A criminal record can prevent you from doing a number of things and stop you from leading the life you want. The stigma associated with a troubled past can follow you around forever, straining personal relationships and making professional connections difficult.
Somewhat counterintuitively, a criminal record can even prevent you from being an upstanding citizen in certain regards, because it can prevent you from doing charitable work. Because it can also hinder international travel, a criminal past can stop you entirely from volunteering abroad. Without a Record Suspension, you may never be able to pursue certain dreams, even if those dreams involve wanting to help others in foreign countries.
Purpose of a Record Suspension
Formerly known as a Pardon, a Record Suspension is what happens when a criminal record is removed from public access. This means a search of the Canadian Police Information Centre will not yield any criminal record for a person who has received a Record Suspension, nor will the search show that a Record Suspension has been granted.
In order to obtain a Record Suspension, a person must apply, and the Canadian federal government must grant it. A criminal record—which you will have even if you’ve been charged and not convicted—can prevent you from doing a number of things. A Record Suspension can provide you with freedom if you’re looking to:
- Volunteer or work for a charitable organization
- Travel to the U.S. or abroad
- Pursue new employment opportunities or advance your career
- Gain custody rights
- Be bonded
- Find new housing
- Go to school
Volunteer Work and Criminal Records
Helping others through volunteer or charitable work is fulfilling and beneficial, but a criminal record can prevent you from participating. Many volunteer-based organizations require background checks, so if you have a criminal record, there are a large number of volunteer opportunities that won’t be open to you. This is especially true if you want to work with children or volunteer in a vulnerable sector.
Travelling with a Criminal Record
In Canada, people with criminal records aren’t permitted entry into the country without special permission, and this is a measure the government takes to protect its citizens. Other countries have similar rules, including the United States, and this will affect you if you have a criminal record and want to travel. Therefore, international travel, even for the purposes of volunteering, may well be impossible, even if you just want to cross the border into America.
Getting a Record Suspension for International Charitable Work
While a Record Suspension will not guarantee you’ll be allowed to travel abroad for charitable work, it will make it much more likely that you’ll be allowed to do so. Getting a Record Suspension in Canada doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be permitted to enter another country, however, so if you have a criminal record and are looking to volunteer abroad, it’s important that you contact that country’s consulate or embassy to inquire about their regulations regarding criminal records and Record Suspensions.
Nonetheless, a Record Suspension will make it so that your past record doesn’t show up when you apply to volunteer with an organization, and will improve your chances of being able to travel.
To be eligible for a Record Suspension, you must have served your sentence fully, have waited the designated time based on the charge, and prove that you are now a law-abiding citizen. However, if you were convicted of a sex crime involving a minor or have more than three indictable convictions for which you served at least two years of jail time for each, you will not be eligible for a Record Suspension.
The desire to volunteer or do charitable work abroad is a lofty goal that can improve your life and the lives of others, but this dream can be thwarted by your past actions. A criminal record can prevent you from doing a number of things, including volunteering and travelling internationally, which will end any chances of lending a hand in another country.
If you’ve turned your life around and are looking for ways to help others, a Record Suspension can improve your life, increase the opportunities available to you, and can perhaps make it possible for you to fulfill your dream of doing charitable work abroad.