Vulnerable Sector Checks

Discover the facts about the vulnerable sector verifications.

A Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC) or Vulnerable Sector Verification (VSV) may ONLY be requested for a person who wishes to take a volunteer or paid position working with children, the elderly, the disabled, or another vulnerable group. The position should be one of direct care, authority, or trust, and generally in an unsupervised (or limited supervision) setting. Should this type of check be requested and your position does NOT meet these requirements, part of your check may NOT be completed.

If you do not require a Vulnerable Sector Check, click here to learn more about the Criminal Record Check option.

What is a VSC?

A VSC is a three-part check designed for people who volunteer, or work in position of trust or authority over children or other vulnerable group. It comprises:

A Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC) is distinguished by the Vulnerable Sector Query (VSQ). Apart from that, it is a Criminal Record Check and a search of Local Police Information.

Understanding what a VSQ entails is central to determining whether a Vulnerable Sector Check is necessary.

The Vulnerable Sector Query

A VSQ can only be initiated by a Police Service. This restriction is prescribed within the Criminal Records Act.

A Vulnerable Sector Query is an option that is selected when a Criminal Record Check is conducted by police using CPIC.1 The purpose of the VSQ is to initiate a process that may result in the potential disclosure of specific sealed conviction(s) as listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Criminal Records Act.

Sealed Convictions that a VSQ Can Identify

The convictions that are relevant for a VSQ are listed in two schedules of the Criminal Records Act:

These consist of (60) offences that are current or historical. A conviction is sealed when an individual applies to the Parole Board of Canada and receives a record suspension (formerly referred to as a pardon). Disclosure of sealed convictions is subject to Ministerial approval and occurs in less than 0.005% of all VSQs initiated annually2.

Sealed Convictions and Schedule 1 Offences

The convictions listed in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act are, since the March 13, 2012 amendments to the Act, ineligible for the granting of a record suspension3.

Sealed Convictions and Schedule 2 Offences

It remains possible that an individual may obtain a record suspension for certain Schedule 2 offences.  This is because Schedule 2 is not subject to the blanket ineligibility that has been imposed for Schedule 1. Accordingly, it is useful to understand what Schedule 2 entails:

There are 27 Schedule 2 offences. Of these, 13 are duplicated in Schedule 1 making them ineligible. Of the remainder, 11 are ineligible when a child is involved and 3 remain eligible because the nature of the offences is not normally relevant to the vulnerable sector

The March 13, 2012 amendments to the Criminal Records Act — Pardon Recipients and Record Suspension Recipients

The March 13, 2012, amendments to the Criminal Records Act have demarcated individuals in the “Pardoned Sex Offender Data Base” into two cohorts:

  • Pardon Recipients (PR) — This cohort has been end-dated by the 2012 amendments. PRs share the following characteristics:
    • PRs were born before February 28, 1986 (ages 34 and older)4
    • PRs may have pardons for schedule 1 and/or Schedule 2 convictions that could be disclosed as a result of a VSQ
  • Record Suspension Recipients (RSR)
    • RSRs can be any age5
    • Currently, the youngest RSR was born August 20, 19906
    • RSRs that have Schedule 1 record suspensions, obtained them on an exception basis that would not subsequently support disclosure as a result of a VSQ.
    • RSRs may have Schedule 2 convictions that could be disclosed as a result of a VSQ

The Outcome of a VSQ: A Possible Disclosure of Sealed Convictions:

When a sealed scheduled conviction is discovered by a VSQ, the decision whether to ultimately disclose it is a ministerial function. Regulations to the Criminal Records Act define the criteria the Minister must apply when approving a disclosure.7


Organizations are challenged to weigh the benefit that might accrue from obtaining an eventual disclosure versus the intractability of a requirement that can only be met by sending applicants to a police front counter.

These facts are established:

  • The disclosure rate is less than 005% of annual VSQ’s that are initiated — and it is declining.
  • PRs can have record suspensions for convictions that may be disclosed and may be relevant.
  • PRs comprise a decreasing presence in applicant pools.
  • RSRs are virtually absent in disclosure numbers. This is because scheduled convictions that have been sealed are not subsequently meeting the criteria for ministerial disclosure prescribed by the regulation.

The VSQ and Screening for Positions in the Vulnerable Sector – Sterling Backcheck’s Advice:

The analysis, supported by ATIR responses obtained from the Parole Board of Canada and the RCMP, provides the basis for our recommended approach to addressing VSQ requirements that organizations may face.

PRs: Are persons born before February 28, 1986 who could have sealed convictions for Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 offences subject to a pardon obtained before March 13, 2012.

A (negative) VSQ result obtained previously for positions consistent with the subject position will establish a baseline that organizations can use on a “go-forward basis” to employ either an EPIC or local Police Information Check (PIC) process.

RSRs: Are persons who have obtained a record suspension for a scheduled conviction after March 13, 2012.

  • Rare instances of Schedule 1 convictions will not meet criteria for disclosure
  • Schedule 2 convictions do not involve children and are not meeting criteria for ministerial disclosure

A VSQ has demonstrably negligible value where RSRs are concerned. A prudent approach to managing a VSQ requirement should focus on PRs. Once a clear VSQ result is documented, the “go forward” approach for PRs can be aligned with our recommended approach for RSRs: a comprehensive Police Information Check.

Still have questions?  Contact us

Ready to explore Criminal Record Check and other services? 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.


[1] The VS query option is disabled in the mandatory CPIC query channels the RCMP assigns to police agencies for conducting CPIC checks on behalf of third-party companies. If a third-party company indicates it can provide a Vulnerable Sector Check service, the claim should be scrutinized.

[2] Access to Information Requests have established that of the over 2 million Vulnerable Sector Queries initiated by police services each year, less than 0.005% result in a positive match as confirmed by fingerprints. A subset of this percentage constitutes the number of eventual disclosures that the Minister approves.

[3] The number of record suspensions granted for Schedule 1 convictions has been curtailed since March 13, 2012.  This is because the likelihood that such offences would not include of one or more of the ineligibility criteria is negligible. In the event the circumstances of a Schedule 1 conviction were such that a record suspension is granted, it will not subsequently meet regulatory criteria for disclosure.

[4] A series of ATIRs over successive years after March 13, 2012 established that the youngest person to receive a pardon for a Scheduled offence was born February 28, 1986.

[5] Note that the earliest one can apply for a record suspension (summary conviction) is five years after the completion of all sentences, fines, and probation; and that record suspension application processing takes at least 18 months, the youngest a record suspension recipient could possibly be is 25 years old.

[6] 2020 response received to an Access to Information Request regarding the youngest RSR



See All Resources

Beyond the Criminal Records Check – Defining the background screening program

Our team recently offered their expertise on the subject and recommendations for the organizations on putting together a proper background screening program. The webinar is now on demand.

Background Screening Compliance in Canada: How Sterling Backcheck Supports Your Organization

Screen Now, Save Later

Sterling Backcheck, a Background Screening Leader, Expands Canadian Identity Verification Offerings with New Solution

Featured Services

Get Started

Want to talk background checks or brainstorm about hiring solutions? Need us to just listen? Whatever the reason, we are here to help.

General Inquiries


866 881 2011

Client Services

Sterling Backcheck

866 455 7293


888 889 5248
+1 646 829 3382

Corporate Address

Suite 200 – 19433 96th Ave.
Surrey, BC, V4N 4C4