A Case for Inappropriate Vulnerable Sector Verifications Use

Posted 17 February 2017 8:00 AM by Chuck Walker: Senior Advisor, Public Safety Information Management

Police Station

In 2016, I wrote two articles detailing information about the enhanced criminal record check, Vulnerable Sector Verifications (VSV). The first, Rampant Misuse of Vulnerable Sector Verifications in Canada-What Organizations Need to Know, explained what a VSV is to help organizations decide whether they need to use this approach. The second, Vulnerable Sector Verifications and Persons under 30, highlighted the fact that no one under the age of 30 has a record suspension for any conviction associated with a VSV process. In that article, I shared that it is my estimation that approximately 500,000 of the 2.3 million VSVs initiated each year are therefore pointless. Since writing those articles, I have heard stories from parents whose adult children - those under thirty - have been required to undergo the VSV process. Why is this still happening?

In this month's blog post, I will share my views on why the inappropriate use of this process persists and offer insight on what could be done to correct it. Since publishing my initial blogs on VSV's, one of my children went through the VSV process and her encounter presents a good case study regarding inapplicable VSV use.

Case Study-My Daughter's VSV Process

Our daughter was offered a practicum opportunity related to the degree she is completing. Since the practicum involves teaching children in a school setting, the school board required that she undergo a VSV. The school board is subject to provincial directives requiring a Verified Sector Verifications. Like all others in her age group, she took time out of her schedule, drove to the police station, fed the parking meter, stood in line at the police front counter and paid (in her case) $56.00 to search for a pardoned sex offence conviction that she could not possibly have.

In deconstructing this scenario – it begins with the school board's perceived requirement: One must have a VSV completed to work with students. Well, okay – that would depend. When the applicant is under thirty years old, there's nothing (ever) to be found when searching the Pardoned Sex Offender Data Base. The School Board's pat answer was, "It's a directed requirement of the Province – we don't have a choice."

So, she attends the local police station since federal policy won't allow for a VSV to be initiated any other way. I believe you'll agree that the chances of a young woman telling the police that the search they are conducting is pointless and should not be happening – when completing the process stands between her and the practicum opportunity – are roughly zero. I don't blame my daughter and she should not have to be the one to challenge the status quo.

What about the police service? Shouldn't it be intervening on our daughter's behalf? Something to the effect of: "School Board, this applicant is too young to have a pardoned sex offence conviction, so this particular search is not a requirement." After all, the Criminal Records Act relies on police services to determine whether a search of the pardoned sex offender database should be conducted. Such conversations – or versions of them – should be happening everywhere by now and yet, they are not happening. Instead, the police service conducted a VSV on our daughter. It even charged her a premium to expedite the negative result that a search of the pardoned sex offender database always produces for her demographic.

We're all aware by now that when someone's date of birth and their gender matches to that of persons' in this database, fingerprints are required. Ask this question to anybody you know within that demographic who has had to undergo a VSV. Were you able to complete the process without needing to be fingerprinted? The answer will be "Yes." The RCMP has even acknowledged this and stated in a letter to our company dated November 2015: "If there is no match to holdings found by the local police service, then no fingerprint submission will be required, causing no impact on the under -30 demographic referenced in your letter."

No impact? Except for the requirement to complete a pointless search, my daughter, and her entire cohort could choose between the police front counter and other options that are just as comprehensive and often more secure.

Vulnerable Sector Verification Requirements

VSVs continue to present challenges for organizations and applicants alike. This is because a VSV is a process defined at the federal level but initiated and largely controlled at the local level. As things stand, if a search of the pardoned sex offender database is part of the package, one must attend their local police service. Change has been difficult to realize because the people affected by the dysfunctionality are the ones who need the job, need the placement or need to complete the practicum. Put another way, those who are impacted are the most unlikely to question the status quo. As a collective of stakeholders, how do we help these applicants?

If your organization has a VSV requirement, you might be in a position to lead change that will improve the situation for a growing segment of the applicant population: young Canadians.

  • If your organization is bound by policy or regulation to request a VSV, share this article with your decision makers and start the dialogue for appropriate amendments
  • If your organization has discretion to direct its screening policy, you can be a leader among your peers by promoting screening processes that are informed
  • Most importantly, if you have reservations that alternatives to the local police front counter are somehow inferior, share them with us and learn how our processes are just as comprehensive

Sterling Talent Solutions provides thought leadership on topics relevant to employee background screening and this includes managing Vulnerable Sector Check requirements. To learn more about how Sterling Talent Solutions can support you with sound advice about Vulnerable Sector Checks and other criminal background checks, please visit our hiring solutions page and download a copy of our eBook, Background Screening 101.

Background Screening 101

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