live with the offence being viewable to others forever. You may be eligible for a pardon, sealing the conviction on your record from view indefinitely. There are many misconceptions about pardons, however, so here are a few things you should know in case you are considering applying for one.

1. Sealed, Not Destroyed
The effect of a pardon is to seal all or part of your federal criminal record from the view of others, not to destroy it. Pardoned convictions are not annulled, but rather they cannot be disclosed to others without the consent of the Minister of Public Safety. Local police forces may retain the records of your convictions that they have on file, and it would still be a lie to say to an employer or anyone else that you have never been convicted of an offence. Many countries, including the United States, do not recognize Canadian pardons, and they may still prohibit your entry due to a criminal conviction.

2. Applying for a Pardon
To apply for a pardon, you must have completed your sentence and any probation order for the crime you were convicted of. If you were convicted of a minor non-sexual offence, you can apply for a pardon after three years of finishing your sentence. If you were convicted of a major non-sexual offence or a minor sexual offence, you can apply after five years. If you were convicted of a major sexual offence or certain personal injury offences, such as manslaughter, you can apply after 10 years.

3. Denial or Revocation
If you've applied for a pardon and your application was denied, you can apply again after one year. Even if you were granted a pardon, it can be revoked if you are convicted of a minor offence, if it's determined that you are not of "good conduct" or if you made a false or deceptive statement at the time you applied. If you are convicted of a more serious offence, or new information comes to light showing you were not eligible for a pardon at the time yours was granted, your pardon will no longer have any effect.

4. Prohibition on Discrimination
While a pardon still means that you have been convicted of an offence, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code prevents certain forms of discrimination against you based on a pardoned conviction. For instance, if you are applying for a job, you cannot be asked to disclose a criminal conviction for which you have been pardoned.

This column provides legal information only and is produced by the students of Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada (UWO). The information is accurate as of the date of publication. Laws change frequently so we caution readers from relying on this information if some time has passed since publication. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic, Justice Net at 1-866- 919-3219 or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS. You can contact Community Legal Services to book an appointment to discuss your legal issue or mediation services. Please call us at 519- 661-3352 with any inquires or to book an appointment.
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