Criminal Background Checks in Ontario – What You May Not Have Known

Criminal Background Checks in Ontario – What You May Not Have Known

A very common question Criminal Lawyers are asked is “what will show up on my criminal background check”?     There are a variety of different outcomes of a criminal case.   From the entire range of outcomes, there are several that do not involve criminal convictions, including a withdrawn charge, a withdrawn charge by way of a peace bond and a Discharge (either Conditional or Absolute).  Many people often wonder whether a non-conviction outcome, like the aforementioned, will show up on a criminal background check.    The short answer is that (a) it depends on the nature of the background check and (b) the nature of the charges involved; but thanks to the Police Records Check Reform Act, which took effect on Nov. 1, 2018, the police in Ontario are faced with restrictions now in disclosing non-conviction records on all background checks.

The Three Types of Criminal Background Checks in Ontario

There are three types of criminal background checks in Ontario:

(1) A criminal record check;

(2) A criminal record and judicial matters check;

(3) A vulnerable sector check

Generally speaking, under a criminal record check, the police will disclose outcomes that involved criminal convictions (ie, fines, suspended sentences, probation, conditional sentences and jail).

Under a criminal record and judicial matters check, the police will disclose convictions, in addition to things like outsanding criminal charges, arrest warrants and, most importantly, Absolute Discharges (within 1 year of receiving one) and Conditional Discharges (within 3 years of receiving one).

The most detailed check is a vulnerable sector check.  Prior to the Act that took effect in November 2018, the police would disclose all non-conviction records under this type of check, including withdrawn charges, peace bonds and Discharges.  They would also disclose apprehensions under the Mental Health Act, even where charges were not laid.  Despite the non-conviction nature of these outcomes, people were losing jobs, volunteer work and were having difficult travelling to the USA when required to present a vulnerable check.

Now, the police can only include withdrawn / stayed charges on this type of check if:

  1. The criminal charge be on a list of offences (set out in Regulation);
  2. The alleged victim was a child or vulnerable person; and
  3. The information provides reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has been engaged in a pattern of predation indicative of a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable person.


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