Frequently asked questions about the Standard on Security Screening and the Civil Screening Modernization Project

These questions are grouped by two main subjects—fingerprinting and credit checks—with explanations for each of what is changing and why, how the change will affect employees (including deemed employees), and how the change will affect the organization. If you do not find the answer to your question, contact Security.


What is changing, and why?

  1. What changes are being implemented to conduct criminal record checks?

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has re-engineered its processes for criminal record checks through a project called Civil Screening Modernization, which involves transitioning from a name-based screening method to a fully electronic fingerprint-based model. Effective immediately, the RCMP will only accept digitized fingerprint records for processing. Like all other federal government departments, Statistics Canada must adopt this new method to conduct criminal record checks.

  2. What is wrong with name-based criminal record checks?

    Name-based checks have inherent weaknesses arising from variances in spelling, common surnames, use of nicknames and name changes (both legal and those where an individual takes on a name for deceptive purposes). Fingerprint verification is the only way to effectively and accurately confirm identity, thereby preventing individuals from being falsely associated with a criminal record that is not theirs, and ensuring that individuals cannot evade their criminal past.

    To date, the RCMP has used name-based checks for criminal record verifications because the technology to support fingerprint checks was not sufficient to meet the demand. If a name-based check indicated the possibility of an existing criminal record, fingerprints were required to confirm the identity prior to the release of any information. The RCMP now has a biometric (fingerprint) system capable of supporting the demand for all criminal record checks.

  3. Fingerprinting has always been associated with criminal activity. Is asking for fingerprints not treating individuals like criminals?

    Fingerprints have been used for many years to confirm identity and are an internationally accepted ‘best practice.’ Fingerprints are used increasingly to confirm identity for purposes unrelated to criminality, including immigration and visas, unlocking digital devices or paying for goods at major attractions. In the case of criminal records checks, fingerprinting is the only definitive way to determine whether an individual has a criminal record, thereby eliminating false associations with criminality.

  4. Submitting fingerprints appears to be overly complex and time consuming. Why force people to get their fingerprints taken when their name and date of birth are just as effective?

    Submitting fingerprints electronically is easy and convenient. The immediacy of electronic results will be a direct benefit to employers and applicants, especially those individuals whose application otherwise would have been unnecessarily delayed as a result of their names being incorrectly associated with those of convicted offenders. The results of name-based searches are not as accurate as fingerprint-based searches.

  5. How long does the RCMP keep the fingerprints?

    The RCMP does not retain civil fingerprint submissions. Once the work in progress is completed, the submission is deleted from the RCMP system. At no time are civil fingerprints populated on a database where they could be subject to further search.

As an employee, I want to know...

  1. Are there any fees for fingerprint-based criminal record checks?

    For employees who cannot present themselves to a Statistics Canada regional office, local service fees may be required for fingerprinting by a police service or an accredited fingerprinting company.

  2. I had my prints taken because I volunteer for community work, sports association or other organizations, can those not be used?

    Unfortunately, they cannot. They need to be retaken because the RCMP does not store fingerprints.

How will this affect Statistics Canada?

  1. What are the options available for recording and submitting fingerprints?

    The RCMP will only accept electronic fingerprints. Electronic submissions must meet the RCMP standards and must be created by using either an Electronic Fingerprint Capture Device (Livescan) or Cardscan, in which paper-based fingerprints are scanned and converted into electronic submissions.

    Statistics Canada has installed electronic fingerprint capture devices in Ottawa and in each of the regional offices: Halifax, Sherbrooke, Montréal, Toronto, Sturgeon Falls, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver. In addition, a Cardscan device will be installed in the security office located in Ottawa.

    Statistics Canada is investigating the feasibility of partnering with other federal government departments that have locations outside its regional office network.

    The final option is to refer the individual to an accredited third party fingerprint agency or local law enforcement office. In this case, the applicant will be responsible for any cost incurred.

Credit checks

What is changing, and why?

