New law to keep mental health, non-criminal info from appearing in police background checks
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2015 11:56AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2015 12:00PM EDT
The Ontario government has released official details about their move to keep non-criminal information collected by police private.
The information gleaned from records of mental health interactions, witness statements or information gleaned through carding will no longer appear in background checks done by any police service in Ontario.
Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi said at press conference in Toronto Wednesday that the proposed Police Record Check Reform Act is in response to countless situations where Ontarians have had personal information, such as dropped criminal charges or mental health interactions shared with a potential employer or peer.
“We heard from hard-working Ontarians who lost their job or were unable to find a job because of past incidents involving mental health contact with police,” Naqvi said. “We heard from folks being stopped from volunteering in their community because they witnessed a crime or were questioned by police simply because they were a relative.”
The bill, to be tabled by the Ontario Liberal government Wednesday afternoon, will prevent all police services in Ontario from disclosing information about any interaction with police that does not result in a charge being laid.
Naqvi added that the bill would also prevent information gleaned through the controversial police practice of carding from appearing on any criminal background check.
“If this bill passes, that kind of information will not be disclosed as a part of any police record check.”
Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash told CP24 infromation gleaned from carding was not been included in background checks in the past.
The bill also lays out a procedure where the subject of a background check can review information before it is shared to a third party. It will also provide subjects with the opportunity to request that non-conviction records, such as a dismissed or dropped charge, not be included in the check.
Representatives of groups such as the John Howard Society, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police heralded the new bill, saying it give many innocent people stigmatized by non-criminal information a chance to find employment or get involved in their communities.
Police in Ontario are supposed to offer three types of background check: a criminal record check, a police information check or a vulnerable sector check. Up until this bill is passed, the latter two checks contain non-criminal information such as a person’s history of contact with police, which include instances where someone called police for help while suffering a mental health crisis or provided a witness statement.
Naqvi cautioned that the new bill cannot prevent Canadian enforcement agencies, such as CSIS or the RCMP, from sharing non-criminal information with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers, as the province has no jurisdiction over the actions of other levels of government or foreign law enforcement agents.