Canada’s criminal records affect jobs, travel plans, and licences

You were convicted for a crime years ago and have a criminal record. Even though you might have made your reparations, your struggles could be just beginning. Acumen lawyer Paul Doroshenko, Q.C., explains how a criminal record can have far-reaching, longterm consequences.

While we cannot account for all the ways a criminal record can impact your life, we’ve assembled a list of some of the ways a criminal record can continue to hassle you years after the offence. If you have questions about criminal records, you can also call us for a free consultation

Criminal record checks are a regular part of most major life decisions. Your employer may want a criminal record check before hiring you, volunteer work with an organization might include one, most licence applications also require a look at your criminal record.

Most people know about criminal record checks, but you might not know there are actually two types:

A criminal record check will disclose your criminal charges, including convictions and discharges, as well as fingerprints.

A vulnerable section check might be used if you are applying for a position of trust or authority with youth or vulnerable persons. It includes the criminal record, as well as record suspensions (formerly called pardons) for sexual offences or any relevant police records.

You could lose your job because of your criminal record. Worse, seeking employment in the same field will likely become tougher.

In several of the cases we looked at, employers would allege a failure to disclose all of the offences on a criminal record to justify firing the employee. One of these cases involved offences committed more than 30 years earlier. Often the criminal offence that was so long ago the employee forgot about it or thought they had a pardon.

It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of a criminal offence under the Human Rights Code. However, they can refuse to hire you if the offence is related to your area of employment. If you’re convicted for theft and your job requires you to handle sales and money, an employer can argue they can justifiably fire you or rescind a conditional offer of employment. Sometimes, you don’t even need to have a criminal record. 

One man had his offer of employment from ICBC rescinded despite having no criminal record at all. ICBC’s background check found he had previous driving licence suspensions. They rescinded the offer of employment. His claim of wrongful dismissal was denied because hiring him would be inconsistent with ICBC’s corporate image.

Employment is just the beginning of how a criminal record can haunt you.

A criminal record might pump the brakes on your next cross-border shopping trip.

You might be denied entry at a border if you have been convicted of a criminal offence. That’s why it’s important to know what kind of criminal offences might result in you being denied entry to another country.

If you’re travelling and have a criminal offence on your record, you should check to see whether that country denies entry to offenders. Different countries have different requirements. For example, Canada regularly finds people convicted with a DUI criminally inadmissible. Unlike Canada, the U.S. does not generally deny entry to persons with a DUI conviction. Convictions for drug possession, on the other hand, will generally result in a denial of entry to the U.S.

Unsurprisingly, Canadians travel to the U.S. more than any other country. The U.S. will however deny entry if you’ve been convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude.” Because the U.S. has such a long list of crimes they consider “moral turpitude,” it’s impossible to list them all. The most common offences that might hinder your travels include assaults, thefts or robberies, and fraud.What this could mean is if you’re found criminally responsible for a claim ICBC dismisses as fraudulent, it might mean you have difficulty getting into the United States.

You might be put on the sex offender registry

Offences of a sexual nature will not only go on a criminal record, but the offender will also be added to the National Sex Offender Registry. In 2011, registration for any sexual offence was made mandatory with annual re-registration is required. Police must be informed of any change in address, employment, or volunteer activity, as well as any travel plans outside of Canada.

Unlike in the U.S., Canada’s sex offender registry is not a publicly searchable document. Police agencies, however, have access to this database for investigating and preventing crimes of a sexual nature. When a registered sex offender is released, local police regularly publish media statements with a name, photo, residency  area, and conditions of the release.

Licences become harder to obtain

A conviction can make it significantly harder to get certain types of licences. DUIs or other driving offences can result in you losing your driver’s licence. Other licences can also become harder to obtain because of a criminal record.

Take this case: one man who worked in the horse racing industry was convicted of trafficking steroids. His application for an owner licence in the horse racing industry was denied almost ten years later. He tried to appeal the decision but his complaint was dismissed. The judge said the offence was not unrelated to his employment, and therefore denied his appeal.

You could also have your existing licences revoked after getting a criminal record. While your application for a firearms licence could be rejected if you’ve been convicted or discharged of any violent offence, if you already have a firearms licence the Chief Firearms Officer may revoke your licence.

You could lose your custody battle

Child custody battles get ugly. If you’re in a custody battle and have a criminal record, you could lose custody of your children because of it. Custody battles for a parent with a criminal record were a lot harder in the cases we saw. Even living with somebody who has a criminal record can hurt your case in a custody battle.

In this example, a judge denied a father custody. Part of the judge’s reasoning included the father living in a residence with two male companions — one of which failed to produce a criminal record and appeared to be under house arrest.


These are just a few of the ways a criminal record can impact your life. There are no doubt many other opportunities you might be denied because of a criminal history. It is important to remember that unless you’ve received a pardon, you do have a criminal record and can be fired if you fail to disclose all information to an employer. 

Talking to a lawyer can help you understand your rights and how to deal with a criminal record, call us for a free consultation.

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