featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: Waive the fee for criminal record checks for people on social assistance!

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Over the past year I heard from three social assistance recipients in my community who told me that they had to turn down a decent paying employment opportunity because they could not afford the $50 fee charged by police departments for criminal record checks.

It is well known that social assistance recipients, a lot of them cannot gain employment due to having no money for transportation or a telephone.  

We also all know about the bureaucratic hurdles that you need to pass to get approved for these necessities. It is also well established that most jobs these days require a criminal record check in order for people to get hired.

These folks also told me that they tried to get that fee covered as a special need through their caseworkers. They had jobs lined up which would have at least supplemented their income and could have potentially got them off the system. Unfortunately  they could not come up with the $50

Hearing this was sad. These were jobs that in the long run would have put them in a better financial situation.

Just yesterday I heard from a fourth income assistance recipient who tried to get a Criminal Record check done yesterday.  He has an employer lined up who is willing to bring him in for a job interview as soon as he at least registers to get his criminal record check done. He went to the police only to find out there is a $50 fee he cannot afford.

He next called his Local MLA, Lisa Roberts in Halifax Needham. The constituency assistant contacted the Halifax Regional Police Department, but was advised that the police department does not waive the fee for anyone regardless of income situation or whatever.

“If we do it for him we will have to do it for everyone,” the police officer told her.     

For an Social Assistance recipient to take $50 out of their $275 personal allowance to pay that fee is unfair and causes more hardship to the client for that one month.  It would mean even less for food, etc.

Also, anyone should have the right to know whether or not you have a criminal record. It’s a right, not a privilege. The fact that the police department will not waive the $50 fee for people living in poverty violates that right.

They should waive the fee for people who can prove their income is under a certain amount.    

Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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