Special Topics & Resources

What is a Pardon?

Published On: January 23, 2013

What is a Pardon?

What is a Pardon and how does it compare to a Record Suspension? The following definitions and commentary will help you understand what it means to be Pardoned or to have your record suspended in Canada.

Dictionary Definitions of:  What is a Pardon?


Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation (in whole or in part) of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves. A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the cancellation of the relevant penalty; it is usually granted by a head of state (such as a monarch or president) or by acts of a parliament or a religious authority. Commutation or remission is the lessening of a penalty without forgiveness for the crime; the beneficiary is still considered guilty of the offense. A reprieve is the temporary postponement of punishment.

Comment: the Division of the Parole Board of Canada that grants Record Suspensions in Canada is known as the Clemency and Record Suspension Division. The word clemency and pardon are often used interchangeably. With respect to the sealing of criminal records, in Canada we have Pardons (now called Record Suspension) and Clemency (which refers to the granting of early Pardons with an application called Royal Prerogative of Mercy). Clemency is given by either the Governor General or the Governor in Council.

Free Dictionary


1. To release (a person) from punishment; exempt from penalty: a convicted criminal who was pardoned by the governor.
2. To let (an offense) pass without punishment.
3. To make courteous allowance for; excuse: Pardon me, I’m in a hurry. See Synonyms at forgive.


1. The act of pardoning.

2. Law
a. Exemption of a convicted person from the penalties of an offense or crime by the power of the executor of the laws.
b. An official document or warrant declaring such an exemption.

3. Allowance or forgiveness for an offense or a discourtesy: begged the host’s pardon for leaving early.
4. Roman Catholic Church An indulgence.

Comment: Once pardoned, your criminal record is sealed. A pardon (now called record suspension), removes many obstacles in Canada, but it does not eliminate all forms of discrimination. It does not erase the fact that you were once convicted, online news publications regarding the event are not removed, and third parties (such as employers who have a copy of your criminal record obtained in employment screening) are not asked to seal or purge information concerning your criminal record. Foreign countries may not recognize a pardon or record suspension.

Free Dictionary Legal Directory

Pardon: The action of an executive official of the government that mitigates or sets aside the punishment for a crime.

Comment:  You can apply to have conviction(s) committed under an Act of Parliament sealed or set side.  The two most common Acts of Parliament for which a person would apply for a Record Suspension is the Criminal Code of Canada and Controlled Drugs and Substance Act.   When the Canadian Government grants a pardon or record suspension, your criminal record is sealed on a federal level. Local Police and Provincial Court Houses are not legally compelled to seal your record, though most will once pardoned.




1. kind indulgence, as in forgiveness of an offense or discourtesy or in tolerance of a distraction or inconvenience: I beg your pardon, but which way is Spruce Street?

2. Law .

a. a release from the penalty of an offense; a remission of penalty, as by a governor.
b. the document by which such remission is declared.

3. forgiveness of a serious offense or offender.

Comment: It is not clear why the Parole Board of Canada recently changed the name of Canada Pardon or Canadian Pardon to Record Suspension. It appears they want to still give you the benefits of having your record sealed, but by changing their name, it implies they are no longer in the business of forgiveness. Though the name change may be to satisfy victims, the word Clemency is still part of the title of their division.

Marriam Webster Dictionary

Pardon: excuse or forgiveness for a fault, offense, or discourtesy

Comment: The pardon and record suspension program is very successful. Less than 4% of all Pardoned Applicants have reoffended. Enclosed are statistics presented by the Parole Board of Canada:

What is a pardon? What is revocation rate?

Criminal Record Act Definitions of:  What is a Pardon?
Definition of Pardon:  The term ‘Pardon’ was repealed in 2012 and replaced with “Record Suspension”.  The term Record Suspension is defined as:

“a measure ordered by the Board under section 4.1”

The term Record Suspension is not specifically defined in section 4.1 of this Act, other than to state that if your application is approved, your record is “suspended”.  Clause 6(2) of this Act then explains that your record held with a department or agency of the Federal Government is kept separate apart from non-suspended records and not disclosed unless there are special circumstances.

Comment:  Your record held by the RCMP is suspended.  Local police and local court houses are not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, but routinely volunteer to seal your local records upon the granting of a pardon (now called record suspension).

Summary of: What is a Pardon?

  • In Canada it is easiest to understand ‘what is a Pardon?’ is by what it does for you.
  • A Pardon seals convictions committed under an Act of Parliament.
  • It is proof that your record should no longer reflect upon your character.
  • It is proof that you have rehabilitated and are now of good character.
  • It eliminates most, but not all, forms of discrimination.
  • The name has changed to Record Suspension, and other than a name change, the same benefits and limitations exist.
[TBS_BUTTON color=”info” style=”text-decoration:none; color: white; margin: 0 auto; width: 100%;” link=”/contact-us”]Click Here to Contact Us For a Free Record Suspension Consultation[/TBS_BUTTON]

Return to Top of What is a Pardon?

Leave A Comment

Subscribe for our newsletter