News Release Article from  Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Criminal Record Background Checks, Vulnerable Sector and Pardons

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Factsheet/Backgrounder

Policy regulations

The RCMP as the steward of Canadian criminal record information has the responsibility to ensure that sensitive personal and relevant information is being obtained and safeguarded in a manner that is in keeping with the expectations of the Canadian public and privacy legislation.

In 2009, the RCMP was made aware that certain Police agencies were disseminating criminal record information obtained via the CPIC system that was in direct contravention of the Criminal Records Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Ministerial Directive on the Release of Criminal Records and CPIC policy.

On November 30, 2009, the RCMP, supported by the CPIC Advisory Committee, issued a directive to police agencies stating that all CPIC agencies must abide by current and existing legislation, CPIC policy and Ministerial Directive.

In December, the RCMP issued an Interim Policy, reasserting the existing requirements for CPIC agencies to complete in order to undertake criminal records checks.

Working Group

Representatives from Canadian police services, federal and provincial ministries of public safety and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada gathered in January 2010 to develop uniform practices regarding the release of criminal record information. The Dissemination of Criminal Record Information Policy Working Groupwas established as a response to breaches of Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) policies, federal legislation and Ministerial Directives regarding the release of criminal records. Topic areas covered by the working group included: common definitions for various types of criminal record checks; informed consent and identity verification requirements; and the role of private organizations, such as background screening companies and accredited fingerprint service providers, for conducting criminal record checks.

Vulnerable Sector

Vulnerable sector checks are an integral part of suitability pre-screening practices. All volunteer organizations are strongly encouraged to continue in this practice. Vulnerable sector screening may be required for the following types of positions: teacher, social worker, day-care worker, sport coaches, etc. It is required that the organization self-identify that the position entails that the applicant will be working or in the care of vulnerable individuals.

A vulnerable person is defined in section 6.3 of the Criminal Records Act, as a person who, because of age, a disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent are (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 or authority or trust relative to them. There are measures in place to ensure people convicted of sexually-based offences do not work with the vulnerable sector.

There are measures in place to ensure people convicted of sexually based offences do not work with the vulnerable sector.

If a pardon has been granted, the criminal history information about an individual convicted of a sexually based offence is retrievable by law enforcement only for the purposes of a Vulnerable Sector search.

Vulnerable sector search process

The following outlines, generally, the Vulnerable Sector search process:

  • As prescribed by the Criminal Records Act, any person undergoing a vulnerable sector search must first consent to that search being done.
  • The criminal history information about an individual convicted of a sexually based offence is retrievable by law enforcement after a fingerprint search has been conducted only for the purposes of a vulnerable sector search, even if that person has been granted a pardon.
  • Under the Criminal Records Act, any information related to a pardoned file must be kept separate and apart from active files.
  • If a police agency conducts a vulnerable sector search, for which the pardoned individual must consent to, the police are then permitted to query, using the subject's name, date of birth and sex, against all pardoned sex offences.
  • It will allow a possible "hit" to be provided to the police service requesting that the subject submit fingerprints so that a comparison may be made. If the subject's fingerprints are certified to the flagged file, then the information will be provided to the Minister of Public Safety for his consent as to whether the subject's pardoned files will be disclosed, in whole or in part, or not.
  • If the Minister of Public Safety consents to the disclosure of information, the information is then provided to the police service that conducted the search. The individual must then further consent to allow disclosure to the organization that requested the search to be done in the first instance.
  • If the individual declines, then the police service will notify the organization that they were unable to complete the subject's request for a vulnerable sector search.

Additional Information

  • Clients of Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS) who submit electronic fingerprints receive responses within three business days for the majority of civil clearance fingerprint requests that do not link to a criminal file.
  • This applies to approximately 85% of all electronic civil fingerprint submissions.
  • There are approximately 4.2 million sets of fingerprints that relate to a criminal file in the National Repository at the RCMP in Ottawa. This is an accumulation of files going back decades.
  • Approximately 330,000 individuals' pardoned files are maintained by the RCMP.
  • Of those, 14,584 files relate to an individual pardoned for a sexually-based offence.

Questions and Answers

Q: What is a criminal record check?

