VICTORIA - Criminal record checks for volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults will be provided free to volunteer and non-profit sector organizations who opt into the provincial program, under proposed changes to the Criminal Records Review Act.
If passed, the amendments will also allow volunteers and publicly funded employees covered by the legislation to consent to sharing the results of their criminal record checks with other organizations. Sharing of existing, verified checks will remove the need and cost for multiple checks and allow volunteers and employees to move more easily between agencies.
The changes will acknowledge and support volunteerism while furthering provincial leadership in protecting children and vulnerable adults. In 2011, B.C. became the only Canadian province to require criminal record checks of employees working with vulnerable adults, including those at risk of abuse or exploitation due to their age, frailty, or mental or physical disability. At that time, B.C. was already the only province with a broad program to require criminal record reviews of people applying for jobs with unsupervised access to children.
Non-profit agencies now will have a choice, either to opt into the services provided under the legislation, or to continue to fund their own screening approaches. Agencies that choose the first option will get free checks for their volunteers and have access to the criminal records review program's adjudication process, which provides expert, consistent risk assessment when a check identifies a criminal record containing relevant offences. Currently, some non-profit agencies pay to have their local police or RCMP detachment conduct criminal record checks.
The amendments follow consultations with many large, volunteer-based and non-profit groups that expressed concern about costs and duplication of effort in volunteer screening.
Shirley Bond, Minister of Justice and Attorney General -
"Volunteers make a difference every day in our province. While criminal record checks are essential, we want to streamline the process and reduce costs for individuals and organizations. These changes will also eliminate the need for multiple record checks, something that has been a frustration for many dedicated volunteers."
Gordon Hogg, MLA for Surrey-White Rock and parliamentary secretary for non-profit partnerships -
"From my work with and on behalf of a number of volunteer-driven organizations, I know they recognize the importance of screening potential volunteers - but many also struggle with the cost of record checks when every dollar counts in continuing their good work. The relief these changes will bring is very positive and a real acknowledgement of the value volunteers provide, in countless ways, to the quality of life our families and communities enjoy."
Scott Ackles, CEO, viaSport British Columbia -
"When new, enthusiastic people want to volunteer with your organization, you want to minimize the delay while still doing your due diligence. It will be really helpful to be able to bring new volunteers on board at no cost to our organization, and to do so more quickly when they've already had a recent record check that can simply be shared with us."
- If passed, the act will only apply to volunteers of non-profit or other agencies that work with children or vulnerable adults and that decide to opt into the criminal records review program.
- Workers currently required to have criminal record checks include health professionals, teachers and teaching-practicum students, and volunteers at licensed care facilities.
- A risk assessment is triggered for workers whose record checks reveal convictions for a variety of criminal activities - including assault, sexual abuse, forgery, fraud, intimidation, counselling suicide or criminal breach of trust. The deputy registrar makes a determination of risk and may prohibit an individual from working with children and vulnerable adults.
- In 2011, the provincial program provided nearly 200,000 checks of employees, while B.C. police agencies reported conducting about 80,000 more.
The proposed, amended Criminal Records Review Act will be available at: www.leg.bc.ca/39th5th/votes/progress-of-bills.htm
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice