How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Canada?
Required to get a background check? Calm down! No one is investigating you for a crime.
You should be celebrating — acquiring one of these forms means you’re in the running for a job, contract, or service that you want!
Background checks are used to investigate candidates during the application process for a job or business contract. Their use has increased recently, as the results play a big role in determining the right person for a position.
This process scrutinizes different aspects of the prospective candidates’ lives. One of the aims is to prevent unscrupulous people from joining an organization, as this will create safer and more productive working environments for both customers and employees.
We’ll be looking at how far back a background check in Canada can go. With the depth of these checks — especially in the face of personal information use — it’s a big concern.
Why Conduct a Background Check?
There are different reasons Canadian organizations carry out background checks, and these include:
- Identity verification
- Legal reasons
- Protection of customers and employees
- Quality control
Identity verification is one of the biggest reasons for these checks. Organizations want to be sure the potential candidate is who they say they are. So, their identification documents are scrutinized against available databases.
One popular physical verification method many organizations use is Canada Post.
The organization’s customers have to use government-issued identity documents when using the service. This has made Canada Post offer both online and offline verification services.
Organizations are also required to conduct this investigation by Canadian law.
Employers are legally liable for mishaps by their employees, and this means they have to be careful who they hire and work with. This reason leads to another: the protection of customers and employees.
People with criminal records aren’t permitted to take jobs in vulnerable sectors, as vulnerable people — such as children and senior citizens — need protection. As this is the case, applicants for these jobs have to undergo extensive background checks.
As another example, some organizations, like security services, are looking for certain types of employees. The reason for this is maintaining high-quality standards in production or service delivery.
They, too, have to go through the applicants’ personal information to find the right employees.
When Do You Need Background Checks?
The following situations call for these checks:
- Investigating potential candidates for job openings.
- Selecting bids from business people for business contracts of a stated size.
- Renting an apartment.
- Child adoption or custody.
- Visiting foreign countries.
- Migrating into Canada.
- Investigating a partner for dating and marriage.
- Applying to certain government jobs.
- During a court case.
Types of Background Checks in Canada
- Criminal record checks
- Identity verification
- Address verification
- Educational and professional qualification verification
- Credit history
- Employment records
- Reference checks
- Medical history
- Driving records
- Social media presence
- Civil and bankruptcy records
- Security checks
Most checks focus on the first seven of these options, but there are jobs and contracts that need extra investigation in other areas.
This investigation depends on the job/contract requirements. An example is investigating one’s driving history for a driving job.
A background check’s duration depends on what is under scrutiny. The average time for this process is between two and five business days. But, the checks could go longer if there are discrepancies or unfavourable records.
These investigations involve candidates in the final round of an application process for a job, supply, or business contract.
Sometimes, promoting or moving an employee can trigger these checks. There are also intermittent checks on employees of organizations in vulnerable sectors.
You are able to do a background check on your own records, as an individual — an action that can be taken to enable the rectification of possible errors in them.
There are private companies that do these checks for organizations and individuals, and the Canadian authorities have to accredit and license them before they can function.
They have to partner with government agencies and entities handling huge databases. These databases contain citizens’ personal information, and the companies have to go through this in order to do their job.
There is some background information available online. It is easy to get, such as the identification and address verification by Canada Post. But, some other information has restrictions due to its private nature.
Examples include criminal records, credit history, and medical history.
Instant Record Check is an accredited company that can do a background check for you. This search can be in many areas, as long as it’s legal.
With their investigative experience, they ensure you receive relevant information. Plus, they conduct these checks within a week on average.
Criminal Record Checks in Canada
A criminal record check is an important component of any background check.
It has three categories.
The first is the criminal record check — it looks for criminal conviction records on both national and local levels.
There are two types, and the most used is the name-based criminal record check. It uses the subject’s name and date of birth to search the RCMP’s Canadian Police Information System (CPIC).
When this type of check is inadequate, a certified criminal record check is useful. The subject’s fingerprints go through the National Repository of Criminal Records maintained by the RCMP’s Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS).
The second category of a criminal record check is the police information check. This search includes criminal convictions and court records.
It looks for court orders, charges, and warrants on the subject.
The third category is a vulnerable sector check. This check is undertaken on applicants for vulnerable sector professions — such as teaching, caregiving, and medicine — which involve contact with vulnerable people.
This check looks for pardoned convictions — most especially child abuse and sexual offences. It also includes criminal charges on subjects that didn’t result in convictions.
The applicant can preempt this step during the application process by providing the organization with their police clearance certificate, a legal document that shows their status when it comes to criminal records.
You can do your own personal criminal record check to get this certificate.
Instant Record Check — an accredited private investigation company — can do this for you within one business day, and get the physical results to you through Canada Post.
How Much Information Can Be Discovered via a Background Check?
To get the right candidate during the application process, organizations will want to find out as much as they can about the subject during a background check, and many would like the scrutiny to cover as much time as possible.
The investigation can cover many years’ worth of information. Presently, in most parts of Canada, a background check is able to go back over a considerable amount of time. In fact, it can go as far back as when the candidate turned 18 years old — the legal age of adulthood.
This is different in the United States, where many states limit the extent of collectable information to seven or ten years.
Ontario stands out in following the American approach — by law, this province doesn’t allow a background check beyond five years. This is especially true for a criminal record check.
Ontario’s way of doing things has elicited a lot of interest in Canada, as many believe the status quo in other provinces allows abuse of the process.
Background Check Laws in Canada
There is no federal and provincial legislation specifically in place for this process. However, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) regulates personal information use.
The ten provinces and three territories have similar laws shaped after PIPEDA that govern how organizations can use people’s private information. There are minor deviations, but they work in similar ways.
This legislation demands that organizations need the applicant’s consent during the application process before conducting a background check, and the information under investigation has to relate to the job or contract.
The act also limits the use of criminal record checks’ results in determining an applicant’s suitability for a position or contract.
But, there are limitations — PIPEDA and its affiliates have no effect on information in the public domain. And, on top of this, organizations in vulnerable sectors or that are working with vulnerable people also have the right to collect the applicant’s personal information without their consent.
This act is in place to regulate how much information an organization can access during a background check. It has to be relevant to the job/contract on offer, or they will be in legal trouble for discrimination.
Therefore, even if organizations can theoretically go all the way to an applicant’s youth to access their information (except in Ontario), there are limitations — the information being sought has to be relevant to the position.
The job/contract has to be in a vulnerable sector, or involve a vulnerable population, for this to happen. Otherwise, the process would be illegal.
So, you can relax your concerns regarding the potential invasion of your privacy.
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