Criminal Records in Canada

What is a Criminal Record in Canada?

In Canada, a criminal record generally refers to a criminal case that has resulted in a conviction.  A conviction is generally registered against you whenever your criminal case results in jail time, a suspended sentence with probation, or a fine.  The conviction is recorded with the RCMP’s Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), a central police database that is provided nationally to law enforcement agencies.


Do cases that were dropped or stayed show up on criminal records?

Criminal histories for non-convictions– cases that result in a finding other than “guilty” such as acquittals (not-guilty verdicts), withdrawals, stays of proceedings are generally kept by local police agencies.  This type of information is usually kept internally and is not regularly released for the purpose of background checks.  Also, both local police agencies and CPIC results may also contain information on “discharges” — cases in which a finding of guilt has been made, but a judge has decided not to register a conviction against the defendant.


Is it possible to get Criminal Records erased or destroyed?

Every police agency has their own policies and procedures with respect to record retention and destruction.  A request to destroy your police records with the local agency that laid the charge, or with CPIC, may be done in certain situations where your case resulted in a non-conviction.  Our law office assists clients in applying for record destruction when cases result in non-convictions.


What types of background checks are there in British Columbia?

In addition to standard background checks for criminal convictions, there are special background checks for individuals depending on the type of job they have or are applying for and the type of individuals they will be working with:

  • Vulnerable Sector Checks are background checks for individuals who work with children and disabled, elderly, or otherwise vulnerable adults in organizations that receive funds from the provincial government.  This includes teachers, nurses, daycare employees, dentists, and doctors.  These searches are governed by a special statute called the Criminal Records Review Act.
  • The BC Public Service Criminal Record Check is a mandatory form of security screening for people applying for public service jobs in designated positions in British Columbia.  The consent for disclosure application requires an individual to check for records of criminal convictions, outstanding charges and arrests.  Results are provided to hiring managers and declare an applicant either “No Risk” or “Risk to Employment.”
  • Enhanced Security Screening may occur for certain categories of employment and require verification of an individual’s educational or professional credentials, credit or financial checks, and background.


What turns up on a Vulnerable Sector Check?

Almost every interaction an individual has had with the police, either as an adult or a youth, may turn up on a Vulnerable Sector Check.  This includes criminal records, occurrence reports, youth records, absolute and conditional discharges, and judicial orders.  The history is then reviewed against a list of specified offences to determine the risk an individual may pose where they have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults.  According to the Ministry of Justice, offences reviewed, in addition to serious sexual offences, include simple assault, uttering threats and Section 810 Peace Bonds.


How can a criminal record affect my current job?

Many companies now perform “rolling” background checks on current employees.  These checks may reveal pending or outstanding charges, and cases that have resulted in non-convictions.  A company’s choice to terminate your employment based on a discovery of outstanding criminal charges, or a non-conviction for a matter unrelated to your employment, may be in violation of labour laws, and is something to discuss with your lawyer.


Will my potential or current employer find charges that were dropped or withdrawn?

Possibly.  Depending on the nature of your employment and any prior or current consent provided, you may have waived certain privacy rights and permitted your potential or current employer to investigate or obtain information on charges that did not result in a conviction.  For more about employment consequences, click [here]. 


Can I travel to the United States with a criminal record?

For individuals facing or having recently dealt with criminal charges in Canada, travel and admission to the United States can be complicated and depend on the nature of the charge, the ultimate disposition of your case, and your interview with USCIS.  For more information on travel, please click [here].