July 10th, 2023 | Sterling

Are You Running the Best Criminal Record Check for your Industry?

Across Canada, criminal record checks are considered the foundation of every thorough background screening program. After all, nothing could be more crucial than identifying criminal convictions that could pose a risk to an employer’s staff, clients, and reputation.

However, obtaining the complete picture of a candidate’s criminal history is more challenging than it appears to be. While a standard criminal record check does provide insight into an candidate’s criminal convictions at the national level, it also leaves out some conviction and non-conviction information that hiring managers could find relevant when determining if someone is a good fit for their workplace.

Let’s examine the types of data employers can uncover using different criminal history checks. Once we have a better understanding of the value that hiring managers can derive from upgrading their screening program from a standard Canadian Criminal Record Check to a Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Check, also known as the Enhanced Police Information Check or E-PIC, you can then ensure to choose the best one for your organization.

What are the differences between the Canadian Criminal Record Check and the Enhanced Police Information Check?

The Canadian criminal record check is a name-based search which will report any adult convictions for which a record suspension (formerly termed “pardon”) has not been granted within the RCMP National Repository of Criminal Records. Due to RCMP policy, the specific details of each conviction can only be released upon the submission of fingerprints. However, if the candidate willingly declares their own criminal record as part of the background screening process, the police agency completing the search can confirm whether their declaration is accurate.

How does this work in practice? Let’s assume that a candidate was convicted of aggravated assault in Windsor during August 2012. While filling out the data collection form, the candidate would be prompted to declare their convictions. If the candidate does not provide a declaration, the Canadian Criminal Record Check will have a “Not Clear” result, indicating the existence of a criminal record. However, no specific details would be provided. The search relies on an accurate declaration of the conviction by the candidate. A candidate who no longer remembers the details of their criminal record or is not willing to declare them would need to pass a fingerprinting check in order to obtain a detailed report.

It is a common misconception that a standard Canadian criminal record check will disclose all criminal convictions. In reality, these checks only provide insight into a very specific category of criminal convictions: namely, adult convictions for which an candidate had to provide fingerprints. In Canada, the Identification of Criminals Act (ICA) defines the circumstances under which the police may take someone’s fingerprints. The law makes a distinction between indictable convictions (which include offences like theft over $5000, aggravated assault, and murder) and summary convictions (relatively minor offences like public indecency or creating a disturbance).

Also, many of the offences in the Criminal Code of Canada are termed as hybrid offences. Examples include fraud, impaired driving, and lower levels of assault. These are treated as indictable offences pursuant to the ICA unless the Crown has elected to proceed summarily before fingerprinting occurs – in which case, the authority to take fingerprints is lost. In that situation, a criminal conviction may be obtained by the courts and won’t be reflected in the National Repository. This is when the Judicial Matters/Local Police Information dimension of an Enhanced Police Information Check fills in those gaps.

Importantly, an Enhanced Police Information Check can uncover additional non-conviction data that hiring managers may find relevant, such as pending charges, peace bonds, warrants, prohibitions, release conditions, and active probation orders. It is worth noting that this check, when completed by third parties, will only flag the presence of additional convictions and other potentially relevant data in the police databases, in compliance with applicable privacy laws. Hiring managers will need to refer any applicant whose search resulted in a hit to the police station in order to obtain a police disclosure product, which will conform with applicable local police regulations and/or legislation that determines whether the information is deemed relevant.

Providing Peace of Mind – Know Who You’re Hiring

While acknowledging the importance of obtaining a full picture of their candidates, some HR professionals might be inclined to question the value of completing a Local Police Information search through third-party providers. After all, since candidates with potentially relevant entries in the police records still have to go to the police station in order to obtain a detailed report, why not skip the middleman and send everyone directly to the police station?

This argument has one major flaw: it overstates the frequency of finding a hit in the police databases. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the Local Police Information search will result in a “Clear” finding, meaning that no potentially relevant information was identified. According to Sterling Backcheck’s reporting, fewer than 3% of the Enhanced Police Information Checks conducted in 2022 resulted in a “Defer” finding, meaning that the candidates had to go to the local police for further information. In over 97% of cases, hiring managers and HR professionals therefore have the assurance that no potentially relevant police information was found, while sparing candidates an unnecessary trip to the police station. They also receive secure, tamper-proof results as opposed to a front counter paper “no record” product that can be altered and which, to be reliable, must first be verified with the issuing authority.

Hiring the right people is crucial to promote your organization’s values and to build a culture of trust and safety. Uncover a complete picture of your candidates’ and employees’ criminal history with the help of Sterling Backcheck’s suite of enhanced criminal screening products. Contact our experts to learn more.

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.