About no-fee, expedited pardons for individuals convicted of simple possession of cannabis

Backgrounder

An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis is now in effect. This legislation expedites the pardons process (also known as a record suspension) for people convicted only of simple possession of cannabis, eliminating the $631 application fee and any wait periods. People can now 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. Federally, a pardon sets aside all the criminal convictions for an individual, reducing barriers to reintegration placed on an individual as a result of their criminal record and allowing them greater access to job opportunities, educational programs, housing, and even the ability to simply volunteer in their communities. Suspended criminal records can only be disclosed in exceptional circumstances, and would not normally be disclosed in a background check, such as for employment, housing, a passport or a loan.

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.

Q3. What recourse is now available for individuals convicted only of simple possession of cannabis?

A3. The following recourse is now available for those convicted only of simple possession of cannabis:

  • The $631 application fee and any wait periods to apply for a pardon will be completely waived.
  • People can 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 need to be paid.
  • Under the new streamlined process, applications are reviewed administratively by Parole Board of Canada employees, without Board member involvement.
  • People whose only sentence was a fine are not 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.
  • A person’s pardon for simple possession can no longer be revoked by the Parole Board of Canada on the basis that they have not been of good conduct.
  • Individuals who are not Canadian citizens or residents of Canada are also eligible to apply if they were convicted of simple possession of cannabis in Canada.

Q4. What recourse is now available for individuals convicted of simple possession of cannabis with other convictions on their record?

A4. The following recourse is now available for those convicted of simple possession of cannabis with other convictions on their record:

  • Individuals are not 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 still need to be paid prior to applying for a pardon.
  • Convictions for simple possession of cannabis are no longer considered by the Parole Board of Canada when assessing an individual’s good conduct.
  • Convictions for simple possession of cannabis also  no longer impact the wait time to apply for a pardon. Wait periods still need to be met for any other convictions on an individual’s record.
  • Individuals who are not Canadian citizens or residents of Canada are also eligible to apply if they were convicted of simple possession of cannabis in Canada.

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

A5. While the $631 application fee payable to the Parole Board of Canada is now waived for those individuals with convictions only of simple possession of cannabis, there may be other fees imposed by entities other than the Parole Board of Canada, related to applying for a pardon. For example, 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. Where additional costs are incurred, the Parole Board of Canada can not waive fees imposed by other entities.

Q6. How does an applicant demonstrate they are eligible to obtain a pardon under the Act?

A6. The applicant must demonstrate to the Parole Board of Canada that they were convicted only of simple possession of cannabis. People can 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 are not required if police records and the certified criminal record can demonstrate eligibility.

Q7. Why are pardons for simple possession of cannabis not being granted automatically?

A7. An application-based system is the most effective way to ensure both broad access to pardons and informed decision-making. Requiring applicants to demonstrate to the Board that they were convicted only of simple possession of cannabis by providing the required documentation helps 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.

Q8. How does a pardon impact an individual’s ability to travel?

A8. 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. These individuals will be able to provide the required documentation to demonstrate that their conviction has been pardoned.


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