Friday, April 09, 2010

RCMP changes rules for criminal records checks

Today's post at
RCMP changes rules for criminal records checks

Late last year, the RCMP changed its policy for access to criminal records information via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). Reputable companies, up until that point, had been able to obtain police records clearances through local police departments. These clearances were conditional upon the background checking company obtaining signed consent from the individual and making those consent forms available for spot audits. Provided the proper consent was obtained, background checking companies had been able to provide same-day results if the name, address and date of birth provided did not result in any “hits” in CPIC. In most cases, where there may be derogatory information, the individual would have to appear for fingerprinting so that his or her identity could be confirmed. This practice meant that those who had clear records could go on to the next stage of the process for their job application, volunteering application or whatever.

For records where a pardon has been granted for certain sexual offences, a notation is made in CPIC’s databases. It used to be that the police would provide, with the individual’s written consent, confirmation that no such notation exists provided that the person was being screened for working or volunteering with vulnerable populations.

These checks were facilitated by professional background screening companies, in cooperation with law enforcement, who would often be able to provide an “all clear” within the day.

Now, all screening requires fingerprints and about 120 days’ wait. The RCMP is saying that they are simply doing what the Criminal Records Act requires them to do. I don’t buy it. The Act says that the RCMP can disclose the existence of a notation if the person has provided written consent and the check is made for a paid or volunteer position that is one of authority or trust relative to children or vulnerable persons.

According to an article in today’s Globe & Mail, a number of volunteer-staffed organizations have cancelled programs because the 120 day wait cannot be accommodated. What may be worse, some organizations may be foregoing these checks and permitting unscreened people to work closely with vulnerable populations.

This is untenable, in my view. I’m not in favour of widespread criminal records checking where it is not relevant to the position, but these checks are very often relevant for certain employment or volunteer positions. Provided the person has provided clear, informed, unambiguous consent, there is no reason why an “all clear” can’t be given forthwith. I can understand that you would want to avoid the possibility of erroneously saying that a person has a criminal record or a pardoned sexual conviction, so the practice of fingerprinting should continue where there might be a “hit”. But where there is no reason to think a person has a record, that information should be provided right away.

Volunteerism is important. Silly policies should not have the effect of impeding volunteer efforts, nor should they discourage prudent screening that keeps predators away from the vulnerable.


Laura said...

I agree, the new rules are definitely important as they will help protect the vulnerable individuals in our society, but making it so incredibly time consuming to get a clear record check will severely impact volunteerism in our communities. Its pretty ridiculous for somebody to volunteer their time only to have to wait 3 months to find out if they're 'allowed to'.

Anonymous said...

This is just another example of the Canadian Government and law enforcement's efforts to systematically chip away our fundamental rights to privacy. This is completely unacceptable and the general public needs to figure out a way to put a stop to this. The recent changes by the RCMP to criminal record checks is ridiculous! Specifically for people who work in a "vulnerable sector". You usually you only need a name check, but supposedly the police computer system now does an additional check if you work in a vulnerable sector. The problem is the check is very broad, if someone has committed a violation of the criminal code and shares the same birth date as you, (not even anything to do with name, JUST BIRTH DATE!). You must now submit your fingerprints to somewhere in Ontario to verify your identity. Please correct me if any of this information is inaccurate, but when looking at the odds, there's only 365 days in the year and the possibility of you sharing a birth date with a criminal are fairly high. Why should innocent people who have never committed a crime in their life have to submit fingerprints? What happens to the fingerprints after their identity has been verified? Do the remain in a database forever? Do innocent people's fingerprints get scanned from that point on every time a crime is committed in Canada? Seems like a very convenient way to build up a database of people's fingerprints and invade their privacy in the worst possible way.

Anonymous said...

it's terrible....if you wait for that long time just to check your background and you are innocent you may lose your opportunity to's not RIGHTEOUS :((

Anonymous said...

Apparently this law came into effect because pardoned sex offenders were allowed to change their name. WHY? Regardless, a name change does not mean a re-issue of your birth certificate which is required to apply for a vulnerable sector check anyway. Oh but wait, the sex offender could possibly forge a birth certificate... WELL, let's just fingerprint everybody who works with vulnerable sectors and has a birthday on any given day on the calendar! Who decided that was the best solution? Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

It is ludicrous that innocent people have to prove their innocence by submitting their fingerprints (an invasion of privacy)and have to pay for it as well. If you refuse to submit, it might look like you have something to hide. Damned if you do, damned if you don't....