Pardons and waivers in Canada: What you need to know

newspaperBeing convicted of a crime means that you have a criminal record. Even if you were charged but not convicted, you will still have a criminal record. This record can negatively impact you for the rest of your life, in many ways. From not being able to travel internationally to not being able to get certain jobs, a criminal record can close lots of doors. Through pardons and waivers Canada residents can get a second chance on life with a clean(ish) slate.

When you receive a pardon, your record is set apart from the databases that could be searched for such a record within 30 days from the date of issuance. Because pardons are issued in Canada, a pardon does not remove your name from the U.S. Customs and Border Services database.  For that, you’ll need to also obtain a U.S. waiver.

There are lots of reasons why getting pardon and/or waiver is worth the effort:

When you are convicted of a crime and have not received a pardon for your crimes, you will be legally obligated to disclose those crimes if asked on a job application. Note that a potential employer is not allowed to ask if you have a criminal record, only if there are any crimes for which you have not been received a pardon. Obtaining a pardon means you can legally and truthfully say no.

Further, should you wish to travel to the United States, you will be prohibited from doing so on the basis of having a criminal record. Applying for and receiving a U.S. waiver, however, lifts that restriction and allows you to travel to the United States for a certain period of time.

If you wish to rent an apartment, there’s a good chance that your potential landlord will run a criminal background check on you. If something comes back on that search, that can very well count against you. You will be seen as “unsavoury” and not the type of person they will want to rent to.

Having a criminal record is of course not a good thing – no one disputes that. However, it is also not the end of the world. Once you meet the required criteria and have waited the required waiting period, you can – and should – apply for a U.S. waiver and/or a pardon, as your needs dictate. The process can be lengthy and complex, but once you receive these documents you can begin to put your past behind you and get a second chance to live a good, law-abiding life. One word of warning: If you do receive a pardon and then begin to head down a wrong path again, perhaps committing another crime, your pardon (which is now referred to as a record suspension) can be revoked.  In other words, the granting of a pardon is not absolute, nor are the freedoms that are re-afforded to the person who has previously been limited by his conviction.


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