The rules and regulations regarding criminal record retention in Canada are complex and multifaceted. When an individual has a criminal record, it can be difficult for them to volunteer, find meaningful employment, or leave the country.

Without taking action to be granted a pardon, a person’s criminal record is likely to be with them for most of, if not all of, their life. In this article, we’re going to look at how long criminal records last, the exceptions to the rules, why criminal record longevity is so complex, and why pardons are so important. 

That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started. This won’t be an exhaustive list of the rules and regulations for how long criminal records last – treat it as a general guide but always consult a lawyer for specifics. 

How long are criminal records kept?

Criminal records are kept in the RCMP’s Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). A criminal record can remain in the system for a person’s entire lifetime. 

While criminal records are difficult to expunge from the database, they can be sealed. Sealing a criminal record makes it unavailable to employers and other third parties who access the CPIC to conduct a criminal record check. As such, pardons, now referred to as Record Suspensions, are the most efficient way of reducing the consequences of a criminal record.

Acquiring a Record Suspension (Pardon) 

When a pardon (now known as a record suspension) is granted, the criminal records associated with the pardon are not destroyed. Instead, they are sealed, which makes them inaccessible to most third parties conducting criminal record checks. Pardons can enable people with criminal records to seek gainful employment, volunteer, travel internationally, and more.

There are several timelines to keep in mind when considering applying for a pardon. To be eligible for a pardon, a person must have completed all of their sentences, which may include paying fines, finishing sentences of imprisonment, and completing probation. From there, a pardon can be applied for after a waiting period.  

Applying for a pardon

To complete a pardon application, you’ll need to contact a fingerprinting service that’s accredited by the RCMP to provide digital fingerprints. FASTCHECK is an RCMP accredited fingerprinting service – if you need fingerprints taken for a pardon application, get in touch with us.