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Criminal Record Checks Lengthen your Sentence

Article by Ned Lecic

Years ago, I was about to start a volunteering assignment in a public school. The administration surprised me with the requirement to get a criminal record check done. I had to contact the RCMP and wait until the request came back from the Canadian Police Information Centre, (CPIC). Eventually, I was given a clearance, which enabled me to take up my volunteering. From my perspective, it had been a bureaucratic nuisance; for the school, however, it was an important security measure.

For an average person, a criminal record check is not a daily concern. As in my experience, getting our past checked will amount to an occasional extra chore. But for the estimated 10-15% of Canadians who have been convicted of a crime at some point, having a record that can be accessed from the CPIC can be a significant barrier to living a fulfilling life. You may think that, having served your sentence, you’ve done your time for past mistakes. The sad truth is that, since criminal records are routinely checked, your past can follow you around wherever you go. For one thing, running a criminal record check is standard procedure for many employers; it will surely be performed when applying for work in fields as varied as security, nursing and the public sector, and a past crime will often fatally impair your chances of getting the job, particularly in today’s economy.

Even travel abroad can be hampered by the possession of a criminal record. For Canadians, this particularly applies in the case of crossing the 49th parallel. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, American border officials have become much more stringent when screening us. US law makes it illegal for a Canadian convicted of a criminal offence to cross the border. The CPIC gives the US Customs and Border Protection Agency access to its files, which results in many Canadians being detained at the border and not allowed to cross, with further possible consequences such as arrest or confiscation of their vehicle.

Thus, a sentence for a conviction effectively continues to be served indefinitely after the fine is paid or you are released from prison, unless you take action. Once a period of time passes from the completion of your sentence, you are entitled to apply to the Parole Board of Canada for a pardon. Although it won’t erase your criminal record, a pardon will cause your record to be kept separate from the accessible CPIC database, and employers and the rest of society will not be able to see your conviction. For travel to the US, a special entry waiver can be acquired, which will afford you the possibility to cross the border legally. Both documents can be obtained with the help of a pardons agency, which will guide you through the difficult process of getting them. It is worth taking the effort seriously, as an incorrectly prepared pardon application is denied, adding a year – the time you have to wait before reapplying – to your “sentence”.

About the Author

Ned Lecic grew up and studied in Toronto and has loved writing from an early age. After spending almost seven years teaching English in Europe, Ned came back to Canada and now works for a pardons agency. He is interested in aircraft, history, nature and all aspects of criminal and civil law. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the bagpipes and writing for pleasure.

The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform holds a meeting on Capitol Hill.
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