CPIC only reports indictable and hybrid offences

Canadian Police Information Centre

In Canada, a criminal record is a documented guilty conviction with registration of the offenders name in CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre).

CPIC Content

“Canada’s repository of criminal records relates to individuals that have been charged with indictable and/or hybrid offences. Since the Identification of Criminals Act only allows the taking of fingerprints in relation to indictable or hybrid offences, and the RCMP National Repository of Criminal Records is fingerprint-based, the National Repository only contains information relating to these two categories of offences. Summary conviction offences are only included in the National Repository if submitted as part of an occurrence involving an indictable or hybrid offence.” [source: rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/dissemination-criminal-record-information-policy  (20 Jan 16)]

Hybrid Offences

Hybrid Offences or Dual-Procedure Offences may proceed as either summary conviction offences or indictable offences. The Crown chooses the mode of prosecution but usually prosecutes the less serious of these as summary conviction offences. The crown may proceed on the hybrid offences as more serious indictable offences when the  circumstances make the crime more serious.

What CPIC Doesn’t Report

The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) was created in 1966 as an information system for Canadian law enforcement agencies. It is the sole nationwide repository of criminal convictions in Canada. Many employers require a search of CPIC before hiring.

When a search is conducted for employment, you must understand what it doesn’t report.

A Canadian Police Criminal Record Check WILL NOT include:

  • Outstanding entries, such as charges and warrants, judicial orders, Peace Bonds, Probation and Prohibition Orders.
  • Absolute and Conditional Discharges.
  • Convictions where a pardon has been granted.
  • Convictions under provincial statutes.
  • Local Police contacts.
  • Ministry of Transportation information.
  • Family Court Restraining Orders.
  • Foreign information.
  • Charged and processed by other means such as Diversion.
  • Any reference to incidents involving mental health contact that did not result in a conviction.
  • Any information under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA ).

Pre-employment Criminal Record Checks

The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) was created in 1966 as an information system for Canadian law enforcement agencies. It is the sole nationwide repository of criminal convictions in Canada. Many employers require a search of CPIC before hiring. However, this system is not foolproof.

Auditor-General reports going back to 2000 have criticized the CPIC system (see para. 7.86) regarding timely delivery of criminal record data.

The most recent Auditor-General report estimates that the RCMP takes an average of 14 months to update an existing English criminal record in CPIC. The French updates take an average of 36 months. The stated goal is updating a record in 24 hours. Unfortunately, reality is an average time of 334 working days (see para. 5.59 & 5.60). For a new criminal record, the average time to process was 27 working days ( see para. 5.60).

If the employer hires someone with a minor criminal record, they may getting someone with a much more serious, but undisclosed, conviction. If the employer hires someone with no criminal record, the employer may be getting someone with an undisclosed conviction for a serious offence.


The New Ontario Tort of Intrusion Upon Seclusion

The case of Jones v. Tsige, 2012 ONCA 32 before the Ontario Court of Appeal created a new tort in Ontario. Ontario civil law allows individuals to sue for breach of privacy based on proof of:

1. an intentional unauthorized intrusion;­
2. which is an intrusion upon private affairs or concerns (i.e. that breaches a reasonable expectation of privacy); and
3. that is made in circumstances that are highly offensive to the reasonable person, causing distress, humiliation or anguish.

However, proof of harm to a recognized economic interest is not an element of the cause of action.

With Ontario allowing this tort, we now have four provinces that allow a tort for intruding upon someone’s personal life by accessing private data.

In this case, Winnie Tsige, a colleague of Sandra Jones at the Bank of Montreal, accessed her banking records on 174 occasions over four years. Tsige had been in a relationship with Jones’ former husband and become involved in a financial dispute with him.

I fear that the court has opened the sluicegates for all kinds of invasion of privacy cases that were not previously recognized. My first concern is that the court didn’t set any parameters for what constitutes reckless behaviour on the part of the person divulging the data or the person reporting it, and this should be of particular concern to the Private Investigator. Secondly, this may also open the floodgates for privacy related class actions seeking a much higher amount.

The Private Investigator

This will have an impact on employers and organisations that experience data breaches. However, it is the impact on Private Investigators (PI) that I will address here.

Read more

Two Scams Investigators Fall For

Cell Phone Pings

Some companies claim to be able to perform real-time “ping” geo-location tracking of almost any cell phone. After paying, the Investigator is told that the cell phone is being pinged but has not answered and the Investigator is out hundreds of dollars. This is not how Location Based Services work in a mobile phone network.

Canadian Criminal Records

Some companies, usually in the U.S.A., claim that they can do CPIC searches. The normal answer is that nothing was found. Of course no search of any kind was performed. They also charge for searches by province when CPIC covers all of Canada. Sometimes, the single-province searches are advertised as CPIC but actually search the provincial court case management system.

