VOLUNTEER and non-profit organizations are now eligible for free criminal record checks for their volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults, through the provincial Criminal Records Review Program.

Since amending related legislation last spring, government has made various improvements to maximize the program’s effectiveness and efficiency while ensuring it remains cost-neutral for taxpayers overall. Notable benefits include:

* More thorough “vulnerable-sector checks” – including fingerprint checking where appropriate.

* More efficient sharing of current, verified criminal record checks among groups and businesses in the program, saving them time, paperwork and costs. (This applies only for checks completed within the past five years and involving no determination of risk.)

* More mobility of volunteers and publicly funded employees in the volunteer and non-profit sector. Now, they can consent to sharing verified record checks with multiple organizations, instead of having to obtain extra, redundant checks to work with more than one group.

* Free access to expert risk assessment when a check does identify a criminal record containing relevant offences.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said: “This change will mean significant benefits to those people who work in the volunteer sector – saving both them and the organizations they work with time, effort and money. As well, and more than ever, this program is putting the safety of children and vulnerable adults first. We’ve enhanced both the scope of the record checks and the affordability of them for groups in the volunteer and non-profit sector. Together, I hope these improvements will only bolster the spirit of volunteerism that supports so many great services and, in turn, quality of life in our province.”