Police Record Checks In Ontario

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Police Record Checks In Ontario

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:36 am

June 3, 2015 10:10 A.M.

Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Police record checks are often used as part of the screening process for various purposes, including but not limited to employment, volunteering, education, professional licensing, rental housing, insurance, adoption, child custody and foster care.

There is currently no comprehensive provincial legislative framework governing how police record checks are conducted in Ontario. Practices and policies differ among jurisdictions about the types of police record checks offered, the range of information disclosed, how and to whom the information is disclosed, and the process for individuals to request reconsideration of information included in his/her record check results.

If passed, the Police Record Checks Reform Act, 2015, will mean that, for the first time, Ontario will have a comprehensive legislative framework for how police record checks are conducted.

Province wide standards and rules

All people and groups involved in the process of conducting police record checks in Ontario, unless otherwise exempted, would be required to abide by the provisions of the legislation. This includes the Ontario Provincial Police, municipal and First Nation police services, government-authorized entities responsible for conducting record searches, and third-party vendors involved in the intake of requests and disclosure of results.

Ontario is proposing three types of police record checks. The checks would include the following information:

Criminal Record Check: Criminal convictions and findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Check: Criminal Record Check plus outstanding charges, arrest warrants, certain judicial orders, absolute discharges, conditional discharges, other records as authorized by the Criminal Records Act.

Vulnerable Sector Check: Criminal record and Judicial Matters Check plus findings of Not Criminally Responsible due to mental disorder, record suspensions (pardons) related to sexually-based offences, and non-conviction information related to the predation of a child or other vulnerable person (i.e., charges that were withdrawn, dismissed or stayed, or that resulted in acquittals).

Vulnerable person means a person who, because of age, disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, is (a) in a position of dependence on others; or (b) are otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of authority or trust relative to them.

A Vulnerable Sector Check is performed in cases where an individual would be in an employment or volunteer position of trust or authority over children or other vulnerable persons.

Rules for how police records would be released

The person to whom a record relates would have to provide consent for a police record check to be conducted, and would have to consent to the disclosure of the record check results to a third party.

A person could only consent to his/her record check results being released to a third party after he/she has reviewed the results.

A test for non-conviction information

Where the release of non-conviction information may be permitted as part of a Vulnerable Sector Check, police services would be required to perform an assessment based on set criteria to determine if the information should be disclosed

Non-conviction information would not be disclosed except in the following circumstances:The information relates to an offence authorized for disclosure under the Act

The victim was a child or other vulnerable person

There are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has been engaged in a pattern of predation that presents a risk of harm to a child or other vulnerable person

Protection of non-criminal information and privacy

Non-criminal information, mental health information and local police contact information would not be disclosed through any of the three proposed police record checks. This includes information related to a person who was a victim or witness of a crime, or who had non-criminal contact with police during a mental health crisis.

Reconsideration process

If an individual believes that unjustified non-conviction information is included in the record check results, he/she would be able to request reconsideration of the inclusion of that information.

Police services would be required to have a reconsideration process in place in accordance with regulations.

Expanding on the Law Enforcement and Records Managers Network Guideline released by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police

Released by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police in 2014, the Law Enforcement And Records Managers Network Guideline sets voluntary standards and best practices for police services who conduct police record checks.

The LEARN Guideline was developed in consultation with a variety of key stakeholders, including the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ontario Human Rights Commission, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and John Howard Society of Ontario.

Does not impact on other screening practices

The proposed legislative framework is specific to police record checks.

Police record checks are just one tool that organizations may rely on to screen prospective employees or volunteers.

The legislation, if passed, would not impact or hinder other screening practices, such as personal reference checks, credit checks, performance reviews, client feedback or other assessments.

Exemptions

Due to the unique situations in which they are used, certain legislated processes will be exempt from the legislation, including police checks for non-parental custody applications (under the Children's Law Reform Act), jury selection (under the Juries Act), representation of a child by the Office of the Children's Lawyer, legal name change applications (under the Change of Name Act), and administration of the Firearms Act. In addition, the act would not apply to law enforcement investigations and proceedings.

