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Time is ticking: Make Police Record Checks Reform Act law

John Howard Society pressuring province to have it done before June 7 election
Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas talks with John Howard Society of Sudbury executive director John Rimore about police record checks. (Arron Pickard/

In Greater Sudbury, hundreds of people are prevented from finding a job, renting an apartment or even volunteering for their favourite charity because of a piece of paper.

In Greater Sudbury, between 2015 and 2017, there were 40,893 (13,761 in 2015; 14,227 in 2016; 12,905 in 2017) police record checks conducted by Greater Sudbury Police Service.

It is becoming common practice for employers to use police record checks as a screening tool, said the John Howard Society of Ontario in its report titled The Invisible Burden. The report states more than 60 per cent of employers indicated they require police record checks for all employees.

Unfortunately, police records may be created from a variety of interactions with police related to non-criminal matters, and can include instances where someone had informal contact with a police officer and provided their name, called 911 or was present when officers responded to a call, called 911 for themselves or someone they know was experiencing a mental health crisis, or was involved in a police investigation as a witness, victim or suspect.

It's that type of information that needs to be removed from record checks, said John Rimore, executive director of the John Howard Society of Sudbury.

In fact, the Police Record Checks Reform Act Bill C-113 was passed in December 2015 to protect against the inappropriate disclosure of non-conviction and non-criminal records. However, just over two years later, the Act has not been enshrined in law and has not been officially proclaimed. 

The community was assured the Act would be proclaimed by mid-2016, said Rimore.

“This delay in proclaiming Bill C-113 is untenable,” said Rimore. “A law was passed in our province and community to give Ontario citizens an opportunity to volunteer and work without non-criminal conviction information showing up on a police record check.”

The John Howard Society is sending out a province-wide message to convince the government of Ontario to proclaim the law.

“This is impacting hundreds of people in our community who want to work, who want to do something positive, who want to demonstrate to their family how to be a contributing member of society,” Rimore said.

“We've given the government more than two years to proclaim this Bill, which was four years in the making. The time has come. It can't take that long for the very smart people in the government of Ontario to work through a page or two of regulations.”

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas was at the John Howard Society office in Sudbury on Friday. She said they need to keep pressuring the government to make the Bill law.

“We are asking the government to do what they said they were going to do and bring this Bill to life,” Gélinas said. “The legislative process is finished, the Bill is written, and now the next step is to write regulations to enforce the Bill.” 

The clock is ticking, she said.

“Although a Bill may receive a third reading, if the regulations aren't written and it doesn't become law, then it eventually dies,” Gélinas said. She didn't have an ultimate deadline as to when that would happen, but she is pushing to the government to have it done before the June 7 election, just as the John Howard Society is doing.

“A new government comes with its own list of priorities, and this Bill is easily not a priority,” she said. It's disappointing because it's the type of Bill that is for the people who don't have a voice. People's lives are being flipped upside down because police are sharing information that has nothing to do with convictions.”

It was Minister Yasir Naqvi who passed the Bill, and he could make it law tomorrow if he wanted to, Gélinas said. 

“Let's get that done.”

“We, at the John Howard Society, know that unemployment and crime are linked, and that's why we know that when this Bill is proclaimed, it will have an impact on crime rates,” said Rimore.

Arron Pickard

About the Author: Arron Pickard

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