Home / Privacy and Police Record Checks: We Need New Laws Now.

Privacy and Police Record Checks: We Need New Laws Now.

The Privacy Commissioner has come out strongly against the disclosure of non-conviction information on police information checks. Now we just have to convince the legislature to turn her recommendations into law.

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At the end of January we encouraged those who have been negatively impacted by non-conviction information disclosed on police information checks to tell their stories to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Yesterday, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham issued her investigation report and we’re thrilled to say that she calls for urgent changes to the practice.  It’s clear that hearing personal stories from individuals made a big impression on her, and she even includes some of them in the report (with identifying details removed, of course).

She directs police to immediately stop providing mental health information on police information checks. This is a huge step, and will make an immediate difference to individuals who are being discriminated against on the basis of mental health information that should never make it into the hands of prospective employers.

She also directs police to stop releasing any non-conviction information on record checks for positions outside the vulnerable sector (people working with children and vulnerable adults).

Furthermore, she recommends that police agencies adopt a record check model that treats different kinds of conviction information differently, so that employers are only able to access conviction information that is relevant to the specific position for which an individual is applying. She acknowledges that “not all convictions are relevant to all employment” and recognizes that BC’s Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of criminal convictions. This will go a long way toward helping those with criminal records find work and reintegrate into society.

But the Privacy Commissioner goes even further than that. She says that it is not enough for her to issue recommendations or for the police to change their policies. She calls on the government to enact legislation to protect individuals’ right to privacy, to be considered innocent until proven guilty, and not to be discriminated against on the basis of mental health status or criminal conviction. Enshrining these changes in law will ensure that they become mandatory and enforceable throughout BC.

We’ve been waiting a long time for these changes and we don’t want to wait anymore. We’re calling on the legislature to act now, before their session ends on May 29. We’ve written letters to every MLA urging them to enact the legislation recommended by Commissioner Denham before their summer recess. We are committed to seeing this much needed change take place, and we’ll keep you updated on the progress.