How a criminal record holds Canadians back
A criminal record can hold Canadians back in many areas of their life. The most important area is employment.
In the past, record checks were rare. They were only used for security intensive positions, such as airport security or law enforcement. Today they are used anywhere that money changes hands, or employees interact with the public or property.
Some examples of how criminal records can hold a person back are as follows:
Work: In many positions, such as truck driving or warehousing, the employee is expected to be bondable. Many insurance companies will require the employer to conduct a record check. If charges, such as theft, show up, they may give a quote that is outside what the company expected to pay. In other cases, it is up to the discretion of the employer, who may have over-estimate the risks of hiring someone with a record.
Renting: When people with criminal records try to rent apartments, houses or business spaces, they may run up against record checks. Even if their records pose no risk to the landlord, the property or the other tenants, they can be turned away, leaving them with limited access to affordable housing for themselves and their families. This is especially a concern in competitive markets like Toronto and Vancouver.
Education: Colleges and universities are becoming more job-focused. They are pressured to create work ready graduates rather than book-smart intellectuals. That means many of them have practicums at local businesses or organizations. As a result, many of them won’t accept students with criminal records. This can include programs in health, social work, law, security, business, computers and more.
Volunteering: Any volunteer organization that works with children or vulnerable adults may require record checks. This means many parents can’t volunteer at their children’s schools, theatre groups or sports programs. Some service organizations will require record checks, meaning that citizens can’t take advantage of the friendship and networking opportunities these organizations represent. Many people who have beat addictions and turned their lives around are interested in peer coaching and helping others who are now facing the challenges they once faced. A record check can prevent them from sharing their experience.
Business: Some municipalities or regulatory bodies will deny a licence to a person with a criminal record. For people struggling with employment, working for oneself is always a viable option. However, they can then be shut out of opportunities due to licensing policies. This results in a no-win situation for many. Perhaps they can’t bid on contracts, provide janitorial services to the city, open a food truck, or get a liquor licence for their restaurant.
In 2012, the government increased the fees and wait times for individuals wanting to apply for a pardon. They made some individuals ineligible for a pardon. (They also changed the name to Record Suspension.) We want to help roll back some of these changes by asking for a free and accessible pardon system. This will help reduce recidivism and provide opportunity for the thousands of Canadians struggling with unemployment and poverty as a result of their criminal records.
People make mistakes. If you think they should be able to get back on track, please sign our petition asking for a free and fair pardon system.