Even though coming into contact with police may result in your information being recorded, this does not mean that this information will always be disclosed on a police record check. If you are unsure whether you have a police record, you can try to find out by requesting a police record check on yourself, or filing a freedom of information request with your local police service.
Police services across Ontario have different procedures (and often a fee) for requesting a police record check. To find out the process for getting a police record check and how long it might take in your community, visit your local police service’s website or contact them by telephone.
In order to get all the information that might be released on a record check, you should try to request the most detailed police record check available – the Police Vulnerable Sector Check. Unfortunately, you will not be able to request this check unless you are applying for a paid or unpaid position of trust with or authority over a vulnerable individual. Many police services require you to provide proof that you are applying for one of these kinds of positions. If you are unable to provide this, you can try to file a freedom of information request instead.
A standard police record check will not reveal all the information that is in a police file. I you want to know, as much as possible, all the information the police have on file about you, you should file a freedom of information request.
In order to access your police record through a freedom of information or privacy request, you must submit a request to the local police service(s) you interacted with.
To find out how to fill out a request contact the police service that you interacted with and that you want the records from. Some police services have an online form you can fill out that provides more detailed instructions. For example, the Toronto Police website tells you how to request your own personal information. Depending on how broad you make your request and the type of information you are looking for, this process can take a long time. There may also be a fee associated with the request.
A freedom of information request will only tell you if police do or do not have information about you in their records. It may include many local contact records, such as complaints to police, victim and witness information, etc. Not all of the information provided to you following a freedom of information request will necessarily be disclosed on a police record check that you would need for employment or volunteering purposes. Since different police services have different policies on what should be disclosed on different levels of record checks, the freedom of information request will not tell you exactly what will appear on your record check.
When completing the request, there are situations when the police can refuse your request, or withhold or black out certain information. If you think the police are improperly withholding information from you, you can file a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
For more information, see the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and John Howard Society of Ontario’s Information Guide: On the Record: An Information Guide for People Impacted by Non-Conviction Police Records in Ontario.
For general information about procedures in other provinces, see the various resources on the Canadian Civil Liberties Association record checks resources webpage.
If you are an employer or work for a volunteer agency, and you are requesting police record checks, you should be aware that you may be receiving records that show a wide range of interactions with police. Making hiring and volunteer recruitment decisions based on this information could potentially excluding a wide range of qualified people. For best practices and right-respecting and inclusive hiring and screening of future staff, please see the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and John Howard Society of Ontario’s Information Guide: On the Record: An Information Guide on Police Record Check in Ontario for Employers, Human Resources Professional and Volunteer Managers.