Canada is often regarded as one of the most fortunate countries in the world for people to live in, full of opportunity for growth and success to immigrants and those born here. For many people, this is likely to be true; as a country, Canada enjoys both a standard of living and reputation for safety and orderliness that few other nations can lay claim to. But a lot of this opportunity for its citizens can change in the blink of an eye.
While Canada provides many chances to people that are law abiding citizens, like most nations, the situation changes dramatically when you are charged, convicted and earn a criminal record. When that happens, how long will such a record follow you?
The Youth Factor
One of the biggest determining factors for the duration of a criminal record is age. There’s a huge gulf between a minor being charged and convicted of a criminal act versus an adult. Because of the very young age of minors, there’s a more lenient stance on affecting a child’s future.
If you were convicted of an offence as a young offender and have not been convicted of any offences as an adult, the record of the offence will be sealed after the applicable waiting period has passed. In such a case, you do not need a Pardon/Record Suspension for your young offender conviction.
However, if you were also convicted of an offence as an adult and the above time periods had not passed when you committed the adult offence, you will need a Pardon/Record Suspension for your young offender conviction. In such cases, the youth record is ‘locked in’ and becomes part of the adult criminal record. Consequently, you will require a Pardon/Record Suspension for both the young offender and adult convictions.
For adults with a criminal conviction, there’s a big change in terms of consequences. The standard for adults that are tried, convicted and receive a criminal conviction is that it’s not permanent, but for most people, it may as well be.
A criminal conviction in Canada, with no suspensions, will last up to 80 years before being struck from the record as standard. In some exceptional cases, this duration will be increased to 100 years. Unlike minors, adults only have an automatic strike from the records decades after the conviction. Otherwise, the only way that a discharge or “erasure” of a criminal record occurs is through a special action taken to suspend the record.
Invisible But Not Erased
It’s important to note that in the case of record suspensions, what is actually happening is that public government records of a criminal conviction are “sealed.” This means that while the general public may go online to check for a criminal record and find nothing, the record of that conviction does still exist, but it’s only accessible under very specific circumstances by legal agencies. It’s also important to note that while even a sexual offense conviction can technically be suspended in Canada, a person’s name may still be present and come up as flagged under certain searches.
A final note about record suspensions is that while this all applies to activity within Canada, it does NOT apply to travel to the United States. American immigration keeps their own database of Canadian criminal convictions, which does not purge convictions should a record suspension be obtained. This means that even people with a suspended record are likely to encounter difficulties when attempting to cross the border, should a records check occur, unless a special entry waiver is obtained to present beforehand.
An adult criminal record has profound, long-lasting effects on a person’s life and opportunities. While there is technically an “expiration date” that guarantees even an adult criminal conviction will eventually be erased, it is a very long period of time, decades, in fact. It is possible to get a record suspension, which many people with criminal records opt for, as it can make a big difference in their lives moving forward.