Types of criminal background checks

Criminal record check

A criminal record check will determine if a person has been charged or convicted of a crime.There are two ways to check if you have a criminal history:

  • Name-based criminal record checks
    • Using names and dates of birth is the most common way to check a person's criminal history.
    • Name-based criminal record checks are done checking against the RCMP's Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system. They consist of a check of the National Repository of Criminal Records based on a person's name and date of birth. It may also include searches of other national and local databases.
    • Name-based checks have weaknesses in verifying a person's identity due to some last names being the same, differences in spelling, use of nicknames, legal name changes and the intentional changing of names to avoid a record of criminal history.
  • Certified criminal record checks
    • When name-based criminal record checks do not provide a definite way of confirming a person's identity, you may be asked to provide fingerprints. This is known as a "certified criminal record check."
    • A fingerprint search of the National Repository of Criminal Records is conducted by RCMP's Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS).
    • A very small number of people have fingerprints that cannot be processed electronically. In these exceptional cases, the police service will submit a paper copy of your fingerprints.
    • The use of fingerprints for criminal record checks is based on informed consent and includes sharing the results of that information to a third party named by you on the application form.
    • The fingerprints submitted to CCRTIS for criminal record checks are only used to confirm your identity. At no time are fingerprints added to a database where they could be subject to search.

Police information check

It is also known as a police certificate, background check, record check, or reference check. Contact your local police to learn more.

Vulnerable sector check

Did you know?

  • It is an offence to conduct a vulnerable sector check if the position does not meet the requirements of the Criminal Records Act.
  • The hiring organization must make the request for a vulnerable sector check. The person being checked provides consent but does not make the request.
  • There is no federal legislation that requires any organization to conduct vulnerable sector checks. Contact your provincial or territorial government for more information.
  • Results of vulnerable sector checks are only made available to organizations located in Canada.

A vulnerable sector check is a police information check plus a check to see if a person has a record suspension (pardon) for sexual offences.

Vulnerable sector checks were created in 2000 to protect children and vulnerable persons and is governed by section 6.3(3) of the Criminal Records Act. Policies and procedures related to vulnerable sector checks can be found in the Dissemination of Criminal Record Information policy and the Ministerial Directive Concerning the Release of Criminal Record Information by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Questions concerning vulnerable sector checks should be directed to your local police service. In British Columbia, you should contact the British Columbia Criminal Records Review Program.

Working in the vulnerable sector

People who volunteer or have jobs where they are in positions of trust or authority over children or vulnerable persons can be asked to obtain a vulnerable sector check. Being in a position of trust or authority is more than just having contact with children or vulnerable persons. To meet the legal requirements for a vulnerable sector check, the nature of the position – not the person – must cause the person to have authority over, or trust of, children or vulnerable persons.

Children are defined as being anyone under the age of 18. Vulnerable persons are people who, because of their age, disability or other circumstance, are more vulnerable than others.

The decision to request a vulnerable sector check is made by the hiring company or volunteer organization. If they determine that a position is one of trust or authority over children or vulnerable persons, they can request that an applicant for the position obtain a vulnerable sector check. The person or organization responsible for children or vulnerable persons also decides how often a vulnerable sector check must be repeated.

Public Safety Canada's The Screening Handbook, 2012 Edition provides organizations with guidance on what level of criminal record screening they require and how to determine their screening requirements.

Process for getting a vulnerable sector check

If you live in British Columbia, follow the process defined by the British Columbia Criminal Records Review Program. In all other cases, contact your local police service. You will be required to provide the police service with the following information:

  • A description of the position
  • The name of the organization staffing the position
  • Details about the children or vulnerable persons (e.g. age, or other factors that can show how the person is vulnerable)
  • If the position is volunteer, provide a letter from the organization stating the person will not be paid for services or any other personal expenses incurred.

Once the police service has determined that the position meets the requirements for a vulnerable sector check, a name based search will be conducted. In some cases you will be required to submit fingerprints to confirm your identity. The use of fingerprints ensures the accuracy of the identification process.

Once the vulnerable sector check is completed, the police service conducting the vulnerable sector check will send the results to the requesting organization.

The Criminal Records Act requires that vulnerable sector checks be conducted for individual positions. This means that if you are applying for different positions that require a vulnerable sector check, you may need to submit fingerprints for each of those individual positions.

Who conducts vulnerable sector checks

Vulnerable sector checks must be conducted by the local Canadian police service where an applicant lives. In British Columbia, the British Columbia Criminal Records Review Program is the authorized body for conducting vulnerable sector checks.

Denying vulnerable sector checks

The police service will use information submitted by the applicant to determine if the position meets the legal requirements to conduct a vulnerable sector check. If the position does not meet the requirements of the Criminal Records Act for a vulnerable sector check, it is illegal for the police service to conduct one.

The Criminal Records Act does not allow vulnerable sector checks to be conducted for the purpose of adoptions. However, based on other provisions in the Criminal Records Act, a local police service may request fingerprints in order to check if adoptive parents have record suspensions for sex offences. The RCMP strongly recommends that a check of local police records accompany any adoption request completed by Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS).

Sources of information

Vulnerable sector checks include checks of national databases maintained by the RCMP and local police records where the applicant lives.

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