A: In general terms, a criminal record check is a search that is used to determine whether an individual has a criminal record. The search can be based on an individual's name and date of birth, or for much greater assurance, it can be based on fingerprints for positive identification. A criminal record check is performed against the national repository of criminal records maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which holds approximately 4.2 million records. Checks are also in many cases performed against a Canadian police service's local records.

Q: What is the difference between a criminal conviction and a criminal record?

A: Since the Identification of Criminals Act only allows the taking of fingerprints in relation to indictable or hybrid offences, the RCMP national repository of criminal records is fingerprint-based and only contains information relating to these two categories of offences. Summary offences are only included in the national repository if submitted to the RCMP as part of an occurrence involving an indictable or hybrid offence. Note: Not all offences are reported to the RCMP national repository of criminal records. A search against a local police agency's records may reveal criminal record information that has not been reported to the RCMP.

Q: What is a Local Indices Check?

A: A Local Indices Check is a review of local police files and occurrence reports in the area where the individual resides that could provide supporting or additional information that would be in addition to the criminal record check.

Q: Is a "CPIC check" a Criminal Record check?

A: No, CPIC is a system that transmits requests by authorized law enforcement agencies to several data banks primarily for law enforcement purposes. One of those data banks is the Criminal Records Information Management Services (CRIMS). CRIMS updates and maintains more than 600,000 criminal records annually and populates criminal record information to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) Identification Data Bank. A criminal record file consists of an individual's criminal charges and their dispositions, including convictions and discharges that are supported by fingerprint information.

Q: What is a "CPIC Check"?

A: What many consider to be a "CPIC check" (or to others a "background check") is a query of the Identification Data Bank by a police agency using a person's name and date of birth. While there may be a match to a criminal record within the data bank that may point to a possible criminal record, it does not mean that the person subject to the check is the subject of that criminal record. This can only be positively confirmed with the submission of fingerprints. In addition, this type of check omits checks of other data banks that could provide valuable screening information (see question on local indices).

Q: What are the different types of criminal records checks?

A: There are four types of criminal records checks:

  • Fingerprint-based Criminal Record Verification – A fingerprint-based search of the RCMP national repository of criminal records. The results of the search will produce a Certified Criminal Record Product.
  • Fingerprint-based Vulnerable Sector Verification - A fingerprint-based search to establish the existence of a sexual offence conviction for which the individual has received a pardon, pursuant to the Criminal Records Act. The results of this search will produce a Certified Vulnerable Sector Product upon consent for disclosure from the Minister of Public Safety.
  • Name-based Criminal Record Verification - A query based on name and date of birth indicating whether a criminal record may or may not exist. Generally used as a preliminary search only to determine if a Fingerprint-based Criminal Record Verification may be required.
  • Name-based Vulnerable Sector Verification - A query based on name and date of birth to determine the possible existence of a sexual offence conviction for which the individual has received a pardon, pursuant to the Criminal Records Act. This is a preliminary search only to determine if a Fingerprint-based Vulnerable Sector Verification may be required and requires consent of the individual being searched.

Q: How long does it take?

A: The processing time associated with a criminal record check depends on:

  1. the type of check and
  2. the search results.

For example, clients who submit electronic fingerprints receive responses within three business days for the majority of civil clearance fingerprint requests that do not link to a criminal file. This applies to approximately 85% of all electronic civil fingerprint submissions. The processing of a criminal record verification can take up to and exceed, in rare circumstances, 120 days. Delays can be attributed to the verification of criminal record information submitted to the RCMP from authorized contributors across Canada.

Q: What are the different types of Criminal Record Products by the RCMP?

  • Certified Criminal Record Product - A summary of an individual's offence convictions and non-convictions (where authorized) that are releasable in accordance with federal laws. Based on the results of a Fingerprint-based Criminal Record Verification.

  • Certified Vulnerable Sector Product - A summary of an individual's offence convictions, non-convictions and sexual offence convictions for which the individual has received a pardon (where authorized) that are releasable in accordance with federal laws. Pursuant to the Criminal Records Act, the product applies to individuals that intend to work and/or volunteer with Vulnerable Person(s). Based on the results of a Fingerprint-based Vulnerable Sector Verification.

Contact Us

RCMP's National Media Relations, 613-993-2999

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