Police record checks are often used as part of the screening process for various purposes, including but not limited to employment, volunteering, education, professional licensing, rental housing, insurance, adoption, child custody and foster care.
There is currently no comprehensive provincial legislative framework governing how police record checks are conducted in Ontario. Practices and policies differ among jurisdictions about the types of police record checks offered, the range of information disclosed, how and to whom the information is disclosed, and the process for individuals to request reconsideration of information included in his/her record check results.
If passed, the Police Record Checks Reform Act, 2015, will mean that, for the first time, Ontario will have a comprehensive legislative framework for how police record checks are conducted.
Provincewide standards and rules
All people and groups involved in the process of conducting police record checks in Ontario, unless otherwise exempted, would be required to abide by the provisions of the legislation. This includes the Ontario Provincial Police, municipal and First Nation police services, government-authorized entities responsible for conducting record searches, and third-party vendors involved in the intake of requests and disclosure of results.
Ontario is proposing three types of police record checks. The checks would include the following information:
Criminal Record Check: Criminal convictions and findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Check: Criminal Record Check plus outstanding charges, arrest warrants, certain judicial orders, absolute discharges, conditional discharges, other records as authorized by the Criminal Records Act.
Vulnerable Sector Check: Criminal record and Judicial Matters Check plus findings of Not Criminally Responsible due to mental disorder, record suspensions (pardons) related to sexually-based offences, and non-conviction information related to the predation of a child or other vulnerable person (i.e., charges that were withdrawn, dismissed or stayed, or that resulted in acquittals).
Vulnerable person means a person who, because of age, disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, is (a) in a position of dependence on others; or (b) are otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of authority or trust relative to them.
A Vulnerable Sector Check is performed in cases where an individual would be in an employment or volunteer position of trust or authority over children or other vulnerable persons.
Rules for how police records would be released
The person to whom a record relates would have to provide consent for a police record check to be conducted, and would have to consent to the disclosure of the record check results to a third party.
A person could only consent to his/her record check results being released to a third party after he/she has reviewed the results.
A test for non-conviction information
Where the release of non-conviction information may be permitted as part of a Vulnerable Sector Check, police services would be required to perform an assessment based on set criteria to determine if the information should be disclosed
Non-conviction information would not be disclosed except in the following circumstances: The information relates to an offence authorized for disclosure under the Act
- The victim was a child or other vulnerable person
- There are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has been engaged in a pattern of predation that presents a risk of harm to a child or other vulnerable person
Protection of non-criminal information and privacy
Non-criminal information, mental health information and local police contact information would not be disclosed through any of the three proposed police record checks. This includes information related to a person who was a victim or witness of a crime, or who had non-criminal contact with police during a mental health crisis.
If an individual believes that unjustified non-conviction information is included in the record check results, he/she would be able to request reconsideration of the inclusion of that information.
Police services would be required to have a reconsideration process in place in accordance with regulations.
Expanding on the Law Enforcement and Records Managers Network Guideline released by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
Released by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police in 2014, the Law Enforcement And Records Managers Network Guideline sets voluntary standards and best practices for police services who conduct police record checks.
The LEARN Guideline was developed in consultation with a variety of key stakeholders, including the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ontario Human Rights Commission, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and John Howard Society of Ontario.
Does not impact on other screening practices
The proposed legislative framework is specific to police record checks.
Police record checks are just one tool that organizations may rely on to screen prospective employees or volunteers.
The legislation, if passed, would not impact or hinder other screening practices, such as personal reference checks, credit checks, performance reviews, client feedback or other assessments.
Due to the unique situations in which they are used, certain legislated processes will be exempt from the legislation, including police checks for non-parental custody applications (under the Children’s Law Reform Act), jury selection (under the Juries Act), representation of a child by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, legal name change applications (under the Change of Name Act), and administration of the Firearms Act. In addition, the act would not apply to law enforcement investigations and proceedings.
Disclosure of the following records would be subject to prescribed time limits: Summary convictions: five years only
- Findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act: in accordance with the legislated timeframes set out in the Youth Criminal Justice Act
- Findings of Not Criminally Responsible due to mental disorder: five years only
- Findings of guilt leading to absolute discharge: one year only
- Finding of guilt leading to conditional discharge: three years only
June 3, 2015 – Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services