Today’s Slaw post:
It is becoming more common for businesses and not for profits to require criminal record checks for new employees and volunteers, and to have current employees and volunteers update them every few years. This stems from liability and safety concerns. To avoid, for example, someone who has a violent criminal record from being around children, or someone convicted of fraud handling money.
As this process becomes more common, it has arguably raised the bar for liability standards, thus making it even more common. At least one government provider of grants to the arts sector has stated that it won’t give any money to recipients that do not have a criminal record screening policy. Add to that press reports like this where a shooting suspect had spent some time working in an after-school program two weeks before the incident.
So it seems like a good thing to do, and there is no problem – or is there?
The volumes of checks required have challenged police. The time to get them can be an issue, especially when a vulnerable sector check is required (usually when the person is dealing with children) and there is some similarity in name where the police then require fingerprints to confirm identity.
That leads to complaints such as those occuring here in London where parents wanting to volunteer to help school sports stay alive in case teachers decide to stop extracurriculer work can’t immediately help because they are waiting for criminal record check results. (No doubt those same people would complain if someone with a violent criminal record was coaching their child.)
Yosie Saint-Cyr wrote here on Slaw in July about the BC Privacy commissioner’s concerns that the BC government was going too far by doing checks on too many people, and collecting too much information in violation of privacy laws.
There is also a concern that some police departments are releasing too much information. Only convictions are supposed to be mentioned in the reports. But, as pointed out by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, some include non-conviction information about charges or even innocent contact with police or unfounded accusations.
So is this an issue that is going through growing pains and just needs some better understanding and processes streamlining? Or have we taken this too far and need to reel the whole thing in?