High pardon fees contribute to unemployment
It is difficult if not impossible to access Canada’s current pardon system if one is unemployed. Even those with minimum wage or part-time jobs will struggle with the fees involved. This Catch-22 causes the people who need to clear their record the most to be shut out of the process.
These days most employers are requesting a criminal record check. This includes entry-level positions as well as career-level. Meanwhile, the fee to apply for a Record Suspension from the Parole Board of Canada is $631. This is a huge amount for people on social assistance or people making only $11 per hour (a typical minimum wage in Canada). The previous government raised the fee from $150 because they felt that the program should pay for itself.
How does the fee affect job hunters?
While the best practice for employers is to consider the relevance of the record to the position at hand and the length of time that has passed since the record, it is impossible to say how many actually do this. If there are multiple applicants it can be impossible for a person to prove that the record was a factor in the hiring. In reality, many people with records are too embarrassed to apply for jobs that require a record check.
Sometimes employers are prevented from hiring people with records because of their insurance. Many employers who are willing to hire people with records will not advertise this fact due to negative stigma in the public domain. This can make it difficult for people to know where they can apply. People with criminal records will often just give up and say, “No one will hire me.”
This situation puts strain on the country’s social services that may, ultimately, cost more than the $631 saved by the Parole Board’s “full-cost recovery” model. In fact, the link to poverty and criminal records is so strong that Ontario is considering a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of a record even if a pardon or Record Suspension has not been received.
How employment helps people with records
Research has shown that employment is a powerful deterrent towards criminal behavior. Employment helps people build positive relationships in the community, decreases boredom and low self-esteem, and regulates one’s day leaving less room for bad habits. People with employment can feel more invested in their communities and families and experience the pride of contributing. The better quality the job, the more helpful it is because an interesting job with opportunities for advancement will generate more investment from the individual than unstable work with no opportunity for personal growth.
After the government increased the fee in 2012, applications for Record Suspensions decreased from 29,849 to 12,384 in the 2015/16 year. Of those submitted, less than 9,000 were accepted for filing. Some of those rejected were missing the $631 fee. There are no waivers available for those who cannot afford it. However, some may be able to find non-profit, social services agencies or MP’s willing to help pay the fee.
There’s no doubt that shutting out a willing applicant base of potentially 20,000 people per year, has a significant effect on poverty and the integration of persons with records into society.
Creating a free and accessible system will go a long way to contributing to Canada’s economy and society. More importantly, it will help people get back on track. If you agree, please sign our petition and ask the current government to act now on its promised reforms and to eliminate fees for pardon applications. Sign our petition at change.org.