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Records checks: necessary evil?

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I received two interesting pieces of mail regarding a recent story I did on wait times for criminal record checks, based on the ones needed for those who work with especially vulnerable people like kids or disabled adults.

The issue isn’t new to Winnipeg, and has popped up in other parts of Canada (as fingerprint analysis is done through the RCMP, so it’s a federal issue). However, what recently caught my interest in Doug Goodman’s case was the fact this longtime foster parent and plain-spoken man presented himself as taking one for the team.

(Goodman said in an interview he knows lots of other people eager to foster who have huge issues with the checks. As reporters know... chatting publicly about anything CFS-related takes moxie, because in my experience anything CFS-related is usually placed in a cone of silence, with no help from this province’s restrictive Child and Family Services Act.)

Anyways, after the piece ran, I received two pieces of mail I thought worth running.

One is from Chris Burrows, spokeswoman for the Dufferin-area Citizens on Watch program and wife of notorious Point Douglas activist Sel Burrows. Here are her thoughts:

"It is not just foster parents, now to be a block parent we have to be fingerprinted in case there  are pedophiles who share our names. It has been incredibly hard to get block parents in the 'inner city' because of having to do a police check, with this latest addition I can't see anybody coming forward. Sel and I have been 'block parents' since the '70s except when we have lived outside Winnipeg. We were quite upset by this latest request when we both have perfectly clean criminal records."

The other is from a woman in British Columbia. (I removed her name from her letter after getting her permission to run it)

"I am a university student, mom and active volunteer. I legally changed my name (1st & middle names, not last name) in early summer of 2007. In B.C. it was required that you submit fingerprints when doing this, which I did. My record came back clean (of course) and I have a letter from CCIS (Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services) from Ottawa of the RCMP dated November 26th, 2007 stating: "The subject identified below has been processed for Name Change Purposes. The original fingerprint form used to submit the above fingerprints has been used to preform the fingerprint search and has been destroyed."

I also have a letter dated February 22, 2010, from the Deputy Registrar of the Criminal Records Review Program stating: "No criminal record was found." I had to get this done for my practicum at the college because I would be dealing with vulnerable people as part of my program.

There is a glitch in the system and I have gone to my federal (MP) Alex Atamanenko to discuss this with him. I did this back in June of 2011. I did this because I went to get another criminal record check done for a volunteer position in the fall of (2010) and the police (wouldn’t) give me my forms back and accused me of being a criminal because my gender and birth date matched a registered sex offender (apparently). I was treated horribly by the RCMP, they were threatening, rude and even called my house after to harass myself and my husband, for what I have no idea. They accused me of lying about who I was. I (didn’t) lie about anything as I stated I had provided my prints and everything came back fine and when I offered to provide my letters (stated above) they refused to accept them. They insisted that I provide my fingerprints yet again, I refused as I has already submitted them more than once and have the documentation proving I did not have a record.

My MP is concerned about this problem as it is not the 1st complaint he has received from the public. He wrote a letter to Vic Toews MP, Minister of Public Safety raising these issues with the vulnerable sector checks and asked for a response back to himself and me. As of (today’s) date neither of us has heard a word. This has left some major negative impacts on my life and that of my (family) who I am trying to support while I attend University. I cannot get a job or another practicum. I am in my 3rd year of my BA in Psychology and have over $30,000 in student loans owing. I refuse to do another fingerprint check, there is absolutely no reason for another fingerprint check and the public needs to know that there is a serious issue in regards to how they are doing these checks. The program will leave me continuously having to pay to get my fingerprints done as the gender and birth date will always come up that matches mine and the RCMP refuse to look at any of their own documentation showing there was already a check done that came back satisfactory when it (shouldn’t) be needed.

There needs to be an investigation as there are others like me out there who are wondering why we have to keep paying for the same thing over and over again and wondering if this is a way for the federal government to be collecting data (like fingerprints) on the public without having to answer to anyone."

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About Gabrielle Giroday

Gabrielle has handled the police and crime beat for the Winnipeg Free Press since 2009, meaning she’s seen the best and worst humanity has to offer.

Covering the crime beat in a city known for its homicide rate and violent crime can be challenging, but Gabrielle tries to look at the more complex factors that drive violent events. She began the beat after originally joining the Free Press in June 2005.

Her previous experience contributing to the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine, the National Post, Maisonneuve magazine and NOW Magazine. She was also a member of the editorial board of the Queen’s University Feminist Review, and completed a degree there in politics and English. Some of the Toronto native’s favourite adventures include hitchhiking in the Cuban countryside during a stint studying in Havana, and hanging off the back of a jeep climbing the Kanchenjunga mountain in Nepal.

Gabrielle also felt privileged to write about the first-time elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the summer of 2006, and received a grant from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian International Development Agency to write about sexual violence there.

She recently went to Cameroon in fall 2010 as part of an expert election monitoring team, on behalf of the Commonwealth.

When she’s not chasing a story, Gabrielle can be found jogging every morning by the Legislature and down Portage Avenue.

She’s always enthusiastic about stories that involve investigating the road less travelled or the opinion less broadcast.

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