Parole and Probation in Canada: Get Out of Jail!

By Last Updated: December 7, 2022

What is parole?

Parole and Probation in CanadaParole is a conditional release that allows some offenders to continue to serve part of their sentence outside of the institution in the community under the supervision of a Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) parole officer, and subject to conditions. This means that some offenders are able to be released from jail early. However, it is important to note that parole does not mean that the offenders are completely free. Rather, parole provides some offenders with an opportunity, under the supervision and assistance of the CSC parole officer, to become contributing members of society once again, so long as they abide by the conditions of their release.

What is the purpose of parole?

As per s.100 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the purpose of parole “is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by means of decisions on the timing and conditions of release that will best facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens”.

What is the Parole Board of Canada?

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC), an independent administrative tribunal which reports to Parliament through the Minister of Public Safety. The PBC has exclusive authority, under the CCRA to grant, deny, and revoke parole for those offenders’ serving sentences of two years or more. It is important to note that the PBC does also make parole decisions for offenders serving sentences of less than two years except for in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, as they have their own parole boards.

The CCRA indicates that as per s.100.1 the paramount consideration for the Parole Board in its conditional release decision-making is that its decisions are consistent with the protection of society.

The Parole Board considers two things, as per s.101 of the CCRA, when making conditional release decisions, whether:

  1. the offender will not present an undue risk to society before the end of the sentence; and
  2. the release of the offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the offender’s return to the community as a law-abiding citizen.

It is important to note that it is the National Parole Board (NPB) which possesses absolute discretion to grant or deny parole. The federal Parole Board, on the other hand, possesses jurisdiction to grant parole for all offenders sentenced to a federal penitentiary and those offenders who are held in Alberta provincial jails. 

What are the types of conditional releases?

There are four types of conditional releases are available to offenders:

  • Temporary absence;
  • Day parole;
  • Full parole; and
  • Mandatory release.

Temporary absences

In Canada, both federal and provincial correctional legislation allow for temporary absences, with the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) and Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) sharing responsibility for temporary absences within the federal system.

There are three types of temporary absences from prison, as per the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA):

  • escorted temporary absences (ETA)
  • unescorted temporary absences (UTA); and
  • work releases

If there is limited risk that the offender will reoffend during the absence, the CSC may grant a temporary release of the offender.

Some common reasons a temporary absence may be granted include the following reasons:

  • medical;
  • administrative;
  • community service;
  • family contact;
  • parental responsibility; and
  • rehabilitation.

Statutory release

Statutory release aims to provide offenders structure and support to offenders before their sentence expires as a way to improve the chances of the offender’s reintegration into the community. However, it is important to note that offenders can be returned to custody if they violate their conditions of release or of for any reason the offender is believed to present an undue risk to the public.

The law mandates that offenders, except those serving a life or indeterminate sentence, must be released by the CSC with supervision after serving 2/3’s of their sentence. This means that statutory release is not parole and is not a decision of the PBC. However, it is important to note that the PBC can have a role in statutory release if the CSC refers a case to the PBC for review.

In those cases, the PBC may do the following:

  • impose condition on release;
  • cancel a suspension if ordered by the CSC;
  • revoke statutory release; and/ or
  • order that the offender be held in custody until their sentence ends.

While on statutory release, offenders are still required to follow standard conditions.

Some of these conditions may include the following:

  • reporting to a parole officer;
  • remaining within geographic boundaries; and
  • obeying the law and keeping the peace.

Along with standard conditions, the PBC also has discretion to impose special conditions which are conditions that are specific to the offender. For example, a special condition may be that the offender reside in a designated facility such as a community-based residential facility or a psychiatric facility, as per s.133(4.1) of the CCRA. 

Day Parole

Day parole allows offenders to leave the prison during the daytime hours only. This means that the offenders must return to the prison or go to a supervised halfway house or community- based residential facility, each night. While the offender is out on day release, they While away from are allowed to work and participate in community-based activities which may aid in the offender’s preparation for full parole or statutory release.

It is important to note that along with any standard conditions, the PBC also has the discretion to impose special conditions which are conditions that are specific to the offender.

Full parole

Full parole is when an offender can serve part of their sentence in the community as long as they follow certain conditions. This means that full parole provides an offender with the most freedom. Under full parole, offenders do not have to return nightly to an institution. However, offenders must report regularly to a parole officer.

Parole Eligibility

Temporary absences- ETA

ETA’s can be applied for by offenders during any time of their sentence. It is important to note that while most approvals for ETA’s are at the discretion of the CSC, some ETA applications must be approved by the PBC.

Temporary absences- UTA

For sentences of 3 years or more, offenders are eligible to apply for a UTA:

  • after serving 1/6 of their sentence.

For sentences of 2-3 years, offenders are eligible to apply for a UTA 

  • 6 months into the sentence.

