Guilty Until Proven Innocent
A proposal has been made by the RCMP that would require police information check applicants to be fingerprinted prior to receiving a criminal record check. The new procedures are supposed to increase public safety and reduce the likelihood that somebody could obtain a criminal record check or police information check using false identity.
Boudreau is pleased the proposal would add consistency for volunteers across all jurisdictions, but he believes the move would have a large impact on the volunteer sector as a whole.
“It’s just another thing to do. Our volunteerism in general is reaching a point of exhaustion,” said Boudreau, noting the festival lost close to five per cent of its volunteers this year because they didn’t feel comfortable getting the criminal record or vulnerable sector check.
“To donate your time to an organization for a good cause, there’s more hoops to jump through and more administrative work. That’s all volunteers want to do is just help out. Not a lot of people would really feel comfortable going to that level to really help out a cause they believe in, which is really unfortunate.”
Dave Elanik, manager of the Edmonton police information check section, isn’t a fan of the plan.
A former police inspector, Elanik has never known any false identity occurrences happening with criminal record checks and is concerned about the impact it would have on volunteerism since anyone wanting to volunteer for any organization would have to be fingerprinted.
“That would mean we would be fingerprinting volunteers from as young as 12 years old or someone over 80 who wants to volunteer at their church. To me, that just doesn’t make sense. There’s no public safety benefit,” said Elanik.
“I recognize how important volunteerism is to a strong community. I don’t think we should be doing anything to deter volunteering. We should be doing more things to promote volunteerism in our community.”
Edmonton police received 69,103 information check applications last year, mainly for volunteering and employment purposes. Of those, only 3,733 were fingerprinted for the purposes of a vulnerable sector check. With the proposal, however, everyone would have to be fingerprinted.
Last year police went through great lengths in order to improve customer service and process applications in a more timely manner. Prior to these improvements, people were waiting as long as six weeks to get a police check done. Now those requiring a criminal record check for employment purposes can get it done on the spot by attending the office. The proposal, said Elanik, would create additional fees and delays due to fingerprinting and waiting on results.
Elanik recently sent a notice to all volunteer agencies advising of the proposed change. Within a day, he received 75 replies.
“They are saying this will have a significant impact on their ability to retain and recruit volunteers,” said Elanik, who’s concerned the proposal might cause some volunteer organizations to simply forgo criminal record checks, opening the door to dangerous offenders.
“There’s a lot of people that have that stigma around being fingerprinted. If you have no reason, if you have the proper identity, to me it just doesn’t make any sense why we would need to fingerprint someone.”
The new procedures were initially scheduled to be implemented in July 2015, but the timeline is now on hold as late as 2017 to allow more consultation with stakeholders. Elanik said there was no public consultation with volunteer agencies before it was approved by the national police services committee.