February 1, 2017 -
New federal government contractors in Canada will now be required to submit their fingerprints electronically to the country’s national police force, the RCMP, to run a criminal history check in its database, according to a report by the CBC.
Existing contractors working with the federal government will only have to submit their fingerprints if they need to upgrade or renew their security clearance.
According to Public Services and Procurement Canada, the change is needed because the RCMP is concluding its previous methods of checking criminal history using a person’s name because it would cause issues whenever a name was misspelled, was too common or substituted for nicknames.
The RCMP’s new electronic fingerprint technology uses a faster and more accurate fingerprint method to process criminal background checks.
Public Services said it notified 20,000 companies in the last year, as well as held webinars and piloted fingerprinting with one big contractor in an effort to ensure a seamless transition to the new security screening method.
The move marks the expansion of a new standard for public servants — which requires employees to submit to an updated security screening that includes credit checks and fingerprinting — that began in a three-year rollout in October 2014.
The government said it was trying to make the policy consistent and fair across all departments, although unions asserted the policy overstepped its boundaries.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service tried to seek an injunction at the Federal Court, but was denied after the court found that the union did not sufficiently showcase that the privacy of its members exceed the public interest of modernized security screening.
Meanwhile, Canada’s privacy commissioner is undergoing confidential investigations into complaints regarding the Treasury Board’s 2014 security screening policy change.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said it has no issue with fingerprinting.
“I can tell you that our office believes that the use of fingerprints for a criminal record check is appropriate to ensure authentication,” wrote spokesperson Valerie Lawton in a statement. “We understand that fingerprints submitted for security screening will be destroyed after the check is complete.”