One of the chief competencies of the Parole Board of Canada is to grant pardons to convicted criminals who can show that they have rehabilitated themselves as members of society. A pardon, as the law sees it, does not mean that a conviction is erased – a criminal record remains in existence. However, according to the Criminal Records Act, which governs the pardons that are granted by the Parole Board, the information on the conviction will be made unavailable for criminal record checks, making it well worth applying for a pardon, as many jobs and volunteering opportunities require prospective candidates to generate a clean check.

Becoming eligible to apply for a pardon takes longer than the application process itself. The first prerequisite is that all sentences have been served in full (time in prison, on probation or parole served and all outstanding fines paid, as the case may be). Once this is over, a number of years of good conduct need to elapse before the ex-convict can submit an application to be pardoned. If the conviction is for a less serious summary offence, the waiting period is three years. For most indictable offences (felonies), it is five years, but particularly serious crimes - indictable personal injury offences (as per Section 752 of the Criminal Code) up to the crime of manslaughter, as well as indictable sexual offences - now carry a waiting period of ten years. This last provision was purposely passed by Parliament in 2010, in order to make getting a pardon more difficult for the notorious convicted killer Karla Homolka, who was found guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter in exchange for her testimony on murders perpetrated by her husband Paul Bernardo, although she may have been as guilty of the murders as he was. The parole board does not pardon murder convictions.

After the required waiting period ends, an application should be filed by post with the Parole Board's Clemency and Pardons Division. In addition to an application form and fee, a variety of documents from different sources should be submitted, the exact list of which will depend on the particular case. For example, every applicant has to provide a copy of their criminal record (from the RCMP), while military personnel must also submit their military conduct sheet. Harder work is required when applying for a pardon for an indictable or sexual offence: in these cases, the Parole Board requires that applicants write a letter in which they describe the benefit that they would get from a pardon in their present circumstances (the answer to this question being fairly obvious) and in which they tell about the circumstances under which they broke the law.

Once you <a href=>apply for a pardon</a>, the last step that remains is waiting for it to be granted. This usually takes 12 to 18 months, although it can take longer in theory. As the granting or denying of a pardon is based on rules laid down by the law rather than the preferences of a particular clerk or official, the case will not be subjectively judged; rather, it is imperative that the application package is completed with all the proper documents and information. Not doing so will probably result in a denial, after which another year will have to pass before re-applying will be possible.