GBC student fights police check backlog

Photo: Dave Conner

Photo: Dave Conner

The long wait time for police background checks, which is a prerequisite for some programs at George Brown College (GBC) has put a lot of students’ careers in jeopardy.

Last year Toronto Police received more than 108,000 clearance letters and vulnerable sector screening (VSS) requests. While clearance letters don’t take much time to process, the wait time for VSS clearance is almost four to six months.

In a statement to the police services board meeting on March 13, GBC student Chris Khan said, “I was in the personal support worker program in hopes that in a year’s time, upon completion of the program. I would continue my education and become a nurse. Unfortunately, there was only one thing that stood in my way and prevented me from continuing my dreams in a timely way – the vulnerable sector screening police check.”

According to Colin Druhan, the SA’s manager of equity and advocacy, at GBC, all students who have a placement component to their program must submit a completed vulnerable sector search.

The backlog with these background checks last year was almost 17,000 applications. According to the Toronto Police Services (TPS), adding to the backlog is an average of 200 new applications the Police Reference Check Program (PRCP) receives every business day.

The Student Association (SA) of GBC met with Mayor Rob Ford and some of his staff to flag the wait time for police checks.

“They were very understanding and supportive. Mayor Rob Ford wrote a letter to the police chief William Blair in support of this issue,” said Druhan.

The TPS board meeting held in March focused on the options to improve the efficiency of responding to requests for background checks and strategies to be implemented by the TPS to ensure the checks are completed within two weeks or a timeline that is possible.

“I believe that four to six months wait time for this service is unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately,” said Khan in his deputation. “I choose to live in Toronto, I pay taxes here, because it’s a great city and I feel accepted and encouraged to be all I am meant to be.”

To address the issue, TPS chief Bill Blair has recommended an increase in fees for applicants. His recommendations include increasing the fee from $50 to $65 for employment and $15 to $20 for volunteers to increase revenue to hire 13 new civilian positions at a cost of $921,000 annually. Blair’s recommendation also include a tiered system where people can get the background check done in 72 hours at a cost of $110 for employment and $65 for volunteers.

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GBC student fights police check backlog