For many years in Canada, if you wanted to get a criminal conviction sealed, you would undergo a process that was called getting a pardon. Officially, a pardon was defined as a government act that sealed a criminal conviction if the person with the conviction had served a sentence without incident, and had gone on to be a law abiding citizen with no further convictions. The act of getting a pardon was meant to be a way for people with criminal convictions who had genuinely reformed to escape the stigma. There is always a possible loss of career opportunities that the presence of a criminal conviction has once employers run a background check.
However, in March 2012, the Canadian government, through the Parole Board of Canada, changed the name of pardons and switched over to the term “Record Suspension” instead. Why did this happen?
No Official Story
While the Parole Board never gave an official explanation to the press about why the changes in terminology occurred back in 2012, there are some obvious conclusions that can be drawn from the name change. A “pardon” for example, is generally defined as someone, be it a person or an agency, extending forgiveness to someone that has done wrong.
Clearly, this is not exactly the case when it comes to how a formal, legal pardon works. A criminal record is not erased or forgotten; it is simply sealed so that a legal, public background check will not reveal a conviction. However, the Minister of Public Safety has authority to access sealed records when required This happens only in exceptional circumstances but can happen.
This is especially true when it comes to convictions of a sexual offense. Even with convictions that are technically sealed from normal public scrutiny, if a person with a criminal conviction in some sexual offense applies for a job in the vulnerable sector, then even with a sealed record, that offense would still be flagged, and a notification would come up. These types of crimes are too serious to allow for a full pardon and free pass back into society without some sort of trail.
In other words, if someone found guilty of a child molesting charge served time, was released, stayed in good standing with the law, and had applied for and successfully received a “pardon,” that person could apply for most jobs and not have anything come up in a background check. However, if this same person then applied for a job in a daycare center, looking after children, this would be considered a “vulnerable sector,” especially considering the previous charge, so the record would still be “red flagged” in the system in this instance.
Please note that in March 2012, along with the name change from Pardon to Record Suspension, the eligibility requirements also changed. A person who has a criminal conviction that is in sexual nature against a minor, is no longer eligible for a pardon/record suspension.
Withheld but Not Forgotten
In the legal sense, the term “record suspension” is far more accurate than “pardon.” This gives a clear indication that everyone is aware of the past offense. However, for the purposes of giving someone more employment opportunities if they have genuinely reformed, that record will be “suspended” from public scrutiny. This means, if you have been convicted of a crime, served your sentence and genuinely want to integrate back into society and find meaningful employment, the path will be clear to do so.
This term more clearly conveys the idea that the government, police, and parole board want a reformed convict to get the full benefit of the doubt in any employment opportunity. But it also means that the government has not forgotten what transpired and that the information is still available in extraordinary circumstances.
Functionally, however, there is no change between what a pardon did and what a record suspension does. Both of them allow greater opportunities for reformed convicts to enjoy more employment prospects. If you or someone you know want to pursue a record suspension to help get on with your life, contact us today to get the process started.