A new report from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has put a spotlight on police background checks and how they’re being used in screening applicants. The report states many Canadians have been denied jobs as a result of police records and the CCLA argues “thousands of Canadians are being unfairly and often unwittingly tainted by information contained in police background checks.”

As a result of ‘unclean’ police records, the inability of Canadians to secure employment, find housing and even travel abroad is becoming a larger issue. While you may think that these unfavourable records are only for those convicted of a crime – think again! Canadians who have never even had a brush with the law, may be shocked to learn they have a police record.

According to the CCLA, as more and more, employers, associations and volunteer organizations are using police records to screen applicants, Canadians may have employment denied to them for ‘non-conviction’ records and have no idea the reason for not being hired.

Read the CCLA’s press release and view their full report.

One Canadian’s Personal Experience

Chris (he did not want to reveal his last name) is a 27-year old construction worker and hoped to be a firefighter. He was hired at a small firefighting service in Caledon, Ontario last April. After going through intensive training for months he was asked to provide a ‘vulnerable sector’ police check. While the results of the police check indicated no charges or convictions, there was a letter included naming him in a drug investigation.

Chris had never even been stopped by the police, never mind involved with drugs. He assumed it was a mistake. It turns out Chris’ friend had been convicted on a drug charge and Chris had been out socially with this person on three or four occasions. He was subsequently terminated from the job for a ‘non-clean’ background check. Read the full article on Chris’ story and others whose names have been tarnished by police background checks.

According to the CCLA, examples like this are common. Canadians who did innocent things to warrant attention by the police – had a friend investigated, reported a 911 call, received complaints where charges were never laid, have mental health issues on file, or have records of suicide attempts, could all be red-flagged on a police background check and ultimately shared with a potential employer.

How can you determine what information might appear on your detailed police check?

Option 1: Request a detailed information record check from your local police station.

To view non-conviction records that may appear on your own police check make sure to ask for a vulnerable sector check. Be aware that different police forces may have different records. Simply put, if you have a previous criminal record it will most definitely appear on your police check, however, non-conviction records may or may not appear. That’s why it’s important to find out. There is usually a fee associated with requesting access to this check.

Option 2: Submit an access to information request.

You should be able to view your personal police check using an access to information request. While this option can take a long time, it may be worth pursuing. There may be some information withheld using this option, as police forces may deem information too sensitive for release, or information may include other people’s names, thus infringing on their rights.

For more information on determining whether you have a non-conviction record visit the CCLA’s FAQ page.

As a job seeker, don’t let a police background check sabotage your job search efforts. If you think that this issue may affect you, take the necessary steps to learn more. Good luck!


Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of DirectoryOfCareers.ca. He can be reached at kmakra@sentormedia.com.