Bill C-93 – No-fee, Expedited Pardons for Simple Possession of Cannabis

Backgrounder

An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis (the Act) has received Royal Assent. Once in effect, this legislation will expedite the pardons process (also known as a record suspension) for people convicted only of simple possession of cannabis, eliminating the $631 application fee and the up to 10-year wait period. People will be able to apply even if they have outstanding fines or victim surcharges associated with their cannabis possession conviction, as long as they have completed the rest of their sentence.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1.      What is simple possession?

A1.      Simple possession generally refers to a criminal conviction for possession of a controlled substance, in this case cannabis, for personal use with no intent to traffic.

Q2.      What is a pardon?

A2.      A pardon (also known as a record suspension) allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence, but have completed their sentence and demonstrated that they are law-abiding citizens for a prescribed number of years, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other criminal records.

A pardon sets apart a person's criminal record within the National Repository of Criminal Records that is accessed through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system. This means that a search of the National Repository of Criminal Records will not show that the individual has an existing criminal record or a pardon. This helps them access employment and educational opportunities and to reintegrate into society.

Pardons apply only directly to records of convictions kept within federal departments and agencies, as per the Criminal Records Act. However, provinces and territories are notified when a pardon is ordered and generally comply. Suspended criminal records can only be disclosed by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in exceptional circumstances, and would not normally be disclosed in a background check, such as for employment, housing or a passport.

Q3.      What recourse does the Act offer for individuals convicted only of simple possession of cannabis?

A3.      Once in effect, the Act will offer the following recourse for those convicted only of simple possession of cannabis:

  • The $631 application fee and the up to ten-year wait period to apply for a pardon will be completely waived.
  • People will be able to apply even if they have outstanding fines or victim surcharges associated with their cannabis possession conviction, as long as they have completed the rest of their sentence. Fines will not be erased and may still be recovered through civil enforcement.
  • Under the new streamlined process, applications will be reviewed administratively by Parole Board of Canada employees, without Board member involvement.
  • People whose only sentence was a fine will not be required to submit court documents as part of their application, as long as the criminal record check or local police records are clear that their only convictions are for simple possession of cannabis.
  • The Parole Board of Canada will no longer be able to revoke the pardon of an individual convicted only of simple possession of cannabis on the basis that they have not been of good conduct.
  • Individuals who are not Canadian citizens or residents of Canada will also be eligible to apply.

Q4.      What recourse does the Act offer for individuals convicted of simple possession of cannabis with other convictions on their record?

A4.      Once in effect, the Act will offer the following recourse for those convicted of simple possession of cannabis with other convictions on their record:

  • Individuals will not be required to have paid fines and victim surcharges related to their conviction for simple possession of cannabis prior to applying for a pardon. Fines related to any other offences will still need to be paid prior to applying for a pardon.
  • Convictions for simple possession of cannabis will no longer be considered by the Parole Board of Canada when assessing an individual’s good conduct, nor impact their wait time to apply for a pardon.

Q5.      Will there be other fees associated with the application?

A5.      While the $631 application fee payable to the Parole Board of Canada will be waived for those individuals with convictions only of simple possession of cannabis, there may be other fees associated with applying for a pardon. These costs may include fees for obtaining supporting documents from the police of jurisdiction and, for some applicants, courts. There are also costs associated with obtaining your certified criminal record from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. If additional costs are incurred, they will not be waived.

Q6.      When will individuals be able to apply for a pardon under the Act?

A6.      The legislation has received Royal Assent. Public Safety Canada is working with federal partners to put the necessary processes in place to support coming into force of the legislation. Details about this new streamlined process for convictions of simple possession of cannabis only, including the application Guide and forms, will be posted to the Parole Board of Canada website once the law comes into effect later this summer. A toll-free phone number and dedicated e-mail address will be available to individuals seeking help with their applications.

Q7.      How will the applicant demonstrate they are eligible to obtain a pardon under the Act?

A7.      The applicant must demonstrate to the Parole Board of Canada that they were convicted only of simple possession of cannabis. People will be able to apply even if they have outstanding fines or victim surcharges associated with their cannabis possession conviction, as long as they have completed the rest of their sentence. Applicants must submit supporting documents with their application, including the certified criminal record, local police record checks, court records, and military conduct sheets where applicable. For those convicted only of simple possession of cannabis where the only sentence is a fine, court records will no longer be required if police records and the certified criminal record can demonstrate eligibility.

Q8.      Why are pardons for simple possession of cannabis not being granted automatically?

A8.      In Canada, criminal records and sentencing information are found in federal and provincial repositories, often in paper copies in local police force offices or court houses. An automatic process would require the digitalization of records and other actions that would take several years to establish. Requiring applicants to satisfy the Board that they were convicted only of simple possession of cannabis by providing the required documentation will help ensure that the Parole Board of Canada has complete, accurate, and up to date information on the individual’s criminal history prior to processing the file.

Q9.      How does a pardon impact an individual’s ability to travel?

A9.      As with expungement, a pardon does not guarantee a person entry or visa privileges to another country because foreign jurisdictions are not bound by Canadian laws. Entry and exit requirements are at the discretion of each country.

Any foreign country, including the United States, may have documented previous interactions with individuals, which may include an individual’s Canadian criminal conviction information prior to a pardon being granted. When required by foreign border officials, these individuals will be able to provide the required documentation to demonstrate that their conviction has been pardoned.

Q10.    What is the difference between a pardon and an expungement?

A10.    The purpose of a pardon is to reduce barriers to reintegration by facilitating access to job opportunities, educational programs, housing, and even the ability to simply volunteer for a charitable organization. Under federal jurisdiction, the effect of a pardon is fully protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. Federally, suspended criminal records can only be disclosed by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in exceptional circumstances, and would not normally be disclosed when a background check is conducted, such as for employment, housing or a passport.

Expungement is an extraordinary measure reserved for cases where the criminalization of the activity in question and the law never should have existed, such as in cases where it violated the Charter. If an application for expungement is ordered, records of that conviction are permanently destroyed from federal databases.


Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: