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Criminal Record Checks – Are you being negligent?
by Matt Cruchet

I've been wanting to get this up since the Scouts Canada thing blew. I've been getting lots of inquiries related to how organizations should be managing their child protection programs. Here's a quick snapshot of some of the key issues.

A police criminal records check (PCRC) or police check or police records check is a standard request for most organizations working with youth. If your organization has adopted this practice there’s a few things you need to know - starting with what a standard PCRC does not generally cover:

  • Outstanding entries, such as charges and warrants
  • Absolute and conditional discharges
  • Current judicial orders, including Peace Bonds, Probation and Prohibition orders under the Criminal Code of Canada
  • Convictions where a pardon has been granted
  • Convictions under provincial statutes
  • Local police contact
  • Provincial Ministry of Transportation information
  • Special Interest Police (SIP) category of CPIC
  • Family Court Restraining Orders
  • Foreign information
  • A Vulnerable Sector (VS) Query of pardoned sex offenders to ascertain if the applicant has been convicted of and granted a pardon for any of the sexual offences that are listed in the schedule to the Criminal Records Act (CRA)
  • Any reference to incidents involving mental health contact that did not result in a conviction
  • Charged and processed by other means such as Diversion
Note: There’s a large variation in what you get based on the local police detachment

A typical PCRC does cover criminal convictions (summary and indictable) from the CPIC and/or local databases. The CPIC is the Canadian Police Information Centre run by the RCMP. So if someone has a criminal conviction it should show up on a PCRC. Now compare this with the above list. Two glaring points stand out: pardons and the vulnerable sector query.

A pardon allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence, but have completed their sentence and demonstrated they are law-abiding citizens, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other criminal records. Pardons are issued by the federal government of Canada. This means that any search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) will not show that someone had a criminal record, or that they were issued a pardon.

The vulnerable sector query is a check restricted to applicants seeking employment and/or volunteering with vulnerable individuals. It is a collection of offence information, including convictions, non-convictions and other relevant police contact information available from a local police agency’s records management system and other systems/records where authorized. This check will include sexual offence convictions for which the individual has received a pardon where authorized.

The Police Vulnerable Sector Check (PVSC) is the mechanism for making the vulnerable sector query. This varies by jurisdiction across Canada. Generally, the PVSC can only be initiated by the organization requesting it. This is usually done by completing a form for the applicant and having the applicant sign a consent for disclosure and then having the applicant submit it with his/her PCRC.

Confused yet? The point is… If your organization is asking for police record checks as part of your risk management program to protect vulnerable clients (children) you absolutely MUST be screening the vulnerable sector databases - and this complicates things tremendously! Call your local police detachment for the details. In the case of protecting children from sexual predators asking for a criminal record check without a vulnerable sector check could be a good argument for negligence!

Other things to be considering when reviewing or establishing a child protection program include:
  • creating a clear policy on what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable when the PCRC/PVSC comes back positive
  • legal and human rights issues created by refusing someone’s application
  • how often are employees/volunteers required to renew the checks
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