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Police record checks cast a shadow on volunteers

Background checks that reveal past criminal records are required for anyone who wants to deliver meals for Meals On Wheels.
A woman receives food from a community service 'meals on wheels' program in Germany, November 15, 2010. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

In 2010 legislation was changed to require police record checks for anyone working with children or vulnerable people. Mike, from Pembroke, Ontario, told Cross Country Checkup guest host Natasha Fatah that he was blocked from delivering meals for Meals On Wheels because of an infraction on his record from years ago.

Mike said this has happened not just to him but to other willing volunteers with, in his opinion, insignificant marks on their records. In Mike's view, the charity would be better off looking the other way if they want dedicated, trustworthy help.

Mike: For well over 20 years I've been helping food banks, working in soup kitchens... and if seniors were stuck during the snowstorm in '98 I'd be the one that would go out and help. But recently, I think it's just been the last two years, even for the volunteers who do the most menial tasks — they're doing a background check for them. And if you've got any kind of a criminal record you're automatically dropped off the list or put down at the bottom. That includes myself based on an infraction from over 15 years ago, which was a nonviolent crime. But it's still there.

I also have friends who are seniors, like me, who want to volunteer but they can't because they have a marijuana infraction or something ludicrous like that. It feels terrible because I see the people who need help, and there's just not enough of us going out and doing it.

Then when you ask for volunteers, like myself, delivering meals to people who cannot get a vehicle and cannot get anybody else, and I can't do it anymore because I have a criminal record from 15 years ago. They're cutting the hand off that wants to help them.

Mike's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Ieva Lucs.

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