Canadians See Rise in Background Checks

Our neighbor to the north conduct background checks on their employees and often for the same reasons, too, including checking criminal history. A recent article discusses the increase in criminal background checks in Canada, as positions that involve working with the public often require a background check. But the author, as well as those in the comments for the article, wonders what is excessive and what is appropriate concerning the public. While caretakers for children, the elderly, and disabled need to pass one or more background checks, do those who might do contract construction or maintenance work in a school need the same scrutiny?

Some comment that a criminal background check should only be relevant if the past crimes committed are relevant to a position. For example, should someone jailed briefly for marijuana possession be not allowed to work in an office or in industrial labor environments? Such a criminal conviction isn’t fully clear, as many work environments have drug testing policies (this applies to both offices and industrial environments) and those who come to work looking like they’re under the influence of a substance, be it alcohol or cocaine, may be impaired on the job and, in many cases, a hazard to their coworkers. Someone with a past drug conviction (using or selling) might be at risk for coming to work under the influence.

Like the US, Canada has laws that protect former criminals from discrimination based on past convictions, but this doesn’t concern positions that involve working with the most vulnerable in both countries. But, to answer the question, when does a background check become too invasive? When the information gathered by it doesn’t pertain to the position. Although not addressed in this article, using credit and financial history as a means for judging a candidate as a good, non-financial office worker goes over the limit of invasiveness.