There is sometimes a cost to volunteering, specifically the police check some volunteer positions require. Criminal Record Checks and Criminal Record and Judicial Matters Checks are requested for some volunteer positions, and to get one of those from the local police service, it requires that volunteer pay out of pocket. Not any more though. The Government of Ontario announced Wednesday that basic volunteer police checks are now free of charge.
Starting on April 1, an amendment to the Police Record Checks Reform Act approved by the Government of Ontario will remove the fee when requesting both types of police record checks, and on top of that, you will be able to get five copies of the records for free if you’re applying for multiple volunteer positions at the same time.
“Volunteers enrich our communities and making it free to get police record checks is a tangible way our government is making it easier for Ontarians to give back,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in a statement. “Taking fees out of the equation will benefit charities and organizations that rely on the helping hands of volunteers, as well as senior volunteers with fixed incomes.”
There are exemptions of course. People volunteering for academic credit are excluded from the free police checks, and prospective volunteers will still have to pay the fee for Vulnerable Sector Checks since those also require a comprehensive search of national and local police databases.
“It is our hope that this initiative will make it easier for non-profit organizations to attract committed and talented people to help those who need it most,” added Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Parm Gill.
This was the core idea over a year ago when Guelph City Council first approved $150,000 in the budget to cover the cost of police record checks. City Council repeated the move for the 2022 budget, approving another $150,000, which could cover upwards of 4,200 volunteer check. According to the City of Guelph, $113,050 of the total $150,000 approved by council was spent in 2021.
“This announcement is a step in the right direction however does not include vulnerable sector checks which is one of the essential volunteer screening steps when a volunteer would be in a position of power or authority of a vulnerable person,” said Kim Cusimano, the executive director of the People and Information Network. “This would include children, persons living with disabilities, older adult and individuals who are new to Canada as example.”
Cusimano said that according to PIN’s Community Benefit Sector survey in 2020 and 2021 volunteerism has declined by 61 per cent during the pandemic, so any opportunity to make it easier to get more people into volunteerism is a good move. She credits the City of Guelph for being forward thinking and approving the funding to pay for police checks locally, and added that PIN is ready to assist people in getting back into the volunteer swing of things.
“As the hub of volunteerism in Guelph Wellington, PIN is committed to supporting our community to be inspired to volunteer, to access meaningful opportunities and assist nonprofits and charities to recruit and mobilize volunteers,” Cusimano added.