Police Reference Checks in Ontario
The Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, as a rights protection agency, is concerned with the discriminatory practice of releasing non-criminal mental health-related information as part of a police reference check. The release of such information can, and often does, have a profoundly negative impact on the ability of a person to find employment, volunteer opportunities or student placements. For many consumers of mental health services, this practice undermines their ability to pursue life and career goals as full and equal citizens.
A police record is different from a criminal record. A criminal record shows any convictions a person has received. A police record may show much more information. For example, a police record is created any time a citizen is actively involved with the police. This may be something as simple as filing a complaint about a neighbour or being questioned about a crime. Similarly, if it is the police who transport a person to hospital for treatment, or transfer a person between hospitals, a police record will likely be created and may be disclosed to a potential employer or volunteer organization.
An employer or a volunteer agency may want you to complete a police and/or criminal record search at the time you are applying for a position. Even if you have been in a position for some time, you may be asked to agree to a records search. These record searches may be variously referred to as a police criminal record check, a police information check, or a vulnerable sector screening.
Mental Health Police Records Check Coalition (PRCC)
A coalition of stakeholders is working together to end the police's discriminatory practice of releasing non-criminal information, particularly contact with police under Ontario's Mental Health Act which mandates police contact in a variety of situations.
In July of 2011, the Police Record Check Coalition and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police announced a new Guideline for Police Record Checks. For the first time in Ontario, the Guideilne specifies that no mental health terminology or descriptors should appear on a police background check or vulnerable sector screening. The Guideline also determines that no record of a non-violent, non-criminal incident with police related to mental health should be disclosed on a police background or vulnerable sector check. A summary of the Guideline is available as a PPAO InfoGuide.
More information on the Police Record Check Coalition and of our activities is available below.
Read our Mission Statement
PRCC - Questions and Answers
PRCC - Members' List
Resources and Information
PPAO InfoGuide -- Police Record Searches (July 2011)
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario -- Police Background Checks (January 2007)
Ontario Human Rights Commission -- Police Record Checks for Vulnerable Sector Screening: Interim Guide (2008)
Toronto Police Service -- Police Reference Check Program
PRCC Activities and Issues 2011
PRCC Activities and Issues 2009 and 2010
PRCC Activties and Issues -- Select Archive