RCMP suspends criminal background checks in red zones

The RCMP in New Brunswick has suspended criminal background checks in red zones across the province.

Such checks are required for coaches, educators, youth workers, those who work or volunteer with the homeless or other vulnerable populations, as well as numerous other professions.

They can also be required for those looking to start or grow their family.

Nicole Boucher and her family have begun the process of adopting two children, but the process has now stalled until background checks can resume, she said.

Foster parents and prospective adoptive parents require these checks, Boucher said. Their social worker told them to get them done as soon as possible, she said, but that now depends on when Zone 1, which covers southeastern New Brunswick, comes out of red.

Const. Hans Ouellette, media relations officer for New Brunswick RCMP confirmed that the decision was made to limit front counter services in these zones, which includes criminal record checks, vulnerable sector checks and fingerprinting. However, community members who need to obtain these services are being encouraged to contact their local detachment for more information.

All current volunteers now working in Anglophone East District schools would have completed their criminal record and vulnerable sector checks, so they will be able to continue as normal and follow the red phase guidelines, said Stephanie Patterson, director of communications for the Anglophone East.

But, since these checks are mandatory, the district will not be accepting any new volunteers until the restriction on checks is lifted by the RCMP, she said.

If the zone stays in the red level for a short time, it will post few problems, said Ghislaine Arsenault, strategic communications director for District scolaire francophone sud. But, longer term, it could impact the district’s volunteer system and the hiring of new employees, she said.

Rob Campbell, councillor for the Village of Salisbury, said as many organizations, like sports leagues, can’t operate while the region is in red, meaning a pause in this service is likely not a major concern right now.

However, if someone were to leave a job that requires a check, the town or any organizations in a similar position, may not be able to replace them as quickly as they would like, he said.

And if the suspension remains in place in April when summer students are being hired by municipalities and organizations, it could become a bigger issue, he said.