Ottawa

Volunteers to pay for background checks, police board decides

It will soon cost volunteers to offer up their services after the Ottawa's police services board approved charging for their background checks. 

Police services board makes changes official

Police board chair Coun. Diane Deans said the increase is unfortunate, but also necessary. (Laura Osman/CBC)

It will soon cost volunteers to offer up their services after the Ottawa's police services board approved charging for their background checks

Volunteers or their organization will pay $10 for a check at some point later this year, rising to $20 in 2020. 

Right now volunteers from Ottawa-Gatineau pay nothing if they have an official letter from their organization.

People seeking checks for a new job recently started paying $90, up from $15, despite complaints from those hiring for summer or low-wage positions.

Even with that increase, the police force is still using $400,000 of its budget to subsidize background checks.

The city has also seen a big increase in the number of checks, which has doubled since 2013 to 90,000 checks last year.

Part of that increase has come from an increase in checks for ride-hailing drivers. 

Budget pressure

During a presentation Monday, staff told the board Ottawa was the only municipality they could find that didn't charge volunteers.

Marie Eveline, executive director of Volunteer Ottawa, said the $20 fee might seem inconsequential, but it will discourage people.  

"It must be recognized that volunteers, many of whom volunteer at more than one organization, would have to pay multiple fees," she said. 

Johanne Lacombe, general chair of Patro d'Ottawa, explains what the new fees will mean. 6:17

After studying the issue, the board did an online survey about the change and 77 per cent of respondents said they didn't want to see volunteers charged for background checks.

"I was questioning why we had a consultation process when the results of the consultation process were not taken into account," Eveline said.  

Board chair Coun. Diane Deans said she knows how important volunteering is to the community, but the funding is simply not there.  

"With 90,000 police checks having to be done every year, there is just a reality that it costs money and it is not in the police service's budget."

With files from Matthew Kupfer

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