Overcoming the Employment Barriers of a Criminal Record

“Have you ever been convicted of a crime in Canada for which you have not been pardoned?” These seventeen words are what it takes to live a life of destitution from which you can’t escape. On top of the prison time you already served, you will have a permanent record that will make it impossible for you to find a job. Unfortunately, you are not alone. Unless you and other Canadians who have a criminal record were born rich, there is nearly no hope of being hired by employers. Even if you somehow get hired by one, there will always be an overarching aura that will make your boss and colleagues vigilant, proving that they don’t trust you.

‘Marked individual’ for life

A criminal—excluding those who have committed heinous crimes or crimes against humanity—has not lost their right to be human once again. Yet, many people attribute negative things to them, notwithstanding the gravity of their offence. It’s as if society views someone who was once locked up as a potentially harmful person who would commit crimes again after being freed. Such is the irony of the Canadian justice system that purports to be humane. The punishment continues long after imprisonment.

It has become common practice for Canadian employers to compel job applicants to disclose information about their criminal history. Retail store salespersons, school teachers, gasoline station staff, janitors, and all other jobs include a question asking for a person’s criminal record.

What does Canadian law say about criminal record disclosure for job applications?

Canadian criminal laws do not require people to tell their employers about any criminal record they have, except for government jobs or positions where interaction with children is involved. In fact, there are human rights laws in Canada that are supposed to protect job applicants against discrimination, including those who have a criminal record. However, the laws do not explicitly forbid employment discrimination against those with a criminal record either. A fundamental contradiction exists because Canadian laws also give employers the right to select their employees. Thus, business owners can turn down anyone who refuses a criminal background check or shows a derogatory record in the CPIC (Canadian Police Information Center), regardless of what human rights principles say otherwise.

Canada’s Privacy Act protects people from unauthorized criminal record inquiries. Thus, employers require prospective applicants to authorize them to make an inquiry with the CPIC.

Businesses justify their move by claiming to protect vulnerable sectors such as children. However, it’s not much about the children but more about the reputation of the organization. An employer’s bottom line relies on its reputation.

The problem with criminal record disclosure

Those who willingly hire former convicts are likely those who are looking for low-cost labour to exploit. These employers take advantage of people’s criminal records to impose incredibly low salaries. They know that the former convicts have no leverage in salary negotiations.

While the intent of record disclosure in protecting some vulnerable groups is good, requiring criminal record disclosure only stigmatizes convicts further. The CPIC holds records of over 4 million Canadians, living and deceased. A conviction for even minor offences, such as jaywalking and littering would also turn up in those records. Worse, even if you were acquitted of the crime, the charges would still reflect in your CPIC record.

Criminal record disclosure requirements only aggravate the high recidivism rates among newly-released convicts. Discrimination and stigma have left some Canadians with such limited opportunities that a life of crime may appear to be the only choice as a means of survival and self-affirmation.

Applying for record suspension—the first step towards reintegration

The only solution for those who have been convicted or charged but acquitted to circumvent criminal record disclosure requirements is to petition the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to make your record inaccessible. This procedure is called record suspension. Before you apply with the PBC, however, you need to know if you’re eligible for a record suspension.

If you’re looking for a Canadian pardon, get in touch with us today to see how we can help!

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