When people come into contact with the police, information about that contact gets included in their police file. Consequently, when individuals ask for a police record check for work or volunteering, information about that contact can be disclosed even if it didn’t result in a conviction. Many individuals, family members, employers, and other stakeholders are not aware of this practice and its harmful effects.
The Police Records Check Coalition believes that the practice of requesting, releasing and making decisions based on non-conviction information is discriminatory and stigmatizing, particularly for those with mental health and addictions issues who have contact with the police pursuant to the Mental Health Act.
The collection and disclosure of non-conviction records can create assumptions that individuals did something wrong or committed a crime. This can affect a person’s ability to work, go to school or volunteer and can impede the wellness and recovery of those with mental health and addictions conditions.
The disclosure of non-conviction information prejudices the presumption of innocence, individual privacy, dignity and equity. Employers, volunteer agencies or others who review background checks may not fully understand the differences between the types of police records. This can create a significant risk that non-conviction records will be used as proof of criminal behavior. Routine disclosure of this information also leads to unnecessary intrusion into individuals’ private personal lives for reasons that are, in the vast majority of cases, completely unconnected to public safety. A process that is more respectful of and sensitive to the needs of individuals must be adopted by police services across Ontario.
The Police Records Check Coalition (PRCC) is a group of organizations and individuals who have been working together to end the discriminatory practice of disclosing non-conviction information, including mental health and addictions-related information, on police record checks in Ontario.
We have worked with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to support the removal of mental health information on police record checks, provided self-advocacy resources for individuals with lived experience of mental health and addictions conditions, and increased awareness of human rights and mental health. In 2011, and again in 2014, the PRCC worked with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) to develop and revise its provincial LEARN Guideline on Police Record Checks.
The PRCC has been active in providing public education on police record checks in Ontario, and the 2014 LEARN Guideline has already been implemented by the majority of police jurisdictions in the province. While this is a positive trend, the Guideline remains voluntary. This means there are local police services that are implementing only parts of it while others haven’t adopted any aspect of the Guideline.
Still, adopting the 2014 LEARN Guideline is a good first step – particularly for those police services that frequently disclose non-conviction records, including mental health police contacts. But it is not a complete answer to the underlying issue. The Ontario government took an important first step and is currently drafting legislation to standardize the disclosure of information released on police record checks. Yet more work is needed to ensure that people are not unduly stigmatized and prejudiced by non-conviction information and police record checks.
For more details on how police records are disclosed in Ontario, see the About Police Records webpage on our website.
Statement of Purpose:
The purpose of the PRCC is to end the discriminatory and stigmatizing practice of requesting, releasing and making decisions based on non-conviction information, including mental health and addictions-related information.
- To achieve changes in law that would stop the disclosure of non-conviction information, including mental health and addictions-related information, by engaging directly with individuals, groups, police services, civilian boards, public complaint systems, and Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments.
- To educate individuals, families, stakeholders, agencies, and police services about the impact of the release of non-conviction information, including mental health and addictions-related information, by making presentations, creating public resources and facilitating knowledge exchange.
- To support development of organizational human resource policies about appropriate background check requirements for employees and applicants by sharing resources and providing recommendations.
- To act as allies, supporters, and a credible source of information to individuals, families, groups, including individuals with lived experience of mental health and addictions conditions, who have been impacted by the release of non-conviction information.
The PRCC consists of a multi-stakeholder forum led by co-chairs. New members are always welcome. To join the PRCC, please visit www.PRCCOntario.ca.
The co-chairs of the PRCC are:
Ontario Association of Patient Councils
Abby Deshman (currently on leave – interim co-chair Laura Berger)
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
Schizophrenia Society of Ontario
John Howard Society of Ontario