Ottawa

Fee hike for police checks puts non-profits in tough spot

An Ottawa non-profit could soon ask the city to help cover the increased cost of police background checks for prospective employees.

Fee for employee background checks jumped from $15 to $90

Patro d'Ottawa executive director Johanne Lacombe fears the fee increase for police background checks will make it more difficult for the non-profit to attract employees. (Radio-Canada)

An Ottawa non-profit could soon ask the city to help cover the increased cost of police background checks for prospective employees.

As of Jan. 1, the cost of background checks for anyone seeking to work with "vulnerable persons" jumped six-fold, from $15 to $90. 

We're having an issue right now to recruit people. It is going to be another obstacle.- Johanne Lacombe, Patro d'Ottawa

Anyone seeking employment at daycare centres, hospitals and youth organizations must undergo the check. Typically, the employees pay the fee from their own pocket.

Johanne Lacombe, executive director of Patro d'Ottawa, which provides services to people with intellectual disabilities, said for the students the non-profit typically hires, $90 is a lot of money.

"They already don't have a very big salary to begin with," Lacombe said. "So I think it is going to be a very negative issue for us here."

Students help run summer camp

The non-profit community organization hires between 20 and 25 students to help run its day camp each summer, Lacombe said. 

"We're having an issue right now to recruit people. It is going to be another obstacle."   

In the short term, Lacombe said she plans to look at her budget to see if Patro d'Ottawa can cover the cost for its employees, but she also plans to reach out to the city to seek a more sustainable financial solution.

She said a more gradual cost increase would have been better.

Coun. Diane Deans, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, said keeping the checks free for volunteers forced the cost up for employees. (Radio-Canada)

Budget pressures

Coun. Diane Deans, who chairs the Ottawa Police Services Board, said the cost increase for employees was decided on last fall as a way of keeping the checks free for volunteers — a practice that received widespread support during extensive public consultations.

"It was driven by the direction from Ottawa city council to keep the increase in police costs to two per cent last year," Deans said. "But making volunteers free, it sent the cost up for everyone else."

University of Ottawa professor Tim Aubry, an expert in social work, believes the cost increase could hurt both non-profts and job seekers. Often, those are young people who are looking for their first job, or people looking for part-time work, Aubry said.

The city's 2019 budget deliberations begin this week. Deans is urging anyone concerned about the cost increase for background checks to make their voices heard.

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

with files from Radio-Canada's Christian Milette, Maxime Huard, and Yasmine Mehdi