Director of Criminal Justice Program
This morning we wrote to Saskatoon’s Mayor and City Council to share our concerns about the legality, and the wisdom, of their proposed new rules for rideshares.
A city stepping in to regulate rideshares is often a fraught exercise. But what caught our eye wasn’t the typical debates – but the City’s insistence that all potential drivers undergo the most intrusive level of police record check and their blanket exclusion of people with certain criminal records from employment.
The vulnerable sector check is a level of background check that should, by law, be reserved for those applying to the most sensitive positions of trust with, or power over, vulnerable individuals. Typical examples include summer camp counsellors or personal support workers for the elderly or disabled. Of course, taxi and rideshare drivers will come into contact with all sorts of people in the course of their day, vulnerable and not. But general contact with the public in all its diversity shouldn’t be enough to unlock what is supposed to be a narrow, exceptional form of record check.
The proposed absolute prohibition on people with certain criminal convictions from obtaining a licence is also troubling. Although the scope of this prohibition isn’t clear from the draft regulation (something of a problem in itself given that Council is being asked to vote on it on Monday), it turns out this isn’t a wholly new idea in Saskatoon – the city already has an absolute ban in place on some people with criminal records receiving taxi licences.
Presumably, the existing bylaw and this new proposal stem from a desire to keep transportation customers safe. Blanket policies excluding individuals with criminal records from employment, however, are more likely to undermine community safety than enhance it.
Research has shown that performing criminal records checks is not a reliable way to identify individuals that are at higher risk to commit workplace crimes. There is no way to predict, based on an individual’s criminal record, whether a person is more likely to commit a future crime in a workplace context.
The consequences of excluding individuals exiting the criminal justice system from stable employment, on the other hand, is clear. Stable employment, as well as the income, stable housing and social networks that employment can foster, are significant protective factors against future reoffending. Systematically excluding individuals with criminal records from employment decreases community safety by creating barriers to rehabilitation and reintegration. Governments should be promoting policies that encourage businesses to hire individuals that might otherwise be marginalized from stable employment, not passing bylaws that entrench stigma and legally mandate unjustifiable discrimination.
We hope City Council will take a hard look at its current and proposed bylaws on Monday, and send these proposals back to the drafting board.
Read our full letter here.