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What is a Vulnerable Sector Check?

A Vulnerable Sector Screening is a specialized background check essential for individuals expected to engage with vulnerable communities in their professional or volunteer roles. Vulnerable persons, defined by factors like age, disability, or particular circumstances, are reliant on others or are at a higher risk of harm by those in authoritative positions.

This screening process aims to safeguard vulnerable populations by ensuring that individuals working or volunteering with them don’t pose any potential risk. Various employers, including those in education, healthcare, caregiving, and other fields involving the elderly or youth, mandate their staff or volunteers to undergo a Vulnerable Sector Screening before commencing their duties.

The primary objective of a Vulnerable Sector Screening is to examine an individual’s criminal history and any other background information that might suggest a potential threat to vulnerable groups. It includes a thorough check of national and local databases, disclosing convictions (both summary and indictable), findings related to youth offenses under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, warrants, charges, judicial orders, probation terms, pardoned offenses under the Criminal Records Act, and other pertinent information.

If you’re concerned about a past criminal charge affecting your employment prospects, seeking legal advice before undergoing this level of background check is advisable. Many employers, such as hospitals, public transportation entities, or regulatory bodies, often require applicants to undergo the Vulnerable Sector Check directly through them. This situation can create a sensitive scenario for individuals aspiring to work or pursue regulated professions, who might be apprehensive about undergoing the Vulnerable Sector Check with the same organization.

Additionally, these types of criminal record checks are subjected to stringent security measures, ensuring confidentiality and protection of sensitive information. For instance, in late 2017, there was a case where a Firm successfully withdrew an allegedly forged Toronto Police Vulnerable Sector Check against a TTC applicant in its R. v. S.D. [2017].

Applying for a Vulnerable Sector Screening

Individuals seeking a Vulnerable Sector Screening can access the necessary forms through their local police service’s website. In most instances, these forms are downloadable and can be printed directly from the site. Once completed accurately and in full, applicants can either mail or personally submit the forms to the nearest local police service that offers this service. Ensuring the correct and complete filling of the form is crucial to avoid processing delays.

The processing time for Vulnerable Sector Screenings typically spans about two weeks. The results are then mailed directly to the applicant’s home address. Importantly, the police service does not disclose the screening report results to the requesting agency or organization; it’s the applicant’s responsibility to provide these results. Note that processing fees will be applicable.

Occasionally, applicants may need to visit the police station for fingerprinting. This step usually occurs if the screening process yields positive results, serving to confirm the individual’s identity and prevent any false positive reports. The local police station handling the application will contact the applicant with details regarding the location and schedule for fingerprinting, if necessary.

Consequences of a Criminal Record

Is it Possible to Exclude Findings from the Screening Report?

As previously mentioned, Vulnerable Sector Screening checks have the potential to include certain non-conviction dispositions, such as conditional and absolute discharges, stays of proceedings, withdrawn or dismissed charges, and/or acquittals. In specific instances, an applicant undergoing a Vulnerable Sector Screening can request the exclusion of certain non-conviction dispositions from the report by applying to the police service conducting the screening.

To initiate this request, the applicant must submit a written appeal to the Reconsideration Panel of the police service, which evaluates applications on an individual basis. Providing comprehensive information and explaining the rationale behind the exclusion request is crucial.

The Reconsideration Panel considers various factors in its decision-making process, including the seriousness of the alleged offense/behavior, the time elapsed since the incident, the age of the victim or complainant at the time, the relationship between the applicant and the alleged victim/complainant, balancing the applicant’s privacy rights and employment opportunities against safeguarding the vulnerable sector, the strength of evidence, any mitigating or aggravating circumstances related to the offense or behavior, and any previous interactions with law enforcement.

Upon reaching a decision, the Reconsideration Panel communicates its verdict in writing, outlining the reasoning behind the decision. If the applicant disagrees with the outcome, they can appeal the Panel’s decision within a thirty-day period. During the appeal process, the applicant can present additional information to support their request for reconsideration if deemed necessary.

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

Similar to Vulnerable Sector Screenings, Criminal Record checks are frequently mandated by employers and organizations for their employees or volunteers. These checks can also be necessary for immigration purposes or licensing requirements set by local laws. A Criminal Record check, commonly known as a ‘Clearance Letter,’ is a document issued by a police force certifying that the individual mentioned in the letter has no recorded criminal convictions in the National Repository of Criminal Records, maintained by the RCMP.

Criminal Record checks encompass reporting criminal convictions, both summary and indictable, from both national and local databases. Additionally, they include youth convictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, within the applicable disclosure period. However, a significant distinction between a Criminal Record check and a Vulnerable Sector Screening lies in the scope of information revealed. Criminal Record checks solely disclose criminal convictions, whereas Vulnerable Sector checks unveil a broader spectrum of information. Consequently, criminal background checks may not provide sufficient detail for roles involving interactions with vulnerable populations.

Employment Implications

Employers and volunteer agencies working with vulnerable populations commonly mandate a successful completion of a Vulnerable Sector Screening as a prerequisite for employment or volunteer roles, as previously outlined. In most instances, these organizations condition job offers or volunteer positions on the screening returning negative results across all areas. Consequently, failure to pass the screening may likely result in the applicant not securing the position. Employers and volunteer agencies hold the right to reject candidates with any form of criminal background. Additionally, in many cases, there might exist a legal obligation preventing the hiring of individuals with such backgrounds.

The impact of a Vulnerable Sector Screening varies based on the applied position and the information disclosed in the screening report. Decisions are typically made on a case-by-case basis, often at the discretion of the employer or the respective volunteer agency/organization.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.