If you do not understand what a Vulnerable Sector Check is or who requires it, you are not alone!
There is often indecision as to whether an organization should request a Vulnerable Sector Verification (VSV), or as it often called a Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC), from their candidate, or if a standard or enhanced criminal record check is enough.
What is a Vulnerable Sector Check?
A Vulnerable Sector check “permits” a review of the RCMP’s pardoned or record suspended data bank within their repositories by a police service.
This separated data bank lists those individuals residing in Canada, who have been convicted of a sexual offence, been tried and convicted, served their entire sentence and any parole/probation, waited the mandatory ten years of good behaviour (no other charges or documented immoral behavior) and then applied to the Canadian government for a record suspension (the modernized term for a pardon). Once applied for, government approval, if granted, may take 8-18 months.
In the end, the legislative change allows for organizations to have visibility into whether an applicant has applied for and received a pardon or record suspension for a specified sexual offence.
A Vulnerable Sector Check is only available in Canada, and it ONLY exposes suspended Canadian convictions for sexual offences. Suspensions/pardons granted for all other criminal convictions (i.e. drugs, property crimes, impaired driving, robbery etc.) remain completely off limits and will not be discovered.
Organizations may wish to consult the RCMP site to review the FAQ’s listed or Public Safety Canada's, The Screening Handbook 2012 Edition. This handbook provides organizations with guidance on what level of criminal record screening they may require and how best to determine their screening requirements.
What does a Vulnerable Sector Check NOT include?
There are often misconceptions as to what the Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC) reports results from, with the view being that a VSC includes more than it actually does. For example, it has been positioned that the check result contains: non criminal convictions (i.e. highway traffic act or liquor violations); a Sex Offender Registry check; an Interpol query; opinions of requesting police services on suitability of the candidate; United States conviction records, or offences other than sex offences that have been pardoned. NONE of these are allowed or included.
Why do we have Vulnerable Sector Checks?
Vulnerable Sector Checks have been permitted as an additional check since 2000, when the Criminal Records Act of Canada was amended to include legislation that permitted this query to protect children and vulnerable persons. It is important to understand at the outset that the VSC is allowed but NOT MANDATED in a very specific set of circumstances.
The one step result of this separated data bank is the only difference between an Enhanced Criminal Record Check with ScreeningCanada and a VSC.
What is the process for a Vulnerable Sector Checks?
- Organizations or employers requesting this check must be able to substantiate they meet the restrictive criteria for these queries.
The following quotation from the RCMP website explains the circumstances where it is allowed:
“People who volunteer or have jobs where they are in positions of trust or authority over children (under age 18) or vulnerable persons can be asked to obtain a vulnerable sector check.
Being in a position of trust or authority is more than just having contact with children or vulnerable persons. To meet the legal requirements for a vulnerable sector check, the nature of the position – not the person – must cause the person to have authority over, or trust of, children or vulnerable persons.” (emphasis added)
It is an offence to conduct a vulnerable sector check if the position does not meet the requirements of the Criminal Records Act.
- Once the organization has met this standard, they can request their candidate consent to this check and apply. The check may only be completed when the candidate attends at the police service where they presently reside. If the position does not meet the requirements of the Criminal Records Act for a vulnerable sector check, it is illegal for the police service to conduct one.
- The check is requested and is subject to a review by the local police to ensure it fits the limited criteria as stated above.
- The police service will do the Enhanced Criminal Record Check, identical to the ScreeningCanada service (criminal convictions in the RCMP National repository), check the CPIC Investigative data bank (outstanding charges before the court, bail conditions if any, prohibitions, warrants) and also the Police Information Portal for additional convictions not presently populated in the RCMP repository. This latter search reveals criminal convictions which are Indictable offences (serious) and summary convictions within the past five years (less serious).
They will then select the one additional query of the separated data bank of record suspended/pardoned sexual offenders and request that check be conducted.
- The query of the data bank is done by the RCMP and results returned to the police service applying for the check. It is then communicated to the organization requesting the check.
