When individuals have non-criminal contact with the police, information about the contact is included in their police file. If individuals then request a police records check for the purpose of working or volunteering with a vulnerable population, the non-criminal information is disclosed, which may impact negatively on their application for a position.
A police record is different from a criminal record. A criminal record will show any convictions a person has received. A police record may show much more information. For example, a police record is created any time a person is actively involved with the police. Even if they have never been charged or convicted of an offence but were questioned by the police there may be a police record. If the police take a person to a hospital or transfer between hospitals, there may be a police record. Even if a person has been in a position for some time, they may be asked to agree to a records search. Many consumers, family members and stakeholders are unaware of this practice and its harmful effects.
The Mental Health Police Records Check Coalition (MHPRCC) believes that this practice is discriminatory to individuals who have contact with the police pursuant to the Mental Health Act. Reporting such information erroneously suggests that these individuals did something wrong or committed a criminal activity. The disclosure can negatively impact an individual’s wellness, recovery and ability to pursue career, educational, vocational and volunteer aspirations.
In 2011, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) established a new policy that prohibits the disclosure of such non-criminal mental health information. OACP’s new Guideline for Police Record Checks is the first step to ensuring confidentiality and protecting the right to privacy for Ontarians with mental health conditions. To find out more information about the guideline, visit the Mental Health Police Records Check Coalition website.
How CMHA Ontario Is Addressing This Issue
Mental Health Police Records Check Coalition
CMHA Ontario, as a member of the MHPRCC, is working to change the current practice in Ontario of releasing non-criminal information as part of a police record check.
On April 7, 2008, the MHPRCC made a submission to the Ontario Human Rights Commission as part of the consultation, outlining the concerns it has with the practice and making recommendations for change.
Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
The MHPRCC released a petition to be presented to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario asking for new legislation to end the discriminatory practice of releasing records that result when police officers accompany someone to the hospital under the Mental Health Act. See “Police Records Check Coalition seeks support for legislation change,” Mental Health Notes, September 4, 2008.
Personal Health Information Protection Act
On August 28, 2008, CMHA Ontario made a Submission to the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Regarding Review of the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, including the recommendation that “Interventions by police to support an individual in accessing health care should be regarded as health care interventions and be governed under the terms of PHIPA.”
Information of Concern, Network, Fall 2006
An article in CMHA Ontario’s Network magazine focusing on police record checks.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
In November 2007 the OHRC released a draft policy for consultation, on their interpretation of provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code relating to police record checks. See Policy on Mental Health Discrimination and Police Record Checks. The consultation period has now ended. A final policy is expected to be released by the OHRC.
About the MHPRCC
For more information about the Mental Health Police Records Check Coalition’s work and activities, visit the Psychiatric Patient Advocacy Office website.
Members of the MHPRCC
MHPRCC Mission Statement
The principles and goals of the coalition, as well as information about joining the coalition and helping with this important work.
Questions and Answers, MHPRCC, November 2007
Information about the MHPRCC and the issue of discrimination and police record checks in Ontario.
Backgrounder: Mental Health Discrimination and Police Record Checks
Background information about the development of a policy on police record checks by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Police Records Searches, June 2007A plain-language infoguide from the Psychiatric Patient Advocacy Office (PPAO).
What Is Involved if You Are Asked to Provide a Police Background Check?, January 2007
A document prepared by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.