Types of Criminal Record Checks, New Protections for Ontario Residents

Disclaimer: This page is written for information purposes only it is not intended to constitute legal advice.

As a job seeker or hopeful volunteer, you may be required to provide some sort a criminal record check. It is important that you understand and be informed about the types of record check you may be asked to provide so that you can understand the difference and be aware of what type of information the record check may contain.

The Police Record Checks Reform Act (PRCRA) governs the types of information that can be released by police services performing criminal record checks in Ontario, for the purposes of obtaining employment, volunteer placement, membership on a board, etc. The types of record checks are, from least to most revelatory; a Criminal Record Check, a Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Check and a Vulnerable Sector Check .

It should of course be noted that criminal records are primarily maintained federally by the RCMP, but record checks are performed by local police forces accessing RCMP and local databases . The PRCRA deals with what information can be divulged by police forces in Ontario. There are some notable exceptions in the Act pertaining to records searches required for certain family law applications, for firearms license applications, etc. but employment based records checks are covered by the new rules.

The most common and least onerous record check required is a criminal record check. This will only reveal convictions for which there has not been a pardon or record suspension granted. Notably Summary Convictions will not be revealed if 5 years have elapsed. Offences where a conditional discharge or absolute discharge was granted will also not be revealed by this type of search, nor will outstanding charges where there has not been a conviction .

The second type of record check is a Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Check. This type of record check reveals all of the information contained in a Criminal Record Check plus absolute discharges if 1 year has not elapsed, conditional discharges if 3 years have not elapsed, pending charges, active judicial orders (such as peace bonds, probation, warrants, etc.). However it cannot include family law related court orders, Mental Health Act orders, or convictions where a pardon or record suspension has been granted .

The final and most onerous type of Criminal Record Check is a Vulnerable Sector Check. A vulnerable sector check is a type of record check meant to protect vulnerable persons. It can be required if you are working with children, disabled persons, elderly or otherwise dependent people . The most common type of work requiring this type of record check are those employed in healthcare, but certain volunteer positions may also require this clearance (ie: children’s sporting coach).

Vulnerable Sector Checks reveal, all of the information contained in a Criminal Record and Judicial Matters check plus not criminally responsible verdicts (a finding that by reason of mental illness a person was not responsible for the crimes they committed) unless 5 years have passed, plus “Any non-conviction information authorized for exceptional disclosure in accordance with section 10” . Section 10 of the act, is the basis for releasing non-conviction information in vulnerable sector checks, s. 10(2) reads as follows;

(2) Non-conviction information about the individual is not authorized for exceptional disclosure unless the information satisfies all of the following criteria:
1. The criminal charge to which the information relates is for an offence specified in the regulations made under subsection 22 (2) (c).
2. The alleged victim was a child or a vulnerable person.
3. After reviewing entries in respect of the individual, the police record check provider has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has been engaged in a pattern of predation indicating that the individual presents a risk of harm to a child or a vulnerable person, having regard to the following:
i. Whether the individual appears to have targeted a child or a vulnerable person.
ii. Whether the individual’s behaviour was repeated and was directed to more than one child or vulnerable person.
iii. When the incident or behaviour occurred.
iv. The number of incidents.
v. The reason the incident or behaviour did not lead to a conviction.
vi. Any other prescribed considerations.

To explain, there may be situations where a vulnerable sector police check will reveal non- conviction interactions with the justice system. The non-conviction information must have related to a child or vulnerable person, and there must have been a pattern of predation. In other words the simple fact of being charged without a conviction (ie: the charge/charges were withdrawn or there is an acquittal), can be included in the vulnerable sector check. Thankfully this means a withdrawn theft under charge for shoplifting won’t effect your chances of securing certain employment, but it could leave some people not convicted beyond a reasonable doubt unable to obtain certain types of employment. Logically if the goal of this type of record check is to protect vulnerable members of the public one can see the reasoning behind allowing the police this type of discretion, however it may leave some innocent people stigmatized without the benefit of our justice system’s high bar of “beyond a reasonable doubt”.


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