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Criminal Records Verification in Canada: What Employers Need to Know

Criminal records verification is a crucial aspect of the recruitment process in Canada. It involves scrutinizing a candidate’s criminal history to ensure a safe and compliant workplace. This guide aims to provide Canadian employers with a comprehensive understanding of how to conduct these checks responsibly and legally. It emphasizes the need to balance thorough background screening with respect for candidates’ privacy and rights. This article will explore the intricacies of criminal records checks, their legal framework, and how they fit into the broader hiring process.

Canadian employers face the challenge of conducting criminal record checks while respecting the privacy and rights of candidates. These checks are essential for maintaining workplace safety and integrity. This article aims to demystify the process of criminal records verification in Canada, highlighting its importance in the hiring process, the legal framework governing it, and the best practices employers should follow.

What is a Criminal Records Check?

Criminal records checks in Canada involve searching for a person’s criminal history, including convictions, pending charges, and possibly pardoned offenses. These checks are essential for employers to understand a candidate’s background, aiding in responsible hiring decisions. They serve as a crucial tool in assessing a candidate’s suitability for a particular role.

Legal Framework

The process of conducting criminal records checks in Canada is governed by laws like the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Privacy Act. Employers must ensure their practices comply with these regulations to avoid legal issues and conduct checks fairly and respectfully.

  • Governing Laws: These checks are regulated under laws like the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Privacy Act.
  • Compliance: Adherence to these regulations is crucial to avoid legal issues and ensure fair and respectful conduct of checks.

Importance of Criminal Records Checks

Workplace Safety

Criminal records checks are vital for ensuring workplace safety, as they help identify potential risks, particularly in roles requiring high levels of trust and integrity. They are a key component in safeguarding employees and maintaining a secure work environment.

  • Risk Identification: Criminal records checks are vital for identifying potential risks in the workplace, especially for positions requiring high trust and integrity.
  • Safety Assurance: They contribute significantly to ensuring the safety of all employees.

Reputation and Liability

Failing to conduct proper background checks can harm an organization’s reputation and lead to legal liabilities, especially if an incident occurs due to negligent hiring. Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and integrity of their workforce.

  • Reputational Risk: Skipping proper background checks can damage an organization’s reputation.
  • Legal Liability: Employers might face legal liabilities in case of incidents due to negligent hiring.

Regulatory Compliance

For certain jobs, particularly those involving vulnerable groups, criminal record checks are a legal requirement. Compliance with these regulations is essential for employers in specific industries.

Best Practices for Background Verification

  • Tailored Checks: Customize background checks based on the position’s requirements. This could range from criminal record checks for security-sensitive positions to credit checks for financial roles.
  • Consistent Procedures: Apply the same background check procedures for all candidates for a particular role to avoid discrimination claims.
  • Privacy Compliance: Store and handle all personal information securely, adhering to PIPEDA guidelines.
  • Feedback Opportunity: If adverse information is found, give the candidate a chance to explain or contest the findings.
  • Documentation: Keep records of the consent and procedures followed during the background check process.

Conducting Criminal Records Checks

Leveraging technology can streamline the background verification process. Automated reference checks, for instance, offer efficiency and consistency.

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Addressing Common Challenges

Consent is Key

Obtaining written consent from candidates before initiating criminal checks is a legal and ethical necessity. It ensures transparency and respect for the candidate’s privacy.

Using Reliable Services

Employers should choose reputable services like Credibled’s background check service to conduct accurate and comprehensive criminal record checks.

Understanding Limitations

Criminal records checks should be part of a broader background verification process. Employers should also consider tools like automated reference checks for a more complete assessment.

Integrating with Other Hiring Practices

Employers should integrate criminal records checks with other hiring tools like reference checks to gain a comprehensive understanding of candidates. Reference checks can provide valuable additional insights, as detailed in “A Guide to an Ideal Reference Checking Process”.

  • Holistic Approach: Combine criminal records checks with other hiring tools like reference checks for a complete evaluation.
  • Additional Insights: Reference checks, as detailed in “ Guide to an Ideal Reference Checking Process”, offer valuable additional information.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Respecting Privacy

Employers must handle the information obtained from criminal records checks confidentially and use it solely for hiring purposes.


Best Practices for Employers

Develop a Clear Policy: Establish a well-defined policy on how criminal records checks are conducted and utilized in hiring decisions.
  • Ensure Consistency: Apply the same criteria uniformly to all candidates to avoid discriminatory practices.
  • Make Contextual Decisions: Assess criminal records in relation to job requirements and individual rehabilitation.
  • Keep Documentation: Maintain records of consent forms and decision-making processes for auditing and compliance.

A criminal record check in Canada can reveal various types of information, including convictions for criminal offenses, pending criminal charges, and in some cases, even pardoned offenses.


In conclusion, criminal records verification is an indispensable and multifaceted aspect of the recruitment process in Canada. It is not merely a procedural step but a crucial responsibility that employers must undertake with diligence and sensitivity. Understanding the legal nuances, respecting the rights and privacy of candidates, and seamlessly integrating criminal record checks into a comprehensive hiring strategy are essential for employers. This approach ensures informed and fair hiring decisions, contributing to a safe, compliant, and harmonious workplace environment.

Additionally, employers should stay abreast of evolving legal standards and societal attitudes towards criminal records and employment. This evolving landscape requires a dynamic approach to policy-making and practice in criminal records verification. By doing so, organizations can not only protect themselves and their employees but also contribute to a more inclusive and rehabilitative societal approach towards individuals with criminal histories.

Employers looking for more insights into effective and ethical hiring practices can explore further resources such as employee engagement strategies and other related topics. These resources provide valuable guidance on creating a more efficient, fair, and forward-thinking hiring process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In Canada, employers typically check a variety of elements during a background check. This includes criminal records, employment history, educational qualifications, credit history, and sometimes social media profiles. The scope of the check often depends on the nature of the job and the employer’s policies.
Yes, employers in Canada can ask for a criminal record as part of the hiring process. However, they must comply with human rights legislation, ensuring that any such request is relevant to the job’s requirements and that they obtain the candidate’s consent before conducting the check.
Companies check criminal records by requesting a criminal record check from the candidate. This can be done through government agencies, police departments, or third-party services specialized in conducting background checks. The candidate must provide consent and sometimes personal information like their date of birth and address for the check to be conducted.
A criminal record check in Canada can reveal various types of information, including convictions for criminal offenses, pending criminal charges, and in some cases, even pardoned offenses. The specifics of what is revealed can depend on the type of criminal record check conducted (basic, standard, or vulnerable sector).