The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) announced on February 26, 2014, that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Executive approved a motion to change the way it shares non-conviction records. The motion calls on revising existing guidelines in order to “institute a presumption against the release of non-conviction records on all levels of police checks.”
This motion was jointly proposed by the OACP and the CCLA and will include a narrow public safety exception to allow for the release of records where there is a risk to the safety of vulnerable members of the public.
CMHA Ontario applauds the OACP and CCLA for their leadership as the release of non-conviction records can pose barriers for individuals with mental health and addictions issue. OACP’s position will help ensure that individuals are not discriminated against because of a mental health police record created as a result of a medical intervention.
Leading up to this decision the Police Records Check Coalition (PRCC), a group of stakeholders working to end the discriminatory practice of police who release non-criminal contact information about persons with mental illness, released an Action Alert.
The alert supports stopping the disclosure of non-conviction information on police record checks. The Action Alert was created in response to a report titled “Non-Conviction Records: OACP Consultation and Recommendations” released by the OACP and CCLA. This report summarized community consultations which occurred in November of 2013.
The PRCC alongside CMHA Ontario and other stakeholders contributed to the community consultation on the OACP update of the LEARN guideline, a document that was first released in 2011.
CMHA Ontario is concerned about the release of non-conviction records because these can include police contact as a result of an apprehension under the Mental Health Act as well as charges that are withdrawn or stayed because of a mental health court diversion.
The guideline provides information on how Ontario police services should conduct police record checks for people seeking work or volunteer opportunities. Although the guideline recommends not including non-criminal contact with police, mental health apprehensions and suicide attempts are still sometimes entered into police records, which discriminates against individuals with mental health and addictions issues. The guideline has been implemented to varying degrees across police services in Ontario:
- 58% of police services have adopted all of the guideline,
- 22% of police services have adopted most of the guideline,
- 11% of police services have adopted part of the guideline, and
- 9% of police services still have not adopted this guideline.
CMHA Ontario is concerned about the release of non-conviction records because these can include police contact as a result of an apprehension under the Mental Health Act as well as charges that are withdrawn or stayed because of a mental health court diversion. Mental health police record information can appear on Police Vulnerable Sector Checks (PVSC). Personal Information Checks (PICs) and PVSCs are often required when a person applies for a paid or volunteer work position, especially with organizations that serve vulnerable populations.