Observing Parole Board of Canada Hearings - Fact Sheet

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Can members of the public observe PBC hearings?

Yes. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) permits observers to attend PBC hearings in the spirit of openness and accountability, and to contribute to better public understanding of the parole decision-making process.

What is a hearing?

A hearing is a face to face meeting between Board members and the offender. Its purpose is to help Board members assess the risk that the offender may present to the community should he/she be granted conditional release. A hearing usually takes place in the institution where the offender is incarcerated. At a hearing, Board members review the case with the offender, the parole officer and the offender's assistant. The Board makes its decision by taking into account the criteria set out in the law. In most cases, Board members give the decision and the reasons for the decision right at the hearing.

What is required to observe a hearing?

The Request to Observe a Hearing Form must be filled in and sent to the PBC regional office where the hearing will take place (any regional office may be contacted to find out where to direct the request). Applications should be submitted as far in advance of the date of the hearing as possible (preferably 30 days) to allow the processing of the application and to conduct a security check.

Can an observer participate in the hearing?

An observer is not allowed to speak at the hearing.

Who can observe a hearing?

  • any member of the general public (18 years of age and over)
  • victims and their families and supporters
  • offender's family members and supporters; and
  • media representatives

Note: No recording equipment is permitted at PBC hearings, including audio or video taping or cameras for still photographs.

Can the PBC deny permission to a person to attend a hearing as an observer?

As a general rule, the PBC welcomes observers and will make every effort to accommodate them. Occasionally, however, the Board may deny a request if it believes an applicant:

  • is likely to disrupt the hearing, or if his/her presence or the presence of any other observers, is likely to affect adversely the Board's ability to assess the case
  • might affect adversely someone who has provided information to the PBC, including victims or members of the victim's or offender's family
  • is likely to upset the balance between the observer's interests and the public's interest in the successful return to society of the offender as a law-abiding citizen
  • may put the security and good order of the institution at risk; and
  • if the person is under 18 years of age (with rare exceptions)

The PBC can also deny permission to a person to attend a hearing if:

  • several observers have been approved and more cannot be accommodated because of limited space
  • the application to attend was received too late to be processed before the hearing

Note: A person who has been denied permission to attend as an observer will be given an explanation in writing.

What should an observer know about hearings?

An observer should know that:

  • upon entering an institution, all visitors must submit to a security check with a metal and drug scanner. Purses and briefcases will also be checked
  • cellular phones and portable computers are not permitted inside the institution
  • hearings may have to be postponed at the last minute and without warning
  • observers may be asked to leave the hearing temporarily while highly sensitive information is discussed
  • Victims registered with Correctional Service Canada or Parole Board of Canada (PBC) may be eligible for financial assistance from the Department of Justice Victims Fund program to attend PBC hearings. For information and assistance you may call 1-866-544-1007.

For more information on attending a hearing, view PBC’s Victim Services video or read the Federal Institutions: Attending a Parole Hearing fact sheet.

Who do I contact for more information?

For more information, contact the PBC regional office nearest you. Victims may seek assistance by calling this toll-free line 1-866-789-INFO (4636).

You may also visit the Attending a Hearing in a Federal Institution page for a more detailed explanation of what to expect when you are attending a hearing including information related to specific CSC institutions.

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