- Important to note:
a. The separated data bank of suspended sex offenders is not one which is routinely cleansed or updated. By that we mean it is historical from inception and contains individuals who have passed away or are now in their 70’s, or older.
b. It contains approximately 14,000 names and dates of birth. It is relatively static and has not grown substantially in the past five years due to restrictive changes implemented by the government of the day. An overwhelming component of individuals within the data bank are men.
c. The youngest person in this data base remains to be a male, born February 28th, 1986. (34 in February 2020)
d. If an individual who has been granted a pardon and it is found later that they lied in their application, or they exhibit immoral behaviors, or, are subsequently charged/convicted, their details are no longer subject to the privileges of the suspension and removed from the separated data bank. Applicant’s criminal records are then exposed to any routine record search of the RCMP National Repository - either a basic or enhanced criminal record check.
e. All individuals in the separated data bank were approved after a thorough review by the government for a pardon/suspension and have remained free of any charge/conviction since the time they committed the sexual offence, or any other later conviction. If we do the calculations, that could mean the offence that was pardoned could realistically be at least 12-15 years old and likely even more. The individual has remained “clean” since at least since the date of the conviction(s) being suspended.
What if there is a suspended record for a sexual offence discovered?
Hits” are indeed rare. Less than 150 are discovered annually of the approximately 4 to 5 million Vulnerable Sector Checks requested annually in Canada. If the RCMP VSC check reveals the applicant is in the database, the information must then be reviewed by the federal Ministry of Public Safety BEFORE it is released to the police service and then the requesting organization/applicant.
The Ministry officials have a strict “relevancy” criterion outlined in the Criminal Record Act regulation that they utilize to establish whether the record is allowed to be discovered.
This includes consideration of: the offences they were convicted of; any other convictions they may have; the nature of the offences as to degree of violence; does it involve children or vulnerable persons or a breach of trust; the age of the applicant at time of conviction; the sentences imposed at time of conviction and the length of time since the conviction.
Interestingly and very importantly, a recent CBC News article in 2018 revealed and confirmed some alarming statistics relative to a return of the hit or the return being marked as no record located. Prior to 2016, the government returned over 95% of the discovered “hits”. Since 2016, the government of the day has reviewed the interpretation of the regulation and the number of returned hits is less than 40% of actual matches. Translation - people with suspended records for sex offences are being returned to organizations as CLEAR or no record. There is no additional information that this is an adjudicated clear by the government or a simple no record located!
The CBC investigation contains an insightful quote from the RCMP at the time that states:
“The RCMP has taken issue with changes the Liberal government made to criminal background checks and the pardons system, pointing to cases of people with “disturbing” records applying to work with vulnerable individuals.”
Are fingerprints required for this check?
Recent changes in 2012 to the process have resulted in a significant number of males being required to obtain, at additional cost, fingerprints to validate their identity.
Explanation? The Vulnerable Sector Check is a name and date of birth check that is run initially on the applicant’s name, gender and DOB, but then a second check is completed on their date of birth ONLY, capturing matching records ten years on either side of the applicant’s date of birth. If their DOB matches the date of birth in this wider search, they are then mandated to submit their fingerprints to validate who they say they are.
The RCMP is precluded from saving fingerprints in civil collections such as this, with the end result that applicants can expect to re-submit their fingerprints each and every time they are requested to complete a VSC.
The cost of fingerprinting can range from $45 upwards, plus an additional RCMP processing fee of $25 if the position sought is not a volunteer one.
What should I be considering as a hiring manager?
First, ensure that your position meets the criteria of the legislation and that the check is in fact allowed. Some positions may even be mandated by municipal or provincial legislation to conduct a VSC. You may ask, is my candidate under 33 years of age?
Secondly, if it is a discretionary additional query, review if the results of the check are adding relevant and valued information to your hiring process.
Thirdly, if there is a hit returned, will your internal Human Resources policies allow reference to it if the individual has been clear for 12-15 years or more? Will you feel secure that a No Record located is actually the true result, or do you have concerns this is one of the sixty plus percent that are an adjudicated result.
Where can I review additional information?
Please check the RCMP website under Criminal Record Checks.
Can ScreeningCanada assist me?
Absolutely! There are innovative and proprietary solutions that ScreeningCanada can assist you with to avoid your candidates going through this process every year or every five years. After a review, you may see the value of an Enhanced Criminal Record Check does not require a VSC. With a regular routine of five year or less renewals of the criminal record check only, Vulnerable Sector Checks do NOT have to be ever repeated if the applicant remains in the same position in your organization.