The majority of Canadians will never have to think about their professional lives and how that might be compromised by actions committed in their past. When someone goes in to apply for a job, things like the relationships they’ve been in, or the results of their athletic career in high school don’t affect their chances of getting a job at an office, auto repair shop, or other place of work.
But for people who have committed crimes, been caught, convicted during a trial and paid the price to society with fines, time in jail, or both, things are different. There’s now a trail that follows them everywhere called a criminal record, and it can have a profound effect on professional opportunities, which, in turn, can affect many other aspects of life. But to see exactly how this works, it’s best to start at the beginning, and look at the record itself.
Your Past Is a Matter of Official Record
From the moment you are charged with a crime, fingerprinted, and eventually go to trial to see whether or not you were found guilty or not guilty, to serving out that sentence, a criminal record has been created for you. That record, regardless of whether you are found guilty of a crime or not, is public information that details that you have been arrested, and, if the verdict demanded it, served time in jail.
A criminal record is public, but it is not free or easily accessible. No one can simply type in your name and see whether Google reveals you have a criminal past. Your criminal record exists as a part of the police database that is networked throughout the country, as well as to other nations. If someone is interested in seeing whether you have a criminal record or not, members of the public must first pay a fee in order to retrieve this information.
For members of other law enforcement agencies, such the American Customs & Border Patrol (CBP), they have the permission of the Canadian government to check this information when they require it. This usually means when you are at the airport or the border to the US, and they decide to make an additional check on you for the presence of convictions.
While it is certainly not illegal for someone with a criminal record to find and hold a job, it is also not illegal for a potential employer to decide not to hire someone based on the presence of a criminal record. This is especially true in cases where people may be hiring for a job that requires the handling of cash, and a criminal record shows that theft was the crime that was committed, for example.
A criminal record can also bar you from entry into other countries. If you have a criminal record, and the US CBP conducts a check and sees the presence of a conviction in your record, they have full, legal power to bar you entry into the United States. Most people in this position just want to know how long a conviction stays on their criminal record.
Permanent in Theory
Once a criminal conviction has been entered onto your record, it will stay there. While information about your past is not openly public, critical information is always publicly available for people that take the time and money to request it. However, just because you made a mistake in your past, doesn’t mean that the Canadian government intends for it to stain and compromise your opportunities for all of your life.
If you meet certain conditions, you may qualify for what is known as a Record Suspension, formerly known as a “pardon.” A Record Suspension deletes almost any criminal conviction from the public record. This means that once you qualify for a Record Suspension and get it, any background check conducted by a member of the public, or even the CBP—at least the first time—will result in nothing. As far as the new record is concerned, you’ve never committed a crime.
There are some exceptions to this rule, though. If you’ve already had a background check conducted by the CBP, they transfer that information over to their own database, meaning that even if the Canadian criminal records show nothing, the American database will, which requires a different solution. Also, certain crimes, such as sex crimes, or crimes against children or other vulnerable people have additional conditions. If you try to apply for a job involving children, or these other vulnerable sectors, a notification for these types of occupations will still be visible for people conducting this specific kind of check.
If you’re interested in getting a Record Suspension, we can help. Every person and record are different, so contact us with your specific case and concerns, and we can find out exactly what needs to be done to get you a Record Suspension.