In Canada, about 14,000 people are incarcerated in federal provinces and the rate of incarceration in provincial (and territorial) correctional services averages 78/100,000. This represents a small, but not insignificant portion of the population. Once released from prison, people get a criminal record and that causes a much longer period of havoc for people, mainly that it becomes extremely difficult for them to find work, get rentals, and generally integrate back into society. It doesn’t really matter what the criminal record was for either; employers see that they have one and want nothing to do with them.
From the business’ point of view, there may be at least seemingly good reasons for this: businesses fear their reputation will take a hit if it becomes well known that they hired people with a criminal record, they may fear being stolen from or think the employee will be too much of a liability to keep around. And while technically speaking, most businesses aren’t allowed to refuse to hire people with a record unless they work in the government or with vulnerable people, the reality is that many businesses will use criminal records as an easy filter and simply not call people back.
But from the point of view of the former convict, not to mention the greater society, not hiring people with a record does far more harm. People who cannot find work are more likely to reoffend, end up homeless, and may struggle with drugs or alcoholism. This damages society as a whole as it deals with the fall-out of the fact that people aren’t able to find work and support themselves.
So, it’s important to understand how you can find work if you have a criminal record (assuming it isn’t for a heinous crime such as murder which carries additional difficulties).
Getting Your Record Erased
Or at least locked out of sight. This is the most common way to integrate successfully back into society and it’s usually pretty straightforward. The process is to get a Criminal Record Suspension which makes your record inaccessible to others. Not all crimes are eligible for this, but many of them are and it’s important to talk to a lawyer or expert about whether your particular situation is eligible or not. There are plenty of services that help you out and it’s important to get in touch as soon as possible to get the process started.
Dealing with the Human Rights Side
Yes, legally speaking employers cannot fire you or refuse to hire you on the grounds of your criminal record, assuming said criminal activity had nothing to do with the job you are working/applying for. But it can be difficult and intimidating for many people to force the issue. There are a couple of things you can keep in mind though in BC:
- You have a conviction
- The employer refused to hire/continue to employ or demanded a condition of employment (such as paying very low wages due to the record) AND the conviction was at least part of the reason why the employer refused to hire, continue to employ or hire on a condition.
In BC, the criminal conviction doesn’t have to be the only factor, but it has to be a factor. Once you bring that to the attention of your lawyer to start a case, it falls to the employer to justify their activity. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to do this, particularly in the case of not getting hired in the first place, but if you can prove that the person they hired instead of you is less qualified than you, you have a more solid case.
The Advantages of Hiring A Former Convict
From the business’s point of view, there actually are advantages to hiring someone with a record. Businesses that have done it find that their employee is more loyal, highly productive, and very driven to succeed. And it can also make for a positive spin for the business’ reputation in that the business can highlight the fact that they are helping people get back on their feet and become functional members of society again. Furthermore, formerly incarcerated people make for a great untapped resource in a labor market that is getting tighter. All in all, businesses shouldn’t shy away from hiring someone with a criminal record and pointing out how employable you are under this sort of light can even give you an excellent edge.
Getting a job after you have served your time is even more daunting than getting a job if you don’t have a record! But getting your record sealed and inaccessible is an important first step, as is keeping in mind your rights as a human being. Making a stupid mistake in the past doesn’t erase your humanity and getting your life back on track is an important way to prevent a relapse.