Time Limits

Disclosure of the following records would be subject to prescribed time limits:

    Summary convictions: five years only
    Findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act: in accordance with the legislated time frames set out in the Youth Criminal Justice Act
    Findings of Not Criminally Responsible due to mental disorder: five years only
    Findings of guilt leading to absolute discharge: one year only
    Finding of guilt leading to conditional discharge: three years only

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Re: Police Record Checks In Ontario

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:45 am

JOHN HOWARD SOCIETY OF ONTARIO WELCOMES NEW PROVINCIAL POLICE RECORD CHECK LEGISLATION

TORONTO - For over a decade, the John Howard Society of Ontario (JHSO) has been raising concerns about the disclosure of non-conviction information on police record checks.

Routinely, through police record checks, police have disclosed information about non-criminal and non-conviction interactions with Ontarians. Though most don’t realize it, simply calling 9-1-1 for help during a mental health crisis can trigger a police report. So too can being stopped and questioned about a robbery in your neighbourhood. Revealing these non-criminal interactions through requested police record checks has had devastating consequences.

“The disclosure of non-conviction information is not an innocent practice. It strikes at the heart of our cherished legal presumption of innocence. It has also destroyed the hopes of countless people for jobs, housing, volunteering and education” states Jacqueline Tasca, Policy Analyst at the Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development at JHSO. “We have researched and documented the harm this practice has inflicted on Ontarians, many of whom are vulnerable and voiceless. As a result, we called for legislation.”

The introduction of legislation to regulate police record checks and the disclosure of non-conviction information in Ontario is welcome: “Today’s legislation is so important. Thousands of Ontarians have non-conviction records and don’t even know it. Nor would they until it is far too late. We applaud and wholeheartedly support the government’s initiative” says Tasca. “Though today is but the first step in the legislative process, it signals a tremendous step forward for all Ontarians, who have or could face discrimination, stigmatization and exclusion arising from the release of non-conviction records.”

The legislation tabled by the provincial government today is the culmination of years of research, collaboration, advocacy and leadership among policing, community-based and governmental parties. In particular, JHSO acknowledges the leadership and vision of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police who collaboratively developed the best practice Guideline upon which the legislation is based.

In JHSO’s recently released report entitled, Help Wanted*: Reducing Barriers for Ontario’s Youth with Police Records, the hiring practices of a sample of Ontario employers were examined.

Among our findings:

• 51% of the organizations surveyed require police background checks of prospective employees.
• 15% of employers who require record checks reported that they will not hire anyone with a police record regardless of the nature of record, how much time has passed since it was acquired, or its relevance to the job position.

As the demand for police record checks escalates across sectors, a growing number of Ontarians with non-conviction police records face undue exclusion and discrimination. There is no evidence to suggest a link between past non-conviction records and future (criminal) behaviour. What does demonstrably improve community safety is employment and positive community engagement. Excluding a huge proportion of Ontarians from pro-social engagement is, therefore, counterproductive to building healthy and safe communities.

To read John Howard Society of Ontario’s past research and reports on police record checks, please visit http://www.johnhoward.on.ca

The Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development at the John Howard Society of Ontario engages in non-partisan research, policy analysis, public education and program evaluation in the social and criminal justice sector.

For more information, please contact:

Jacqueline Tasca
Policy Analyst
Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development
John Howard Society of Ontario
(416) 408-4282 ext. 229
jtasca@johnhoward.on.ca

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Liberals finally set to curb overuse of police information

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:02 am

Queen’s Park is finally clamping down on what can be disclosed in police background checks to protect innocent Ontarians in the wake of a Star investigation.

Queen’s Park is finally clamping down on what can be disclosed in police background checks to protect innocent Ontarians in the wake of a Star investigation.

Six months after promising legislative action, Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi will unveil new reforms Wednesday that the Liberals hope will balance safety and security with the protection of privacy.

During the June 2014 provincial election, the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and New Democrats agreed new measures were needed to protect innocent Ontarians from police checks containing unproven allegations and mental health incidents.

A Star probe last year revealed the widespread damage caused to Ontario residents by the routine release of old police information.

