How and Why to Get a Background Check in Canada

At the National Pardon Centre we meet people everyday whose criminal records have recently had an extremely negative effect on their lives. Careers get derailed, travel plans get ruined and/or years of educational training can suddenly be jeopardized.

We know the harmful impact that a criminal record can have on your life. But too often the people who come to us for help have been completely blindsided by their record. They were simply unaware they had a criminal record until it was too late.

In most cases there are steps that can be taken in advance to help deal with the criminal record before it becomes a problem. Why risk a good job or a vacation when you don’t have to? This is why anyone who has ever had a run-in with the law should have an RCMP background check done to make sure that nothing is showing. This applies to anyone who has been convicted of a crime but and anyone who has  been arrested even if it didn’t lead to a conviction.

When someone is arrested and charged with a crime the police maintain a record of the arrest even if the charge is subsequently withdrawn, dismissed or acquitted in court (the charge did not result in a guilty verdict). This record can make it difficult or even impossible to get police clearance, even though the individual was never found guilty of any crime. It can also disqualify them from working in certain positions or receiving certain kinds of on-the-job training which can have a devastating effect on a person’s future.

It is essential to know if you have a criminal record and, if you do, what’s on it. With this information you can begin to consider options the available for having it removed, how long it will take to do so and what steps are involved. In the meantime, you can get informed about how your criminal record may affect your life in the near future and how you can plan accordingly.

If you’re unsure about your criminal record, you should request an RCMP background check as soon as possible. If you are in Montreal or Toronto, you can come to one of our walk-in centres and we can obtain your record. The National Pardon Centre is an RCMP accredited fingerprinting service and we have all the necessary facilities to request your background check.

Outside of major cities most police services will perform this service for you. You can contact them at that their non-emergency number and ask about fingerprinting services. They will provide you with the hours the service is available and information about their fees. Most police services also provide this information on their website. You will need to provide a reason for wanting the background check; it’s best to say it’s for a pardon/record suspension because this type of check will provide information about both convictions and non-convictions.

If you live outside of Canada and would like to obtain an RCMP background check, we can help  by providing international fingerprinting services. To facilitate this you will need to send us a set of ink fingerprints. We will then digitize them and send them to the RCMP for certification electronically. Please not that the RCMP no longer accepts ink fingerprints for certification.

People with no criminal history will receive a clear criminal background check in a matter of days but if you’ve been arrested it can take significantly longer – up to four months. Once the background check has arrived you can call us for help making sense of the information on the record or to discuss what steps you can take to have that information removed.

If you really aren’t sure if you have a criminal record or not don’t worry. There are plenty of reasons why you may not be aware of it and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in that. But if you’ve ever been arrested and faced charges in court, chances are you do. Nobody wants to dwell on that experience though so it’s understandable if you forget the specifics of the sentence, etc.

To make matters worse the criminal record system in Canada is complex and ongoing changes to the law have made it harder to figure out what will be released as part of a background check. But you have the right to know what information about you is being stored. And if there are steps you can take to get rid of it ,why wouldn’t you?

If there’s any reason to believe you might have a criminal record you should do a background check and find out. Contact us for my details or to facilitate a simple background today. We’re here to help!

About Michael Ashby

Michael Ashby is Co-Founder and Communications Director for the National Pardon Centre. Get in touch with Michael by sending an email to or calling extension 227.Michael Ashby est le co-fondateur et le directeur des communications au Centre du Pardon national. Contactez Michael par email au ou par téléphone au poste 227.


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