Bill C-31 would increase accessibility to a pardon under the Criminal Records Act (CRA), while maintaining public safety, through the following proposed amendments:
- Return wait periods to 3 years for summary offences and 5 years for indictable offences, from 5 and 10 years, respectively.
- Payment of a fine will not restart the wait period. Currently, even if all other portions of the sentence are complete, the wait period does not start until the fine or other amount has been paid.
- Eliminate the current ineligibility for a pardon for individuals with more than three indictable offences. Currently, for example, if an 18-year-old is convicted of more than three indictable offences, each resulting in a sentence of imprisonment of two or more years (such as two drug offences and an assault), that person will never be eligible to apply for a pardon.
- Introduce a new ineligibility for terrorism offences where a judge has provided a sentence of 10 years or more.
- Maintain ineligibility of those convicted of a sexual offence against a child and those who receive a life or indeterminate sentence.
- Streamline the decision-making process by providing Parole Board of Canada (PBC) staff the authority to review all applications to ensure applicants are eligible for a pardon. Currently, only PBC Board members have the authority to review applications to ensure that the eligibility criteria are met, with the exception of applications for simple possession of cannabis offences.
- For summary offences, PBC employees would grant a pardon if all criteria have been met.
- For indictable offences, once eligibility and completeness is confirmed by PBC staff, Board members would continue to review applicant’s good conduct and whether granting pardon would bring administration of justice into disrepute.
- The subjective criteria of good conduct would no longer apply for summary offences.
- Replace the term “record suspension” with “pardon”.
- Add a new section to the CRA describing that the purpose of the Act in granting a pardon is to contribute to successful reintegration and reduce the stigma of criminal records.
DNA Matches to Pardoned/Suspended Records
- Update the Act to allow DNA to be treated in the same manner as fingerprints in the current Act. This means the name, date of birth and last known address of an individual who previously received a pardon can be disclosed to police when that individual’s DNA has been found at the scene of a crime, or during an attempt to identify a deceased person or a person suffering from amnesia.
Vulnerable Sector Background Checks
- Clarify that individuals applying for care, custody, or a parenting order of a child, as well as those applying for a license for a role involving trust or authority over vulnerable populations, could be subject to vulnerable sector checks.
Exemptions for Automatic Cessation of Pardon
- Remove the current exemption to automatically cease a pardon for people when they are newly convicted of impaired operation offences or not complying with testing of alcohol or drugs. Currently, people convicted of these offences do not automatically have their pardon ceased. The changes proposed to the Act will ensure these offences will be treated the same as other offences.
- To align with recent court decisions that found certain provisions of the CRA to be unconstitutional, the bill proposes changes to ensure that individuals applying for a pardon will benefit from the least restrictive regime as it relates to wait periods, eligibility and decision making criteria.
Disclosure of a Pardoned Record
- The current authority in the Act for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to disclose a pardoned criminal record in certain cases will remain in order to ensure safeguards remain in place.