Crimes can hold people back longer than the time it takes to serve the sentence and the probation period. Criminal records begun during a person's adult years follow them for the rest of their lives, appearing in background checks that many jobs, insurance agencies and volunteer positions are likely to require. Having these good opportunities denied them makes it easier for people to be open to other, not as good, opportunities. A Canadian criminal pardon can change all that – it locks criminal records from standard background checks, giving people a true fresh start. So why did only ten percent of the Canadians holding a criminal record last year apply for a pardon? One of the most likely reasons is because of the lack of understanding of pardons and just who is eligible for them. Canadian criminal pardons are not going to exist for much longer, as the government is in the midst of passing Bill C-23B, which changes pardons into record suspensions and imposes a new and more stringent set of qualifications on applicants. However, before it passes, what are the eligibility standards for the current Canadian criminal pardon?

The most basic requirements are that one has served one's sentence, be it in prison or on parole, and that one has demonstrated oneself to be "of good conduct". One of the few conditions of the pardon is that it can be revoked if the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), which grants the criminal pardons, believes the person to have regressed into bad conduct. The next basic requirements are that the person has completed all the forms correctly, paid the application fee and waited the appropriate amount of time following the completion of their sentence. This waiting time has recently been affected by Bill C-23A, the first half of Bill C-23B. It lengthened the waiting period for all applicants. The waiting period is not the same, however, for all applicants. There are three main categories of offences and three main waiting periods. The most serious types of offences are indictable offences – for sexual offences or manslaughter – and these have a ten year waiting period, a length doubled by Bill C-23A. The least serious types of offences are summary offences – for petty theft or mischief charges – and these have been split into two waiting periods – the least serious ones waiting three years, the most serious having been lengthened from three to five. The last and most common types of offences are hybrid offences; offences which could fall either on the more serious, indictable side or the less serious, summary side. The waiting periods for these are determined by the Crown, when the Crown makes the decision to charge the hybrid crime as either more or less serious.

The application for a Canadian criminal pardon also puts the onus on the applicant to prove to the PBC that they need the pardon to advance in their rehabilitation. With the tightening security measures which have swept over the Western world since 9/11, criminal background checks are becoming more frequent and required to progress in life – the Canadian pardon definitely helps people continue in their rehabilitation. Yet despite the growing number of people applying for criminal pardons in this current climate, the Harper government has decided to close the doors to a number of applicants and make it harder for everyone else to get a pardon as well. The current pardon system already red-flags sex offenders when they apply for jobs or volunteer positions with vulnerable persons, even if they have a pardon - the new record suspension system will make it all but impossible for them to get any kind of pardon at all.