The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), an office of the RCMP, maintains criminal records in a database accessible for criminal record checks. However, a pardoned criminal record is removed from that database and will not show up on background checks. Except for the few offences that carry a life or indeterminate sentence, all Canadian criminal offences can be pardoned. But, if a person has committed a sex-based offence, the conviction will remain flagged in the database in case a “vulnerable sector” background check is done.
Vulnerable sector checks are performed only when a background check is requested for the purpose of working with vulnerable persons, who are defined as being in a position of dependence on others (1) due to age, disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, or (2) 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. Therefore, a vulnerable sector check will be performed for potential employees or volunteers who wish to work with children, ill or disabled people, or senior citizens.
Employers are generally thought to have well-reasoned criminal record check policies tailored to the jobs for which they are hiring; they typically do not implement blanket prohibitions against hiring applicants with a criminal record. Protecting the safety of their employees, customers, and service providers is a legal obligation, which is met by background checks ensuring that people with unsuitable histories are not employed in vulnerable positions.
Understandably, individuals with arrest and conviction records face almost insurmountable barriers in getting hired. Certainly one might worry about arrest records being used improperly, such as long-ago arrests that never led to conviction, or inaccurate information being considered in the evaluation or a person’s eligibility. People’s attempts to maintain gainful employment have been thwarted by arbitrary restrictions. One such individual was let go after two years of solid service because the company obtained a contract that barred employment of anyone with a conviction record.
It should be emphasized that, for background checks requested for purposes other than working with vulnerable people, the RCMP cannot disclose a pardoned criminal record, even for a sexual conviction. Once a crime is pardoned, it is removed from the CPIC’s database. While a record of the conviction still exists, it is kept separate and apart from the database used for criminal record checks.
Thus, an individual who sincerely wishes to make a new start, who regrets any previous mistakes that resulted in a conviction, can do so by removing that criminal record by obtaining a pardon.