The “Presumed Guilty” series found millions of innocent Canadians with no criminal records are having their professional and personal lives affected by data that lingers on police computers.


Such information is routinely disclosed by police to employers, volunteer organizations, academic institutions and even U.S. government officials.

People had careers end, their job prospects undermined, or their studies disrupted by the disclosure of the so-called “non-conviction records.”

Some information in Canada’s criminal records database has been used by American border officials to restrict the travel of Canadians stateside.

The Star found that mental health phone calls to 911 emergency services have popped up in police checks of people crossing the border or seeking jobs at hospitals and daycares.

Currently, police departments have a free hand at releasing non-conviction information from their databases.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society estimate that as many as four million of Ontario’s 13 million residents may have such records stored on police computers.

Last July, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police introduced guidelines urging police forces to voluntarily stop disclosing withdrawn charges, unproven allegations, and 911 mental health calls in background checks done for employers, volunteer groups and U.S. border officials.

Despite that edict, the Toronto Police Service continues to release such information for those applying for jobs in hospitals or daycares.

Among the examples of those affected by the data being used:

    - An Ottawa man never charged or convicted of a crime who lost a promising career with Air Canada because police noted he met for pizza with another man under surveillance.

    - A B.C. man who was excluded for a job because of unproven allegations of sexual assault by his former foster daughter that never led to a charge or conviction. She made similar accusations against three other men that never were proven.

    - A Welland, Ont., woman who says she has been unemployable since a police charge was laid in 1985 to ensure that she testify against her then-husband. She has spent nearly 30 years working at minimum wage because of a charge that never led to a conviction.

    - A Toronto social worker who has remained unemployed since getting her master’s degree due to an old police charge stemming from a dispute with her daughter. While she was never convicted, she has been unable to have the record removed.

    - A Toronto man whose aviation business has been undermined by his inability to travel stateside due to a police charge from his high school days that was never proven.

    - A Sudbury man who was stopped by police while driving for reaching back to quiet his over-active son with a tap in the leg. The “record,” which never led to a charge or conviction, now prevents the man from volunteering with the Children’s Aid Society or coaching his son in sports.

Most people do not know they have non-conviction records until they apply for the mandatory police check required for work with vulnerable persons, to coach a hockey team or even, apparently, walk dogs.

Still others learn of their “records” from U.S. border officials as they try to travel south.

The number of potentially vulnerable Canadians is increasing as demands for police checks become routine.

In Toronto, for example, there were 110,000 such checks last year — a 92 per cent increase in five years.

The rise for police records began in 2001 when the Ontario government decreed all teachers and other school employees must undergo such checks.

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Canadians stunned to learn they have police records

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:21 am

Canadians stunned to learn they have police records, despite never being found guilty

Chris

The 27-year-old construction worker hoped that firefighting was a calling he would one day turn into a profession.

He was overjoyed when he earned a part-time spot at his hometown firefighting service in Caledon last April. After training for months on weekends and occasional week nights, Chris (who asked that we not publish his last name) was asked to provide a “vulnerable sector” police check in August.

The results left him stunned.

While the check itself indicated no charges or convictions, there was a letter attached.

“It said I was named in a drug investigation,” he says. “I asked them what was going on because I had no idea. I’d never been talked to by police, pulled over or brought into a police station.”

It turns out a friend had been convicted on drug charges after being investigated by an undercover police officer. Chris had been out socially with his pal on three or four occasions when the undercover officer was with him.

“For me to be investigated, I understand, but to go on my record when I was hanging out with a group of people? My friend sold drugs. He’s an idiot. But I shouldn’t get penalized for what he did.”

He says he was never questioned so he had no idea there was a mark on his police record.

“I thought you had to be at least questioned before you got a record. I was just hanging out (with my friend) while he was investigated.”

A few days later, he received a couriered letter from the town saying he was terminated from the fire service due to a “non-clean” background check.

Unless the law changes, firefighting is no longer a career possibility for Chris anywhere in Canada.

Living in a small town, the stigma lingers, he says.

“It’s embarrassing. I run into people all the time and they think I’m a drug dealer. Everyone knows you got kicked off in a small town.”


