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Human Rights Commission Concerned Background Checks May Go Too Far

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CBC News

The Ontario Human Rights Commission says it is concerned about police record checks, which many organizations carry out on prospective employees.

Commissioner Barbara Hall says many Ontarians may be surprised by some of the information that is turned up, which could include any involvement a person has had with the police, such as being a witness to or even a victim of a crime, or, sometimes a person's mental history.

Christine Burych, who selects volunteers to work at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, sometimes asks police to do what are called background reference checks.

Burych said many people would be surprised at how much non-criminal information shows up.

The background checks are more thorough than regular criminal record checks and can sometimes reveal a person's mental history.

'Humiliating situation'

For example, incidents of emotional distress or attempted suicide when police are called could be on an individual's record.

Burych said she doesn't see "how relevant someone's mental health status is."

Hall said some people may unknowingly be setting themselves up for discrimination.

She calls it "a humiliating situation for people with a history of mental health problems" and worries that employers may reject someone based on stereotypes about mental illnesses.

The human rights commissioner is proposing that police not automatically disclose a person's mental health history and further suggests police should take into consideration what job the person is applying for when collecting information.

Reproduced from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2008/03/12/background-checks.html

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