Since volunteering involves working with the public at large in a variety of settings, most organizations now require a criminal background check before being accepted for a position.
Volunteers usually lend themselves to areas that are generally sensitive such as working with children and youth, working with the elderly or mentally ill, and a variety of positions exist in hospitals and clinical settings. Social programs and therapeutic programs also need people they trust to work closely with people with a range of needs.
However, there are a variety of positions in Canada that are involved with less vulnerable sectors. Non-governmental organizations (NGO) for instance, rely on volunteers to work in their fundraising departments or to advocate in their street teams. Despite not necessarily working with vulnerable persons, background checks for NGOs are necessary to attest to a person’s character and their ability to handle the given responsibilities.
Canadian Pardons and Volunteering
If you have a previous criminal record, or even if you have been charged with a criminal offence that was later withdrawn – in the form of a dismissal, peace bond, discharge, or stay – you will generally not be able to become a volunteer. You may have a chance to explain your record’s existence but it won’t necessarily ensure that you’ll get the position.
This is especially true for volunteering at your child’s school, becoming a mentor, or coaching a sports team, as it can pose a threat to the safety of the school or organization.
However, if you receive a Canadian pardon or record suspension, your offence will no longer show up on a criminal background check (depending on the offence) – in effect removing that obstacle to volunteer.
Volunteering in Vulnerable Sectors
If you have obtained a Canadian Pardon, criminal charges will not show up on vulnerable sector background checks unless you were charged for certain sexual offenses. In that case, your name will continue to stay flagged in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system.
It is important to remember that each organization which accepts volunteers has different guidelines – some which may be more favorable to your situation. Contacting your chosen organization or institution to inquire on their guidelines is the best way to get a sense of what you will need as part of your application.
Generally speaking, a Canadian pardon will help to increase your chances of becoming a volunteer across a number of sectors. If you have a criminal record and are looking into becoming a volunteer, find out if you are eligible for a pardon.