Mark de Pelham

Mark de Pelham, a 34-year-old Torontonian who has twice run for a seat in federal parliament, says he lost two jobs in 2008 as a result of drug-related charges for which he was never convicted.

Afterward, he took allegations of discrimination — based on his “record of offences” — to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal dismissed his complaint in 2009, ruling that the Human Rights Code protects Ontarians with “record of offences” from discrimination if they were convicted of an offence. It does not, the tribunal ruled, extend that protection to those who have been charged but not convicted.

De Pelham calls that “absurd.”

“Someone convicted beyond a reasonable doubt and later pardoned is protected and I’m not,” he says.

Things went swiftly downhill.

“I became fixated on the decision. It really precipitated an extended period of alcohol and drug use. It was rock bottom,” he says. “If nobody else is going to hire you, you’re going to be angry at society and you’re not going to care.”

Last year, he pleaded guilty to possession of an unauthorized firearm and was sentenced to six months in jail. He served two months before being released on parole.
Now, he is challenging the constitutionality of the province’s Human Rights Code in a civil action against the Attorney General of Ontario.


Stacey

Like most Canadians, Stacey (who asked that her last name not be published) never imagined that calls to 911 would show up on her police record. The Coquitlam, B.C., resident says “squabbles” with her sister and mother beginning in 2005 triggered four calls to 911.

She thought nothing of them until she applied for a volunteer dog-walking position in 2010. The facility asked for a background check.

While no criminal convictions appeared, the 911 calls did.

She was turned down. She says she has been stopped at the U.S. border several times and turned back. She suspects this is a result of the same records.

“They make you wait five hours in the office then they deny me access. It depends on who is at the border that day. If they pull me in, they always deny me.”

She has asked police to have the records expunged on the basis that they amount to health records and contain no criminal convictions.

“They replied by saying, ‘You do not have a record,’ and not to worry about it. Yet it has left me frozen and uncertain of what lay ahead,” she says. “It is preventing me from proper employment and re-entering society.”


Catherine

When Catherine (whose name and location is being withheld at her request) was studying nursing at an Ontario university two years ago, she was cracking the dean’s list and proving a natural at her chosen profession.

As part of the program, she underwent detailed police checks annually — all without incident.

Until 2012.

That year, a change in the police disclosure policy produced two incidents dating back to 2009 involving alleged “violent and aggressive” behaviour noted by police.

Both stemmed from mental health incidents she suffered following the end of a relationship, she and her parents say.

In both cases, after having too much to drink, she said she wanted to end her life. Neither incident was remotely “violent” nor “aggressive,” they say.

“I’d been going through a rough time when that had happened and I was just getting over it,” says the 25 year old. “I was just starting to make something of my life and contribute to society and they threw that at me. And I couldn’t even defend myself because it wasn’t a charge where I could have my say. It was an encounter and it was completely one sided. I was shocked.”

Asked why the information was suddenly being released, police officials told her they had changed their disclosure policy to include mental health issues.

“She was never charged with anything, but it could stick with her for the rest of her life,” says her father, who hired a lawyer to help clear her record.

The most vexing part, they say, is that if the police check had been conducted by a different force in another city, that same information would likely not have been included because of vast differences in policies from force to force, says her mother.

“It’s like a police state. It depends on where you are. You just don’t know if something is going to come up. You don’t know if you should call 911 because it could end up on their police check.”

The local police agreed to remove the mental health records following an appeal by the family’s lawyers, but said the decision could be changed at any time.
Catherine is now working as a nurse in Ontario.

“Most jobs require you to get an updated vulnerable-sector check every few years so it puts you in a position where you’re not really secure,” she says. “In my opinion, a vulnerable sector is looking for someone who is going to take advantage of vulnerable people and none of what I did would classify as someone who would do that.”


Ali

It was 2011 when Ali, then a 27-year-old Ottawa resident applying for airport security clearance, learned he had a police record that would end a promising career.

While he had never been charged or even sat in a police cruiser, he says the police backgrounder contained records of him being watched by police years earlier in the social-housing neighbourhood where he grew up.

