October 24th, 2017 | Sterling

The Criminal Conviction Update Backlog – What is it, What are the Causes and Will it Ever be a Thing of the Past?

We’re fortunate in Canada to have one repository of criminal records that is based on one Criminal Code. Canada’s National Repository is operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as a National Police Service on behalf of all Canadian law enforcement agencies. Since Canada’s single repository includes a robust name index search capability, clients of Sterling Talent Solutions’ Canadian Criminal Record Check are assured of a reliable and efficient service that we provide in partnership with our Canadian Police Agencies.

Clients often ask questions about delays in updating criminal record conviction information. Such delays have existed for many years and is regarded as a chronic issue garnering the attention of the Office of the Auditor General and resulting in two reviews – the first of which took place in 2000. The RCMP’s policy require that background screening companies include a standard disclaimer as part of their name-based process that states that such delays do exist and could cause a criminal record to be incomplete. In addition to reports by the Auditor General of Canada, crown attorneys and judges have also identified this concern through various media reports over several years and continuing today.

The National Post article offers a former insider’s perspective about “the backlog”. As a former Director General responsible for the operations of the National Repository, I think it’s important to help readers understand some of the nuances often omitted in media reports. Beyond the hyperbole that is sometimes featured, there are really three questions that matter:

  • Why do delays occur?
  • What is being done to fix the problem?
  • Will it ever be eliminated completely?

Why Do Delays in Criminal Record Convictions Occur?

The main reason for delays has been too many contributor submissions, all paper-based, and not enough skilled human resources to enter them into what has been a highly manual system. The National Repository (NR) receives approximately 750,000 criminal transactions a year. These are either new criminal records that must be added to the NR or additional convictions and other forms of charge dispositions that need to added to existing criminal records. Further adding to the complexity, .the RCMP was also ensuring that all information received from contributors was translated and available in both official languages. The paperwork processing required that the fingerprints first must be digitized and then certified to the correct criminal record using Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) technology. Only then, was the new information added to the criminal record through a manual data entry process (keyed interface). There have been chronic challenges associated to acquiring, training and retaining the necessary human resources to do this work. The processes, as they have been, simply could not keep up with the volume.

What is Being Done to Fix the Problem?

Thanks to the implementation of the Real Time Identification (RTID) system by the RCMP, virtually every police service, RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Sûreté du Québec (SQ) detachment now submits criminal fingerprints electronically and in real time. Of the previously mentioned 750,000 submissions each year, only approximately 2,000 are now being received as paper. With electronic submission, new criminal records are installed immediately meaning that the police contributor instead of staff at RCMP in Ottawa are responsible for updating conviction information. Since it is also now recognized that the records belong to the contributing agency, they are being added to the National Repository in the language they were received.

The pre-existing paper backlog of criminal record updates has now been shrinking for well over a year. Historical convictions that are on paper have now been digitized and prioritized and are being added to criminal records in order of importance with violent offences receiving priority. I would point out that since the problem had existed for so long, an immediate challenge for all consumers is to become educated on the progress that has been made, and continues to be made, to avoid perpetuation of the belief that this problem is still a chronic one with no solution at hand.

Will the Criminal Records Update Backlog Ever be Eliminated Completely?

The update backlog will be eliminated only insofar as the RCMP’s ability to ensure that everything that police services choose to report is made immediately accessible. Here’s the thing: excepting the reporting of youth convictions there is no law requiring police to report convictions to the National Repository. In fact, the law precludes sending minor convictions (summary convictions) to the RCMP. These two facts are the main reasons why it’s possible to have a criminal conviction without having a criminal record.

What the RCMP is managing on behalf of the criminal justice system and its many clients is truly a repository. It is a place where criminal records are centrally amassed and from which they may be retrieved with the information therein being managed in accordance with federal laws. What can be contributed to the National Repository is defined by the police authority to take fingerprints as found in the Identification of Criminals Act. So, this also means that summary conviction offences are not sent to the NR but are maintained, and will always be maintained, only at the local level.

The takeaways are these: soon, the National Repository will be a real-time reflection of all convictions police services choose to send to the RCMP. But even once this is realized, probably sometime in 2019, locally held convictions will still be just that – available only through a Local Police Information (LPI) search process as can be obtained through Sterling Talent Solutions’ EPIC Service. Should an organization decide that our Canadian Criminal Record Check service meets its needs, they can be assured that our processes are designed to ensure that all available conviction information held in the National Repository is discovered.

Speak with representatives at Sterling about our criminal record checks solution. We will provide you with the information you require to help you decide whether this service is right for your organization. For more information about important components of creating a background screening policy, download our Background Screening Policy Checklist.

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This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.