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A Vulnerable Sector Screening is a type of background check intended for individuals who will come into contact with vulnerable populations through their employment or volunteer work. Vulnerable persons are defined as those individuals who due to their age, a disability or some other circumstance, whether permanent or temporarily, are either in a position of dependence on those around them or are otherwise at a higher risk than members of the general public of being harmed in some way by someone in a position of authority.

Vulnerable Sector Screenings are intended to ensure those working with vulnerable populations do not pose a risk to those populations. Many employers and organizations including those who employ teachers, daycare workers, coaches, nurses and those working with the elderly will require their employee’s or volunteers to pass a Vulnerable Sector Screening prior to beginning work.

A Vulnerable Sector Screening is a criminal background check designed to ensure individuals dealing with vulnerable populations through employment or volunteer work do not have a criminal history, or any other history which may indicate that they may pose a threat to vulnerable populations. Specifically, Vulnerable Sector Screening checks will report criminal convictions (both summary and indictable) from both national and local databases, findings of guilt for youth offences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (within the applicable disclosure period), outstanding warrants, charges, judicial orders, probation or prohibition orders or peace bonds, conditional and absolute discharges, pardoned offences under the Criminal Records Act, non-conviction information authorized through exceptional disclosure and any charges that resulted in a finding of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

If you are concerned about a prior criminal charge, and whether it will be problematic for your employment, it is recommended you obtain legal advice prior to completing this level of background check. Many employers, such has hospitals, public transportation or regulatory bodies, will require you to complete the Vulnerable Sector Check directly with them. This obviously creates a delicate scenario where a person who wants to apply for a job or enter a regulated profession is worried about completing the Vulnerable Sector Check through this very same organization.

These types of criminal record checks also have a high level of security precautions included in the hard copy.  In late 2017, the Firm secured a withdrawal of allegedly uttering a forged Toronto Police Vulnerable Sector Check against a TTC applicant in its R. v. S.D. [2017].

Certain offences such AssaultsSexual Assaults, Theft and Fraud or Drinking and Driving allegations may pose an issue when the applicant seeks a vulnerable sector check. It is important to know Your Rights and the Consequences associated with a Criminal Record.

Legal Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for a Vulnerable Sector Screening
Is it Possible to Exclude Findings from the Screening Report?
How is a Vulnerable Sector Screening Check Different from a Regular Criminal Record Check?
Employment Implications

Additional Resources

Assaulting a Peace Officer
Sexual Assault Law in Canada
Consequences of a Criminal Record
Domestic Abuse
First Offenders
Immigration Consequences
Keeping Charges Private
Travel & US Waivers
Elements of a Crime
Your Rights

Applying for a Vulnerable Sector Screening

 To apply for a Vulnerable Sector Screening check, applicants may find the applicable forms online at their local police service website. Applicants can print the forms directly from the website in most cases, and once the forms are completed in full, they can either be mailed or dropped off in person to the nearest local police service that offers such services. It is imperative that the applicant fill out the form correctly and in full to ensure no delays in processing. Vulnerable Sector Screenings generally take approximately two weeks and the results will be mailed directly to the applicant’s home address. The police service will never disclose the results of the screening report to the agency that has requested it, the applicant will be responsible for providing the agency or organization with the results. Please note that processing fees will apply.

In some cases, the applicant will be required to attend the police station for finger printing. This generally occurs when the screening process returns positive results and is used to confirm the identity of the individual to ensure no false positive results are reported. The local police station where the application was submitted will contact in the applicant with information on where and when to attend for fingerprinting if necessary.

Is it Possible to Exclude Findings from the Screening Report?

As mentioned above, Vulnerable Sector Screening checks may report some non-conviction dispositions including conditional and absolute discharges, stays of proceedings, charges that have been withdrawn or dismissed and/or acquittals. In some situations, an applicant of a Vulnerable Sector Screening may apply to the police service conducting the screening to request certain non-conviction dispositions be excluded from the report. To make such a request, the applicant must provide a written request to the Reconsideration Panel of the police service who will decide applications on a case-by-case basis. The applicant should be sure to include as much information as possible and should provide their reason for requesting the information be excluded.

In coming to its decision, the Reconsideration Panel will consider the following information; the seriousness of the alleged offence/behaviour, the length of time since the alleged offence/behaviour occurred, the age of the victim or complainant at the time of the offence/behaviour, the relationship between the applicant and alleged victim/complainant, the need to balance the privacy rights and right to employment of the applicant and the need to protect the vulnerable person sector, the strength of the evidence against the accused, any aggravating or mitigating circumstances involving the offence or behaviour and any other history of contact with the police.

Once the Reconsideration Panel has come to its decision it will inform the applicant in writing, including providing details as to the reasoning behind the decision. If the applicant is unhappy with the outcome, they may appeal the Panel’s decision within thirty days. On appeal, the applicant will be given the opportunity to provide additional information if necessary to bolster their reconsideration application.

How is a Vulnerable Sector Screening Check Different from a Regular Criminal Record Check?

Similar to Vulnerable Sector Screenings, Criminal Record checks are often required by employers and organization employing volunteers and can also be required for immigration purposes or by-law licensing purposes. A Criminal Record check, often called a “Clearance Letter” is a document issued by a police force certifying that the individual named in the letter has no criminal convictions on record in the National Repository of Criminal Records which is maintained by the RCMP. Criminal Record checks will report criminal convictions (both summary and indictable) from national and local databases and youth convictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act within the applicable disclosure period. The major difference between a Criminal Record check and a Vulnerable Sector Screening is the information the screening will uncover. Criminal Record checks will only uncover criminal convictions, whereas a Vulnerable Sector check will uncover a wider range of information. As such, criminal background checks will not be appropriate for those dealing with vulnerable populations.

Employment Implications

As mentioned in sections above, the majority of employers and volunteer agencies who deal with vulnerable populations will require their employees and volunteers to pass a Vulnerable Sector Screening prior to beginning work. In most cases if an employer or agency has requested such a background check, the employment or volunteer position is conditioned on the screening retuning negative results in all areas. This generally means that if the applicant does not pass the screening, they likely will not be given the position. Employers or volunteer agencies are well within their rights to refuse to hire anyone with a criminal background of any kind and in many circumstances may have a legal obligation not to hire such an applicant. The specific implications of a Vulnerable Sector Screening will always depend on the position the applicant is applying for as well as the information that will be reported on the screening report. Cases will be decided on a case-by-case basis, generally at the discretion of the employer or volunteer agency/organization.

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