“One time they said my motorcycle was parked outside a pizza shop. Another motorcycle there was registered to a convicted drug dealer,” he says. “Another time they said I was a passenger in a car with two persons of interest to the Ottawa police gang unit.”

Ali says he’s never been involved with drugs, has no charges or convictions and has had no direct contact with police.

“I grew up with these people since I was 9 years old. I don’t know whose doing what. I’ve lived my life, paid my taxes. And then they try to implicate me.”

He says he was forced to quit his job with Air Canada because of his failure to get airport security clearance. He now works in the Alberta oil patch. But the records continue to haunt him in his pursuit of other jobs and crossing the border to the U.S.

“Last year I was stopped,” he recalls. “It was surprising to hear the (U.S. border) officer say to me, ‘Stay away from drug dealers and gang members.’”

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No charges, no trial, but presumed guilty

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:43 am

A Star investigation shows that police allegations that were never proven or even tested in court still have power to ruin lives.

It was to be Gordon Sinclair’s last chance.

At 46, after decades of getting by on contracts in the animation industry and then working long hours as a chef, he decided to pursue a career that matched his abilities to his passion. He enrolled in George Brown College to become a nurse.

“I was excited,” says Sinclair, now 50. “I wanted to go to Africa and work with Doctors Without Borders. Those plans have all been ruined.”

In 2011, with thousands of dollars spend on tuition and two semesters on the Dean’s Honour List, Sinclair was forced out of the program when charges from 20 years before showed up on a mandatory police check.

The charges — he had been rounded up in a raid on the comic book store where he worked — were never proven and were dismissed by a judge. By any measure, Gordon Sinclair was and is innocent.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians — perhaps millions — are vulnerable to seeing their ambitions crushed, reputations ruined and livelihoods shattered because of a lack of legislation across Canada to dictate what information police can or cannot release, a Star investigation has found.

The situation has become critical, as more and more employers, volunteer groups, licensing bodies, governments and universities are requiring police checks that frequently disclose so-called non-conviction records — everything from simple contacts with police and 911 mental health calls to charges that were dropped, withdrawn or led to not-guilty verdicts due to lack of evidence.

Detailed interviews with nearly a dozen Canadians with such records include an Ottawa man who lost a career with Air Canada — even though he was never charged or convicted of any crime — because police years earlier took note of him with a suspected drug dealer in the low income neighbourhood where he grew up.

A B.C. woman’s 911 calls during family arguments were noted on her police record and now prevent her from volunteer and professional work and trigger problems when crossing the U.S. border.

A Caledon man has abandoned his dream of being a firefighter after he was removed from a trainee position because his police check detailed a childhood friendship with a suspected drug dealer, even though he himself had no contact with police.

All three were unaware they had police records until they were required to provide background checks to prospective employers.

“This is an issue that should greatly concern all Ontarians, since it really could happen to anyone,” says Jacqueline Tasca, policy analyst with the John Howard Society of Ontario ’s Centre of Research, Policy and Program Development. “Most people don’t know what a police record includes, and how common police records actually are. Many people have police records that they do not even know about.”

The Toronto Police Service, for example, received nearly 110,000 requests last year from professional and volunteer organizations — a 92-per-cent increase over five years ago.

“The consequences of releasing non-conviction information can be devastating,” says Abby Deshman, a director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

“It is hard enough to get a job, volunteer experience or higher education. Trying to do these things with a non-conviction entry on your record results in closed doors and lost opportunities.”

Both the CCLA and the John Howard Society of Ontario are releasing reports on the issue today that argue the presumption of innocence is being undermined by a patchwork of guidelines across police forces in Canada and a lack of legal framework governing what information is released.

Together, they call for tighter control over the release of non-conviction records and say the information should be withheld except in cases in which the disclosure would address a significant public safety threat.

As many as one in three Canadians have some form of non-conviction record sitting in police computers, the CCLA report says.

In Ontario, the criminal court system processes more than half-a-million charges annually. Last year, 43 per cent of adult cases resulted in stayed or withdrawn charges, the John Howard research found. All those individuals, despite not being found guilty of anything, have records in police computers.

