The last time we blogged about the issue of police record checks, we were calling on the BC government to immediately enact new laws to prevent the routine disclosure of non-conviction information on police information checks, as per the recommendations of the Privacy Commissioner’s April 15 report . The Attorney General just told us that the government has no plans to enact any such legislation. The government’s lack of commitment to legislating on this issue shows a dismaying lack of concern for civil liberties and human rights, and demonstrates a stance completely out of step with the growing national consensus on this issue.
It’s obvious to us that the disclosure of non-conviction information is an unwarranted invasion of privacy and a violation of the right to be innocent until proven guilty. Particularly egregious is the disclosure of mental health-related information, contributing to the deeply entrenched social stigma around mental health issues and increasing the chance that an individual will be discriminated against due to mental illness.
The Attorney General suggests that public safety demands that “employers [be] fully informed of an individual’s background in order to consider risk before making a final hiring decision.” This position is untenable in the face of massive amounts of evidence that the vast majority of non-conviction information is totally irrelevant to public safety, and may be actively contributing to discrimination. Commissioner Denham’s report makes clear that the current situation of indiscriminate disclosures under police information checks has caused terrible prejudice and harm to individuals. These findings echo in every way the experiences of individuals who have contacted our offices over the years. In the face of such significant evidence we fail to understand how the government can continue to claim that these disclosures are necessary to ensure “public safety”.
Even the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACAP) is calling for legislation to standardize disclosure practices . Paul Cormier, OACAP co-chair, stated the obvious when he said “The only way to ensure mandatory compliance is with the creation of legislation.” With a growing national consensus – amongst groups as diverse as the BCCLA, OACAP and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC, along with numerous other civil society groups and concerned citizens – that legislation is needed on this important issue, we i will continue to call on BC’s government to take appropriate legislative action. We are not asking for mere expressions of concern.
Timeline of the BCCLA’s 2014 work on this issue
- January 30, 2014: We encouraged those who have been negatively impacted by non-conviction information disclosed on police information checks to make submissions to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s investigation into the issue. Read more
- February 20, 2014: We made our own submission to the OIPC report. Read more
- April 15, 2014: The OIPC released its Investigation Report F14-01: Use of Police Information Checks in British Columbia. Read more
- April 17, 2014: We wrote letters to every MLA urging them to enact the legislation recommended by Commissioner Denham. Read our letter here
- July 7, 2014: The Attorney General of BC replied to our April 17 letter, indicating that she had no plans to legislate on the issue. Read her letter here
- July 24, 2014: We wrote back telling the Attorney General that’s not good enough. Read our response here