For offenders who are serving life sentences eligibility for a UTA starts at:

  • 3 years before their full parole eligibility date

It is important to note that those offenders classified as maximum security are not eligible for UTA’s.

Statutory release

As a general rule, an offender is legally entitled to be released into the community at two-thirds of the sentence unless the offender is:

  • serving a life sentence;
  • serving indeterminate sentences (that is a sentence with no fixed end date); or
  • subject to a PBC order detaining them until warrant expiry.

Day parole

Offenders are eligible for day parole after serving the longer of the following two times, either:

  • 6 months before eligibility for full parole or after serving 6 months, if the accused is serving sentences of two years or more; or
  • 3 years before eligibility for full parole or after serving 3 years if the offender is serving life or an indeterminate sentence.

Full parole

Offenders apply for full parole after serving the lesser of either:

  • a third of their sentence, or
  • 7 years

However, it is important to note that those offenders who are serving life sentences for first-degree murder may apply for full parole, after serving 25 years.

Dates for offenders serving life sentences for second-degree murder are set, by the courts, between 10 and 25 years.

Conditions of Parole

What are the conditions of parole?

Standard Conditions

All offenders released on parole must abide by standard conditions which serve the purpose of enabling the offenders’ reintegration and rehabilitation into society as law-abiding citizens.

These include standard conditions may include some of the following:  

  • reporting to your parole supervisor immediately upon release from prison and whenever the parole officer deems fit afterwards;
  • provide your parole officer with their information about their employment, volunteer activities, educational pursuits and current residential address;
  • Inform your parole officer in any change of information when/ if necessary;
  • not leave Canada;
  • keep the peace and be of good behaviour;
  • obey the law;

It is important to note that the PBC may revoke the release of any offender and return them to prison if these conditions are not abided to.

Special Conditions

The PBC may also impose any special conditions. Special conditions are conditions that the PBC considers reasonable and necessary to further manage an offender’s risk in the community.

Such conditions may include the following:

  • abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol;
  • no contact with the victim or their family members;
  • no weapons;

It is important to note that your existing criminal record if you have one, will be considered when formulating these restrictions.

What happens if you breach your conditions?

If the conditions of parole are not met, the PBC has the power to revoke the parole and return the offender to prison.

What is the difference between probation and parole?

Parole and probation are effectively two different types of supervision.

Parole can only be granted by the PBC. Parole is available to offenders after serving a certain period of their sentence in prison. This means that parole is still attached to a prison sentence, and it does not in any way reduce the offender’s length of a prison term they are required to serve. Rather, an offender is merely serving the rest of their sentence while living in the community and are subject to certain conditions.

Probation, on the other hand, is not always attached to a prison term. This means that you can effectively be sentenced to probation only if you are convicted of a crime. if you receive probation, you will be allowed to live in the community under the supervision of your probation officer. In Canada, the courts may order up to 3 months probation.

How to get early parole in Canada?

Although there do exist parole eligibility dates, as mentioned above, offenders can be released earlier certain circumstances exceptional cases.

Under s. 121(1) of the CCRA parole may be granted at any time to an offender if the offender:

  1. is terminally ill;
  2. physical or mental health is likely to suffer serious damage;
  3. Continued confinement would constitute an excessive hardship that was not reasonably foreseeable at sentencing; or
  4. is subject to an order of surrender under the Extradition Actand is to be detained until surrendered.

It is important to note that parole by exception is not available for all offenders, as per s.121(2) of the CCRA, parole by exception does not apply to an offender who is:

  • serving a life sentence imposed as a minimum punishment or commuted from a sentence of death; or
  • serving, in a penitentiary, a sentence for an indeterminate period

The discretion to grant parole by exception is still provided to the PBC who will consider two things, as with any application of parole, which includes an assessment of whether or not:

  1. the offender will not present an undue risk to society before the end of the sentence; and
  2. the release of the offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the offender’s return to the community as a law-abiding citizen.

What happens if parole is denied?

If the PBC reviews an offender’s case and parole is not granted then, as per s.123(4) of the CCRA, the PBC must conduct another review within two years after the day on which the review took place or was scheduled to take place and thereafter within two years after that day until:

  1. the offender is released on full parole or statutory release;
  2. the offender’s sentence expires; or
  3. less than four months remain to be served before the offender’s statutory release date.

However, as indicated in s.123(5) of the CCRA, in the case that the reviews an offender’s case who is serving a sentence of 2 years or more for an offence involving violence and parole is not granted or if the offender waived their right to a parole hearing then the PBC shall conduct another review within 5 years of the day on which the review took place or the day that the review was scheduled to take place (whichever was later) and thereafter within five years after that day until:

  1. the offender is released on full parole or on statutory release;
  2. the offender’s sentence expires; or
  3. less than four months remain to be served before the offender’s statutory release date.

However, it is important to note that an offender can apply for a review sooner in either scenario but is not able to apply within one year of their previous review, as indicated in s.123(6) of the CCRA.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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