Canada pre-employment background checks

With a population of over 35 million, close proximity to the US and strong business ties, such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it’s tempting to also want to transpose your hiring and background screening practices north of the border. However, it’s best to work with a trusted partner who knows the nuances of Canadian background checks and can work with your team to get you up and running, while also adhering to best practices.

Building the case

Wondering if it makes sense to build pre-employment screening into your hiring process?

49% of Canadian employers have caught a lie on a job applicant’s Resume or C.V. What’s the most common embellishment? According to a 2015 survey by CareerBuilders


Skill set: 58%

Responsibilities: 53%

Job title: 32%

Academic degree: 31%

Companies worked: 31%

Dates of employment: 27%

Hiring where driving is a job requirement? Based on Canadian police roadside checks and assessments:

  • There were 74,800 alcohol or drug-impaired driving incidents in 2014. That’s down 3000 from 2013, but still represents 210 per 100,000 of the population, according to statistics from the Government of Canada.
  • Of those, 97% were alcohol impairment and 3% were drug impairment, so it’s definitely worth checking driver abstract. It might also be worth considering drug screening if your candidate is going to be driving for work.

NAPBS, the industry body for background screening, estimates there are now more than 6 million criminal background check searches run per year.

Canada pre-employment background checks

Take into consideration the following when building your screening program:

  • Informed consent – you must seek upfront candidate consent to disclosure of personal information and the purpose for it, prior to undergoing checks in Canada
  • Candidate disclosure – give candidates the opportunity to declare any criminal convictions or offenses for which they have not been granted a pardon. This can be done via an upfront consent form and then verified with fingerprint records later on in the process, as required
  • Appropriateness to the position – what kind of searches, checks and verifications are needed for the position being filled? For example, you might want to add media checks and credit checks with credit bureaus for directors – or – professional reference – or professional license for Accountants, Legal or Medical professionals
  • Dispute Process – An individual should be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.
  • Data Privacy – review and comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA, which is the Canadian law for data privacy), as well as the Privacy Act.
  • Province of hire – Depending on province of hiring, please also consider and consult MFIPPA, PIPA and any province specific Human Rights, Freedom Acts, Data Privacy or Credit Consumer Reporting acts that must be adhered to.

When should I run background checks?

This really comes down to your company policy, industry, position being recruited for, as well as local compliance and best practice. However, there are certain scenarios where you may have an obligation. For example, if you are a Financial Institution employing Directors and Senior Management personnel, then the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) has guidance and guidelines for Directors and Senior Management personnel [E17 Background Checks on Directors and Senior Management of FREs], stating:

“When a Responsible Person is first appointed to his or her position, FREs would obtain sufficient information to allow them to conclude that the Responsible Person possesses the suitability and integrity to perform properly the duties of the Responsible Person position.”

This information can include criminal records, liability in civil proceedings, evidence of required education, skills, professional qualifications and experience.

How do criminal background checks work in Canada?

It’s possible to run national criminal searches in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) manage a repository system, which is often referred to as the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) search, which includes a review of various databases. Using a process of “name-based criminal record check” where the applicant provides name, alias, previous name, date of birth, addresses and other data points Accurate Background can complete a check with the candidate’s consent. The check is a search for a record of criminal convictions, for which a pardon has not been granted. In Canada, a criminal record file consists of an individual’s criminal charges, convictions and discharges, as well as fingerprints, such that a fingerprint-based confirmation can be completed if a record is found or results are unclear.

When it comes to the driving record or “driver abstract” as it’s commonly known in Canada then it’s actually managed on a province by province or territory level, rather than at a national level. Again, with the candidate’s consent and for employment purposes only, Accurate Background can run a check, which typically includes results from convictions, traffic accidents, judgments, suspensions and revocations. This is supported in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.

In addition to employment and education verification of candidates, Accurate Background can also offer the following in Canada:

  • Credit Report and ID checks. For a credit report it’s typical to use the Social Insurance Number (SIN), but generally the SIN is not to be regarded as an identity card and therefore optional and not required for most search types.
  • Quebec provincial criminal check or Société québécoise d’information juridique report (SOQUIJ), which detects breaches of criminal law in Quebec.
  • Civil Litigation Searches. A local-level provincial court search. Information returned will include any suits, judgments or liens filed against the candidate.

Hopefully this gives you enough information to consider when implementing background checks in Canada. The Accurate Background team would be happy to work with you on any specific questions or considerations, so please do contact us to discuss your needs.