Elections Manitoba is taking a closer look at its employee screening process after a registered sex offender was hired as a door-to-door enumerator, but not everyone is happy with the organization's proposed changes.
The organization confirmed Thursday it had fired an employee after learning one of it's enumerators is a registered sex offender.
"I trusted Elections Manitoba to send me someone who is honest," said Frances Matlock.
The mother of four is an administrator of the St. James Fights Back Facebook Group. One of the group members reached out to tell her she recognized one of the workers in the neighbourhood as a sex offender.
Enumerators are hired to knock on doors and compile lists of voters ahead of provincial elections. New hires currently have to sign an oath swearing they are legally qualified to work as an enumerator.
There is no clause specifically requiring prospective employees to disclose whether they have been found guilty of a sex offence in the past, but that is about to change, according to Elections Manitoba communications manager Alison Mitchell.
"Going forward, that oath will be more detailed," she said. "We have made it very clear. We've spelled it out in the oath what the restrictions are on being employed in this position."
Under the provincial Elections Act, members of the public are prohibited from working as enumerators if they have been convicted of an indictable offence within the past five years.
'An oath isn't enough'
Mitchell said after decades with the organization, to her knowledge this is the first time an incident like this has occurred.
While Mitchell said the organization is already taking steps to ensure something like this doesn't happen again, she said Elections Manitoba doesn't plan to start conducting the kind of background checks Matlock says are needed.
"I feel like an oath, without requiring some sort of proof, isn't enough. You can lie or you can stretch the truth," she said.
"I feel they need to take a look at their policies, revamp them. You know, do the criminal record checks."
Noni Classen, director of education with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP), said organizations dealing directly with families and children should consider administering criminal background checks.
"Part of those screening processes [should] include a criminal record check and a child abuse registry check here in Manitoba ... to make sure they have the right people in place to be working in that position," Classen said.
'That really isn't good enough'
Mitchell said Elections Manitoba is under tight time constraints and doesn't have the freedom to conduct criminal checks for the roughly 3,000 new hires in the lead up to elections. The organization is reliant on employees being up front about their past, but Classen says "that really isn't good enough" and the CCCP has found it leaves room for issues down the line.
"We can't rely on people's judgement around certain positions, we can't rely on people being forthcoming about their own histories," Classen said.
"We have to have systems in place that really govern what we're doing and what we do with everybody to make sure ... these things will be caught, brought up within the screening process itself."