During the application process for employment, volunteer positions or academic positions within certain organizations, applicants might find themselves subject to the Police Reference Check Program as a condition of their hiring or acceptance. In Ontario the Police Reference Check Program takes place on three levels. The third and most thorough check is the Police Vulnerable Sector Check – the PVSC — intended to assess the suitability of the applicant for positions within organizations where they would hold a position of trust or authority in relation to vulnerable persons (children under 18, people who are dependent on others because of age, disability or circumstance, or people otherwise at a greater risk than the general population).
PVSC is a search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and other local databases for records made by any police service in Canada, and a release of convictions as well as certain police contact and non-conviction records to the applicant. The applicant then chooses to disclose this information to the organization that has made the request.
In order for an applicant to be considered clear at this level of screening the applicant must have:
- Never been fingerprinted
- Never been arrested
- Never been convicted of a criminal offense
- Never received a non-conviction
- Never received a record suspension (formerly referred to as a pardon) for sexual offenses
- A gender and date of birth not matching with anyone in the Vulnerable Sector data base
- Never been under investigation for a criminal offense
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As stated in the Ontario Guideline for Police Record Checks, PVSC searches for and releases information on file relating to:
- Criminal convictions
- Summary convictions, for five years, when identified
- Findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act within applicable disclosure period
- Outstanding entries such as, charges, warrants, judicial orders, Peace Bonds, probation and prohibition orders
- Absolute and conditional discharges for one or three years respectively
- Potentially non conviction dispositions, including but not limited to withdrawn or dismissed charges
- Not criminally responsible by Reason of Mental Disorder
- All record suspensions as authorized for the release by the Minister of Public Safety
While the police service summarizes and discloses the information, they are not responsible for assessing the information disclosed; it is the responsibility of the requesting agency to comply with the Human Rights Code when making decisions. While an applicant’s PSVC query coming back with information other than clear should not result in an automatic disqualification for consideration for positions, clearly any information revealed beyond that of a clear PSVC will likely negatively impact the applicant’s chances, as would a choice not to disclose.
Are PVSCs a violation of our human rights?
PVSC are an attempt to balance the applicant’s human rights against the safety of the public. Ultimately this attempt is failing as PVSC’s amount to a violation of multiple human rights, both in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Applicants with any information on file – even without any convictions — often face discrimination and are passed over for positions. Multiple assessments of PSVC suggest that the disclosure of these records is serving as a barrier in areas such as employment, volunteer and educational opportunities. Organizations are not equipped to interpret or process PSVC information and therefore adopt the most risk-adverse stance, often resulting in discrimination against anyone who has any information on file.
Hulya Genc studied philosophy at York University and is a certified mediator. She is pursuing a career in law, with the intention of practicing criminal law.