CPIC Not Updated in a Timely Fashion

The most recent Auditor-General report reveals some problems at the RCMP that I have suspected for years. Auditor-General reports going back to 2000 have criticized the CPIC system (see 7.86) regarding timely delivery of criminal record data.

The problem we encounter most often is the backlog of criminal records that has seen the updating of some records taking 3 years.

The Auditor-General estimates that the RCMP takes an average of 14 months to update an English criminal record in CPIC. The French updates take an average of 36 months. The stated goal is updating a record in 24 hours. Unfortunately, reality is an average time of 334 working days (see 5.60).

At some point this is going to result in tragedy. Even more unfortunate, is the fact that the RCMP and the government is judgment-proof for this negligent behaviour. The investigation company used by employers and  their insurance companies aren’t as lucky. Even if a claim is rejected by the courts, the legal expenses may destroy the company for reporting in good faith what was on CPIC.

How will this play out when a sex offender is hired to work with vulnerable people. What will happen when that same offender follows his natural instincts and victimizes someone.

It is also conceivable that this situation will also thicken our border with the U.S.A. as  their authorities start to act upon their distrust of CPIC. Frequent border-crossers, such as truck drivers, will be subjected to additional delays. If that extends to airports we can expect more security searches, questioning, and delays.

The problems we see with CPIC should be a warning about all supposedly trusted and sole source systems. All such systems break-down!

When we are forced to trust one system, especially a critical system, and that system fails, we are all vulnerable. It doesn’t matter it is health care or CPIC, without reliable alternatives, people will be hurt.

More than a Vehicle Registration

During the course of a surveillance, the vehicle driven by the subject may offer more information than just the registration details.

For example, a quick look inside the vehicle may reveal his occupation, place of employment, or places where he frequently parks his car if you see unpaid parking tickets inside.

If you suspect the subject is involved in criminal activity or insurance fraud, then pay for a report from CARFAX and CarProof and get a history search on the vehicle identification number (VIN).   The history for the VIN will reveal any liens and state if the car was involved in past accidents or if it has been marked as a salvage, re-built or non-repairable vehicle. Also run the VIN at the Canadian Police Information Centre website under the stolen vehicle section.

Criminal Records & Name Changes

I have previously written about Canadian Criminal Record Searches and how some provinces don’t link previous criminal records to a name change. Legally changing one’s name is a Provincial matter, one has to be wary of checks for criminal records.

While the person’s finger prints and photograph will certainly turn-up any serious criminal conviction, a search by the subject’s current name alone may not. Recognition of this has resulted in delays for many people seeking a police certificate for employment.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) maintains the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) which is Canada’s centralised depository of criminal conviction data.  Currently, only Alberta and British Columbia require people to notify the RCMP when they get legal name changes. There are some exceptions to this process, such as names that are changed as part of getting married. In these cases, if the person has a criminal record, the RCMP will add the new name to the criminal record. No other provinces or territories require people to notify the RCMP when they change their names. In some cases, such as Ontario, applicants for name changes must get criminal record checks, but there is no requirement to notify the RCMP once the name change is completed.

Criminal Check Delays

Ontario Police Check Backlog Frustrates Many

Previously, the criminal database was only checked for a close match to the surname and date of birth of applicants.

If this doesn’t bring up a hit, the new system now checks for matches to the sex and birthdate of the applicant only.

If there’s a match, finger prints have to be sent to the RCMP.

“The reason behind that is because some provinces don’t link previous criminal records to a name change,” said Marc LaPorte, a spokesperson for RCMP Ontario. “It’s a more rigorous check.”

This helps identify those who have changed their name after being pardoned for a sexual offense when checking the pardoned sex offender portion of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). The delays due to the new policy are country wide on all Vulnerable Sector Checks.

Effective August 4, 2010, The Minister of Public Safety’s new Ministerial Directive Concerning the Release of Criminal Record Information by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) governs the use and disclosure of criminal record information maintained by the RCMP. This new directive replaces the previous ministerial directive, which was in effect since 1987.

The new policy is located at: http://www.cpic-cipc.ca/English/crimrec.cfm.

Bungled Criminal Background Investigation

Bungled Canadian Criminal Background Check

The Courthouse News Service  reports on a bungled background investigation:

CHICAGO (CN) – An investigation agency claims it was ruined by a firm that did a slipshod background check on “reality” TV star Ryan Jenkins, who allegedly murdered his wife, dismembered her body and then killed himself. Collective Intelligence says it was hired to screen contestants for the VH1 show “Megan Wants a Millionaire,” but could not check Jenkins’ background in Canada, so it hired defendant Straightline International to do it.

Collective says Straightline told it Jenkins had no criminal record, though in fact he had a conviction for domestic assault on a girlfriend, according to the complaint in Cook County Court.

In August, Jenkins killed his wife, model Jasmine Fiore, dismembered her body, then fled to Canada and killed himself in a hotel, according to the complaint.
VH1 canceled the show, as well as “I Love Money 3,” on which Jenkins also appeared, to distance itself from media scrutiny, the complaint states.

