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What is a criminal record and how can it affect you?

We often hear about criminal records but few people have an idea of what a criminal record actually is and how it affects a person.

A criminal record is a record of a person’s criminal activity if they have been convicted of a crime, if the person is 18 years old and over. Also, it must be a crime that a person has been convicted of and not a provincial offence in order to get a criminal record.


If the person has been charged with a crime, the police start keeping a file of a person’s alleged criminal activity.

Until the charge results in a conviction (if it does) the file is temporary and only accessible to the charging police department.

However, the file will contain information such as: what the alleged offence is, a description of the person and their information, date of birth, any warnings (if applicable) and possibly fingerprints, depending on the offence with which the person was charged.

If the person doesn’t end up convicted and no further action is taken on the file, then the temporary file is destroyed after five years.

If convicted

If the person is convicted of a crime, the file becomes permanent and is sent to the Canadian Police Information Centre. The CPIC is operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The criminal records are kept in Criminal Record Information Services by CPIC.

The file being permanent means that it’s not going to be destroyed after five years, as in the case with the temporary file. Rather, the file will exist throughout the time the person is serving and for years afterwards.

If a certain amount of time has passed and there is evidence of rehabilitation and good behaviour, a person may apply to get a record suspension. A record suspension allows the criminal record to be sealed when a record suspension is granted, which means the person’s criminal record will be removed from the Canadian Criminal Database.

Who can access criminal records?

A criminal record is not a public document, so the general public will not be able to access it.

However, there are certain people who will be able to access it, such as: police, judges, crown prosecutors, border services officers, and other officials.

There are also circumstances in which criminal record checks are requested and you will be asked to provide them to the requesting party. Such instances may include:

Two types of criminal record checks

If a criminal records check is needed to be done, there are two options:

  1. Criminal Record check: this check only looks at whether the person has a criminal record and gives the person who is applying for the criminal record check with information that is allowed to be disclosed by law.
  2. Vulnerable Sector check: this process goes beyond looking at whether a person has a criminal record. It also looks if the person has record suspensions for sexual offences and looks at local police records for information relevant to vulnerable sector checks.

If there are issues with your criminal record or you are looking to get a pardon it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer.

Read More:

Criminal Records Act

Criminal Records and Pardons

RCMP - types of criminal background checks