Fact Sheet - Observing Parole Board of Canada Hearings

Can members of the public observe PBC hearings?

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

What is a hearing?

A hearing is a 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 they be granted conditional release. The hearing may take place in person, usually at the institution where the offender is incarcerated, or remotely by video or teleconference.

At a hearing, Board members review the case with the offender, the parole officer and the offender's assistant. Board members make their 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 at the hearing.

What is required to observe a hearing?

The Request to Observe a Parole Board of Canada Hearing - Application Form must be filled in and sent to the PBC regional office where the hearing will take place (any PBC 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 (ideally at least 30 days) to allow the processing of the application.

How are hearings held?

The hearing may take place in person, usually at the institution where the offender is incarcerated, or remotely by video or teleconference.

In cases where a PBC hearing is being held in person, observers may request to attend the hearing in person or remotely by videoconference or teleconference. Every effort will be made to accommodate the requested method of observing the hearing, however observers may be approved for a different method than requested due to factors such as space limitations, safety/security requirements or operational considerations.

Can an observer participate in the hearing?

No. An observer is not permitted to speak at the hearing.

Who can observe a hearing?

  • members of the general public;
  • victims and victim support persons;
  • offender support persons; and
  • media representatives.

Can a person be denied permission to observe a hearing?

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

  • is likely to disrupt the hearing, or if their presence or the presence of any other observers, is likely to adversely affect the Board's ability to assess the case;
  • might adversely affect 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; and,
  • may put the security and good order of the institution at risk.

The PBC can also deny a person permission to observe a hearing if the request was received too late to be processed before the hearing.

Note: A person who has been denied permission to observe a hearing will be given an explanation in writing.

Important information to know about PBC hearings:

  • hearings may be scheduled, rescheduled or cancelled on short notice;
  • the length of a hearing will vary, and some can last several hours;
  • observers may be asked to leave the hearing temporarily while highly sensitive information is discussed;
  • no recording equipment is permitted during PBC hearings, including audio or video taping, or cameras for still photographs;
  • victims who are registered with the PBC or Correctional Service of Canada may be eligible for financial assistance from the Department of Justice Victims Fund program to attend PBC hearings. For information and assistance, call 1-866-544-1007.

For more information:

Contact the PBC regional office nearest you.

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