Collective claims that Viacom, which owns VH1, CBS and MTV, ended its relationship with Collective over the mistake.

Collective says Straightline did not request a background check on Jenkins from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as expected, but instead got its erroneous information from a court clerk in Alberta.

Collective claims Straightline will not answer or return phone calls and will not provide it with more information about the background check it did on Jenkins.

Collective claims it has more than 90 clients in the entertainment industry and now its reputation is tarnished. It says that Viacom, ABC and NBC have since rejected it as a screener for their shows.

Collective seeks damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligence, fraud, and tortious interference.

It is represented by Louis Chronowski with Seyfarth Shaw.

In the full copy of the Complaint you will notice a document (Exhibit E starting on page 22) from the John Howard Society dated 2000 titled Understanding Criminal Records. A link to this document appears on the web site of  Straightline International to this day.

Canadian Criminal Background Checks

Background checks for criminal activity are often done for several reasons:

  • Job Applications
  • Security Clearance
  • Emigration

For example, many truck companies complete checks to ensure their trucks will not be seized at the border because the driver has a criminal record. The Access to Information Act permits an individual to apply for a copy of his or her criminal record. This may be done in one of two ways.

The first is done by providing a certified copy of the person’s fingerprints. The report will show all the particulars, including the disposition and whether or not there was an acquittal or dismissal. If the offence was committed abroad, there will be no record. Also, if prints were taken at the time of the offence and not sent to Ottawa, there will be no record.

Conditional and Absolute Discharges

The CPIC system includes Conditional and Absolute Discharges prior to July 1992. However, after July 1992 time limits were placed on Conditional Discharges of 3 years and Absolute Discharges of 1 year. After these periods they are removed from the system.

Police Certificate

The second method of acquiring one’s criminal record is not as reliable. The applicant may request a copy of his record based upon a computer inquiry using his name and date of birth. Of course this may not disclose offences where the accused’s name is different from the one provided. The report will only include offences for the exact surname and the first four characters of the given name. This method is called a Police Certificate.

The Applicant must appear in person with two of the following forms of identification: passport, citizenship certificate, birth certificate, or driver’s licence. This is required under either the federal Privacy Act or the Access to Information Act or both.

If no record is found a certificate is issued. If a record is found for the applicant, or a very similar name or date of birth and name, fingerprints will be requested to determine if the applicant is the same person recorded in CPIC.


If you are an employer doing a criminal record check you must consider name of the organisation providing the Police Certificate. Is is just a letter from a screening company or is an official document from a police agency? If the certificate contains errors, then you are in a much better position if it is a police service that made the mistake. If it is a screening company, then you have to question whether they did the search at all or used something other than CPIC.

Court Case-management Systems

While the Criminal Code of Canada is federal legislation, the administration of the courts is a provincial responsibility. Consequently, each province maintains a case-management system. It appears from the complaint that Straightline only checked the Alberta case-management system. Of course this system is useful to the Investigator, but it is for case-management, not a source of criminal record information for the entire country. Also, such systems have schedules for the removal of records no longer deemed necessary for case-management purposes. Furthermore, the court clerk is not liable in any way should he or she fail to be diligent in conducting the search, even if you can identify the clerk when the error is discovered.

Jury Vetting Scandal in Ontario

The jury vetting scandal in Ontario illustrates what happens when an act (in this case the Juries Act) assumes that the bureaucracy will act properly and in good faith. Shannon Kari, the reporter, quoted me in the National Post this morning.

No move to set up outside review into secret juror checks

The Ontario government has agreed that the broad background checks, which led to notations on jury lists that included mental heath data and comments such as “dislikes police” went too far…

Richard McEachin, who runs a Toronto-based company that does data research for private clients, said he was not surprised Versadex was used. “The main CPIC criminal record database has a robust audit trail and procedures to prevent abuse,” he said…

He echoed the views of Mr. Stuart, that any criminal record searches should only be on behalf of the court sheriff.

“This would create a visible and dated audit trail,” Mr. McEachin said…

PI Fined for CPIC Search

Last month CBC News reported that Saskatoon PI, Michael Robinson, plead guilty to illegally accessing the Canadian Police Information Computer (CPIC) and was fined $20,000.

In 1992, Robinson’s firm, Robinson Investigations, was investigated by police and several government departments for breaches of privacy within government departments. Six government employees were fired as a result of the investigation.

CPIC Search for Stolen Vehicles

The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) was created in 1966 as an information system for Canadian law enforcement agencies. It contains, among other things, a vast list of stolen property.

The public may search for Stolen Vehicles and Bicycles by entering licence plates, VIN numbers, or serial numbers to verify for stolen vehicles or bicycles.

The search page may be found at http://www.cpic-cipc.ca/English/search.cfm.