More than half of employers surveyed by the John Howard Society in Hastings and Prince Edward counties require police background checks of prospective employees during hiring. And half of those employers had a police record check come back positive in the previous year.

The only explanation for the steady growth of background requests to the Toronto police is that “organizations that previously didn’t ask for (background checks) are asking,” says police spokesperson Mark Pugash.

The growth appears to be continuing unabated.

A parent committee of the Toronto District School Board recently floated a motion that if adopted would make police record checks mandatory for hundreds of volunteers accompanying their children and grandchildren on field trips.

Police policies for disclosing non-conviction records vary widely across Canada.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have guidelines that differ on how much information can be released while Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia have no clear policies, the CCLA study says.

In February, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police proposed new guidelines advising forces “against disclosure of non-conviction records” with a “narrow public safety exception” for cases where disclosure would protect vulnerable people.

It is unclear how broadly the guidelines will be adopted by forces across the province that already have widely varying practices.

The real solution, according to both the CCLA and the John Howard Society, is clear legislation that prohibits disclosure of non-conviction records. They also suggest placing decisions around the most revealing kind of background checks — those issued to people seeking to work with vulnerable Canadians — in the hands of trained and impartial professionals who would be governed by provincial legislation that includes clear privacy and human rights protections.

Gordon Sinclair’s experience illustrates how an individual’s life can be derailed by a “vulnerable records check.”

In August, 1991, when Sinclair was working as a part-time clerk in the now-defunct Dragon Lady Comics store, then on Queen Street in Toronto, police arrived one August afternoon and gathered comics they deemed to be obscene.

They seized dozens of copies of Melody, a comic book about an exotic dancer.

Produced in Quebec with financial support from the provincial government, the comic, tame by contemporary standards, raised eyebrows at the time and triggered police action.

Sinclair, then 27, was charged with 33 counts of possession of obscene material for the purpose of selling. The charges — one for each copy of the comic seized — were laid against every staff member at the store, he says.

“We didn’t think much of it because we knew there was nothing to the allegations,” says Sinclair. “It was nothing nearly as bad as Hustler (magazine).”

The charges were soon withdrawn and Sinclair thought no more of it — until he applied for a police background check that would allow him to take training placements at a nursing home or hospital, a required part of his George Brown course requirements.

The check came back with the long-since-tossed charges listed.

“I was a bit shocked,” he says. “I went to the dean of nursing and explained the situation. She said I couldn’t do any clinical work and said, ‘We have to remain neutral.’ ”

He was given two choices: Either try to convince prospective employers to accept him for a practicum — and receive a fail grade in the likely event he was unsuccessful — or withdraw.

Sinclair withdrew, believing he could re-enter the program with a clean record.

In March, 2011, after an appeal to Toronto Police, Sinclair received a letter indicating his request for suppression of the charges had been granted.

Sinclair tried to re-enter his program at George Brown but was denied.

He appealed to the college’s president but it had no effect, despite a letter from his former comic store boss, John Biernat, saying, “It is extremely disturbing to me, as the owner of the store and the person in charge of choosing which materials were imported and offered for sale, that (Sinclair) has been expelled from the George Brown Nursing Program ... I appreciate that the safety of vulnerable persons is of paramount importance, but I sincerely feel that there are no grounds here for supposing Mr. Sinclair would pose any risk to patients.”

In a letter sent to college officials in March, 2011, Sinclair wrote: “It seems odd that George Brown seems resolved in punishing me like I was guilty when the police themselves cleared me.”

Citing privacy reasons, Deana Lunn, chair of George Brown’s practical nursing program, whom Sinclair dealt with, declined in an interview to speak about his case. But she did speak generally about the challenge of “unclear” student police checks.

The school’s privacy policies prevent them from probing the specifics of what appears on police checks.

“There’s no wiggle room,” she says. “We have to follow the rules like everybody else.”

She says students forced to withdraw in order to clear their police checks can return to the program, but they must apply from scratch and be subject to admission decisions.

Lunn says cases such as Sinclair’s occur two or three times a year.

