Criminal Records

Volunteers in Halifax could be getting a break on criminal record checks

Cost of criminal record checks can be a barrier for potential volunteers

Halifax Regional Police Headquarters
Halifax Regional Police Headquarters   Brandon Young

Criminal record checks could be getting a lot cheaper for volunteers in Halifax.

On Monday, Halifax city Coun. Steve Craig presented a motion to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners.

Craig requested a report from both the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP that explains the costs involved with completing criminal record checks and the possibility of providing the service for free, specifically for volunteers.

Craig said the cost of criminal record checks can be a problem for some citizens.

“As we rely more and more on volunteers it seems to me that in some cases volunteers, those who have lesser economic ability to pay for such things, it’s a barrier for them to get involved in their schools and sports or anything that their kids might be involved in or even their elderly parents,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Currently criminal record checks for volunteers cost $30. A record check is valid for 90 days when done by Halifax police, however the specific volunteer organization decides how old of a record check it will accept. This forces volunteers to pay for new record checks frequently if they volunteer with organizations that require up to date checks.

Jacqueline Vincent, volunteer co-ordinator at Out of the Cold Emergency Shelter, said they often hear about potential volunteers who are not able to afford the criminal record check.

“We do cover the cost for anyone who identifies that that’s a barrier,” she said. “It’s a pretty regular issue.”

Vincent said it’s possible that the shelter paid the fees of about a dozen volunteers this year.

“One problem this system presents is that in order for someone to have the cost covered they have to come to us and say that they need the cost covered, and that might not be something that everyone feels comfortable talking about,” she said.

Out of the Cold accepts checks that are up to one year old. Vincent said that lowering the cost or eliminating it would help make volunteering more convenient for people.

Const. Dianne Woodworth, a spokeswoman for Halifax police, said the department has begun work on Craig’s requests and hopes to have a report prepared soon.