If you’ve had an encounter with the law in the past, and you’re curious to see whether you have a criminal record, there are a few things you should know. If you’re over the age of 18 years and have been convicted of a criminal offence, you have a criminal record. However, even if you’ve been found not guilty, a record of any related activities is still kept.
If you’ve ever been fingerprinted by the police, a digital copy of your prints has been assigned a unique identifying number, sent to the national RCMP database and are now linked to your name and date of birth.
What Exactly is a Criminal Record?
The important word to remember is record. A criminal record is essentially a file listing all criminal offences (regardless of court outcome), convictions, discharges and other related information. A criminal record is held by the RCMP until your 80th birthday, sometimes longer. Many people wrongly assume that a criminal record disappears after a period of time. Even minor offences are part of your criminal record.
You may have had an unpleasant surprise when you applied for a new job or tried to get bonded (insured), and you discovered that an indiscretion from the past prevented you from achieving your goals.
Who Can See My Criminal Record?
A criminal record is not a publicly available document, so you don’t need to worry about your neighbour finding it. However, border security officers, judges, police and other officials may see your criminal record. This may obstruct your chances of travelling abroad, applying for volunteer positions (which often require both a criminal record check and a vulnerable sector check if you’re working with children) and advancing your career if a new employer requests a criminal record check. US border officials also have access to the criminal records database to use when patrolling and controlling access.
Who Can Perform a Criminal Record Check?
Police can use your name and other identifying variables such as date of birth or fingerprints to search their local database, as well as submit your fingerprints to the RCMP to search the national database.
Businesses may also conduct name-based criminal record checks through the RCMP’s national database. This is common in certain types of industries such as healthcare, finance, education, government, security, and anything involving children.
Common Terms You Should Know
- File Destruction: If you have not been convicted of a crime, you can request a file destruction or purge. This includes instances where you have been accused of a crime, have attended court and been fingerprinted but found not guilty. A file destruction will erase any photographs, fingerprints, and related information. You’ll receive confirmation of proof that your file has been destroyed.
- Record Suspension: If you have been convicted of a crime, but have completed your sentence and taken steps to show rehabilitation, you may apply for a Record Suspension, formerly known as a Pardon. A national agency, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is the body responsible for granting Record Suspensions. If your application is successful, your complete criminal record including photographs, fingerprints, and related reports are sealed and closed. It remains closed unless you’ve been recharged with another serious criminal offence. When someone searches the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), your past criminal record won’t show up.
It’s important to note that the Canadian Human Rights Act states that any federal agencies and departments cannot discriminate against someone with a Pardon or Record Suspension.
Reasons to Obtain a Record Suspension
Although your criminal past may be behind you and you haven’t yet encountered any negative consequences of having a criminal record, it’s still recommended that you try to obtain a Record Suspension. A few reasons include:
- Prevent future obstacles to employment
- Ability to perform volunteer work
- Ability to travel abroad freely
- Help with child custody or adoption
- Facilitate getting bonded
- Ability to obtain Canadian Citizenship or Permanent Resident Status
Steps Involved in Obtaining a Record Suspension
Pardons Canada can help with all steps of securing a Record Suspension from gathering all necessary paperwork, filling out forms and submitting your final application to the Parole Board of Canada (PBC). The entire process takes between 12 to 24 months. We’ll take all steps to ensure your application is complete and stay on top of any changing governing laws.