“It’s a difficult thing, there’s no question,” she says. “I can appreciate and empathize ... But it is beyond our boundaries to have any discussion with a student about it or even give advice. We merely state these are the options around the academic pathway.”

Sinclair’s story is one of many.

“Our research results revealed various incidents where students finishing teacher’s college or social work school were shocked to find out they would not qualify for placements and were, therefore, unable to graduate,” reads a recently completed study by University of Toronto sociologists Kelly Hannah-Moffat and Paula Maurutto.

The authors conclude the disclosure of non-conviction records are as damaging to individuals as having an actual criminal record and that the release “violates constitutional and, in particular, due process rights.”

“These are unproven accusations that might not be true,” said Hannah-Moffat in an interview. “It can pull people back into the system by making them unemployable and creating a social stigma. You have to ask what the bigger consequence is of that behaviour.”

For the study, the researchers interviewed one man who had been sent to hospital by his parents after threatening suicide as a young man. While he quickly recovered and moved on, the incident cast a long shadow when he applied for a position with the military and found his medical history documented on his background check.

“Examples such as these raise increasing concerns regarding the barriers to seeking emergency medical assistance for fear of the lifelong effects of disclosure of police contact information,” the study concludes.

Last month, B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham investigated the issue of non-conviction disclosures in a report she described as “one of the most important investigation reports, if not the most important” she has ever written.

It calls on authorities to strike a fairer balance between an individual’s right to privacy and an employer’s right to obtain relevant background information on potential employees with “clear and enforceable” legislation.

Brian Beamish, assistant commissioner of Ontario’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, would like to see similar reforms here.

“There is a need to exercise caution when law enforcement is in the position of making these decisions,” he says. “There’s a large body of jobs, schooling opportunities and volunteer positions where that information is not relevant.”

Sinclair had to hire a lawyer to recover the $2,600 in tuition he paid to George Brown College.

“The legal fees ate up most of what I got back so it didn’t mean much,” he says.

He applied to Ryerson’s nursing program, but was not admitted.

Today, he’s living on his savings and doing renovation work on a Parkdale home he says he’ll likely have to sell.

“I just have to take what I can get in terms of jobs. I’ll never have a real career now. Nursing was my last chance. I’m finished.”

If you have stories to tell about the disclosure of non-conviction records, contact Robert Cribb at rcribb@thestar.ca

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Presumed Guilty

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 05, 2015 7:02 am

Province to legislate what police can disclose about innocent Ontarians
http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/ ... rians.html

Girl’s discredited story of sex assault cost dad chance at job
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014 ... t_job.html

Social worker Tatiana Stergiou’s career doomed by non-conviction record
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/12 ... _lost.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2014/ ... leges.html
Police behaviour in woman’s background check ‘malicious,’ lawsuit alleges

Queen’s Park should limit police disclosure of private information: Editorial
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editoria ... orial.html

Toronto police to keep sharing non-conviction records
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... cords.html

Sharing police data should be fair, standardized, Kathleen Wynne says
http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/ ... _says.html

Toronto woman stunned by police revelation in background check
http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2014/ ... check.html

Police chiefs call for presumed innocence in background checks
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014 ... hecks.html

Cause for hope in the war on invasive police record checks
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commenta ... hecks.html

Break a window, and pay for life
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... _life.html

‘No judgment, no discretion’: Police records that ruin innocent lives
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... lives.html

All three parties vow to protect innocent Ontarians from police disclosures
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014 ... sures.html

U of T med students petition cops to stop release of suicide attempt records
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... cords.html

Human Rights Code gives convicted Ontarians more workplace protection than the innocent
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... ation.html

Privacy commissioner attacks police regarding disclosure of mental health records
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... cords.html

Ontario privacy watchdog takes legal action against Toronto police: Star Exclusive
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... usive.html

420,000 in police database never convicted: Analysis
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014 ... lysis.html

She threw water at him. It came up on a police check
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014 ... check.html

‘Beyond McCarthyism’: Outrage follows Star probe of police record checks that reveal meritless allegations
http://www.thestar.com/news/investigati ... tions.html


http://www.thestar.com/topic.presumed_guilty.html
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