There must be a better way to support screening practices in Canada! Not only have there been some great models developed in Australia, Northern Ireland, and Scotland but there have been some terrific developments in a number of Canadian jurisdictions for us to learn from. There have also been some innovative practices put in place by leading organizations willing to share their experiences. Volunteer Canada is working with Deloitte Canada to develop a feasibility study and business plan for a proposed Volunteer Screening and Education Centre. We are co-hosting consultations and an online survey to inform this work. This study is funded by Public Safety Canada.

Let’s begin with our evolving definition of screening:

While safety will always be a priority for organizations working in communities, Volunteer Canada has taken a wider view of screening focusing on 3 key objectives:

  1. To better match peoples’ skills and experience with the needs and opportunities in organizations;
  2. To improve the quality and safety of programs and services in communities; and
  3. To reduce the risks and liability for both people and organizations.

(excerpt from the Screening Handbook)

Over time, we have reached a better balance between community safety and social inclusion, recognizing that we all have something valuable to contribute and that volunteering is as much about shaping our communities as it is about providing services.  

Although we have come a long way since the 90’s when we began our work in this area, we still need to address some myths about screening.

Screening is not only about the decision whether or not to engage someone.  It is an ongoing process that begins before you recruit and continues throughout a person’s involvement. (See the Ten Steps of Screening)

Screening is not only about Police Records Checks and it is not up to police services to determine whether or not a candidate is suitable for an organization or position. 

Just because there is something on a police record does not mean that someone is excluded from all volunteering…it is a matter of determining the actual risks associated with a specific position and finding the right match.

What problems are we trying to solve? Currently, there is a lack of consistency.

  • Inconsistency across the country in terms of practices, policies, and the manner in which police checks are administered
  • Lack of portability of the checks as they are done for each position
  • Confusion among organizations as to when and what type of screening step and police check is required, based on the risks identified
  • Length of time and costs for certain types of checks within the screening process

At a round table co-hosted by Volunteer Canada and Deloitte Canada,  leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sector came to learn about international and domestic programs. Based on input from the 2017 round table, an emerging model for the proposed Volunteer Screening and Education Centre was presented (see diagram below).

Integrating learnings from the international models and Canadian jurisdictions, participants identified the following considerations:

  • Communications strategies need to create awareness and capacity among organizations regarding the range of screening policies and practices, including when various police checks are required and permitted.
  • Checks per person vs by position: A possible approach may be to create 3-4 types of checks that are aligned with levels of risk. Generic positions can then be categorized within the types of checks required and permitted.
  • Cross-Jurisdictional Cohesion: Provincial and territorial players will need to he actively engaged and systems harmonized to the degree possible.

Public Sector Leadership: Public Safety Canada and the RCMP are essential to the establishment of the proposed model. Specific questions that surfaced:

  • Will this initiative be government led and operated?
  • How will private sector service-providers be involved?

Sector Engagement: several participants from major not-for-profit organizations offered to share their experiences from their own internal policies and practices. In particular, the following offers were made:

  • Research on organizational incidents and reporting data.
  • Templates for screening practices, including risk assessment and decision-making models

Contribute to the discussion! Help us better understand the complexities of volunteer screening in Canada by completing our online survey. Findings will provide the team from Deloitte Private with the necessary insights to build a comprehensive feasibility study and business plan.

For more information about our work on screening, please contact [email protected] and check out our resources at