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What’s included in a police background check?

If you’re applying for certain jobs, hoping to adopt, changing your name or applying for Canadian citizenship, you will need to have a police background check.

Background checks are legally permissible in Canada, although they can’t be done without your consent.

Types of checks

There are multiple types of background checks and “products” — the official documents detailing your record — available from local and provincial police forces, as well as the RCMP and some third-party companies. They explore and disclose varying degrees of information. Not all forces offer the same product, so ensure you’re getting the correct type of check done.

Criminal Record check: The most common type of background check. It details an individual’s convictions — and non-convictions, if applicable — in the RCMP National Repository of Criminal Records.

Police Records check: Scans RCMP and local police records.

Vulnerable Sector check: As above, but also checks for pardoned sex offences. This type of check is required for people applying to work or volunteer with people classified as “vulnerable,” meaning their age or disability puts them in a position of dependence on others. This could include teachers, daycare employees, camp counsellors, or social workers.

The agency you are applying with will indicate if you need a Vulnerable Sector check.

Fingerprints are required for some types of checks, or to release criminal records. If you have to provide fingerprints for a check, but they’re not already on file due to a conviction, the RCMP erases the prints after 90 days and doesn’t add them to any national database.

What’s included

At the most basic level, a background check will reveal at least a record of criminal convictions. But depending on the type of check being done, other information may appear, including:

  • Any outstanding judicial orders, such as charges, warrants or peace bonds.
  • Absolute and conditional discharges if applicable. Absolute discharges disappear from your record after one year; conditional discharges remain for three.
  • Family court restraining orders. 
  • Court records for any upcoming appearances.
  • Criminal non-convictions, including charges that were stayed, withdrawn or dismissed, or where you were found not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
  • Contact with police — even if you weren’t charged — that involved theft, weapons, sex offences, or violent, harmful or threatening behaviour. 

Some things they won’t show:

They also may show police contact under that jurisdiction’s Mental Health Act, where a person has been apprehended and taken into medical care — even if no charges were laid — because they were seen to present a possible risk to themselves or others. For example, some Canadians apprehended during a suicide attempt have later seen that incident published on their background check.

Pardoned sexual offences are the major difference found in Vulnerable Sector checks.

Criminal and Police Record checks will not show pardoned sex offences.

Having a record doesn’t necessarily discount you from getting a job. Canada’s Human Rights Act prevents discrimination against anyone convicted of an offence for which a pardon has been granted or for whom a record suspension — similar to a pardon — has been ordered. Also, some provincial Human Rights Codes prohibit discrimination based on criminal offences that are not connected to the job.

Read more:

Criminal Record and Vulnerable Sector check 

Criminal Records Regulation