  1. What is the Standard on Security Screening?

    The Standard on Security Screening ensures that security screening in the Government of Canada is effective, efficient, consistent and fair. The Government of Canada is standardizing security screening processes and leveraging new technologies across all departments and agencies. As you know, security screening is an integral component of the hiring process, and obtaining and maintaining a valid security level is a condition of employment with the Government of Canada.

  2. What are the key changes in the Standard on Security Screening?

    Security checks conducted under ‘standard’ (or ‘reliability status’) screening—which involves the majority of Statistics Canada employees—will essentially remain the same. A mandatory credit check will be introduced immediately for new hires and as security screenings for current employees require updating or renewal.

    A credit check is only one of a number of factors considered during the security screening process. Screening activities relating to ’enhanced‘ screening for positions involving security and intelligence duties will see additional checks being conducted according to the duties of the position occupied. Reliability status and secret clearances are valid for 10 years if there is no break in service that exceeds one year.

  3. What are the screening activities for reliability status?

    They include:

    • verification of identity and background
    • verification of educational and professional credentials
    • personal and professional references
    • criminal background check.
  4. Why are credit checks now mandatory for security screening?

    The new Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) Standard on Security Screening that came into effect on October 20, 2014, for all Government of Canada departments and agencies established a risk-based approach to security screening. As part of this new standard, a credit check—which is only one of a number of factors considered during the security screening process—is a mandatory requirement.

    The new Standard on Security Screening will be implemented over 36 months. Effective October 20, 2014, credit checks are mandatory for all new requests for security screening. Credit checks for current employees and contractors will be implemented as security screening is required for updates, upgrades or reviews for cause.

  5. To whom does this requirement apply?

    This new requirement applies to all individuals employed by or working in federal departments. This includes employees (including deemed employees), volunteers, students, private sector contractors and people on loan, assignment or secondment.

  6. Is this a new practice in the Government of Canada?

    No, the practice of conducting mandatory financial inquiries (credit checks) for security screening dates back to 1986 when the first Treasury Board Government Security Policy was introduced. At that time, although optional for ‘reliability’ screening, some departments conducted mandatory credit checks for all levels of screening.

  7. What is the purpose of conducting a credit check for security screening?

    An assessment of the trustworthiness and reliability of all individuals accessing sensitive information or assets must be undertaken to protect the interests and security of the Government of Canada. In addition to other information collected (e.g., criminal record check, employment history, personal character references), a credit report will be reviewed to assist in assessing an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness as an employee of or individual working with the Government of Canada.

As an employee, I want to know...

  1. What is a credit history and what information does it contain?

    A credit history is a record of an individual's past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy. It is used as a measure of reliability.

    The information in a credit history includes date of birth, addresses, employment information and a comprehensive history of the current credit or credit that has been used at any time in the past six years—or longer if bankruptcy was declared. This history is kept up to date by the financial institutions, credit card companies, retailers, auto lease financing companies and other establishments that provide an individual with credit.

  2. How will the credit report information be assessed?

    The overall assessment of reliability considers an individual’s trustworthiness in protecting government assets, information and facilities. An individual's financial situation is relevant to this assessment, particularly as it relates to their ability to meet their financial obligations. 

    Information that may be of concern would be an inability to make payments on time, accounts placed for collections or written off by financial institutions as unrecoverable or a very high ratio of debt to income. Information contained in a credit report can also be used to validate other information provided by an individual such as previous address or date of birth.

  3. Will other lenders know that the Government of Canada has requested a credit report on an employee?

    No, credit checks conducted for the purpose of security screening are masked so that a negative effect does not occur on the individual’s credit bureau file. Only credit checks performed by Canadian financial institutions (banks, credit unions, credit agencies, etc.), which are interpreted by credit reporting agencies as attempts by the individuals to obtain credit, have an impact on an individual's credit score.

  4. Is it legal to do these credit checks? 

    Yes, credit checks are legal. The Policy on Government Security and the Standard on Security Screening provide the legal basis for verifying the credit history for security screening purposes for those individuals working at Government of Canada departments and agencies.

  5. How is my personal information protected during the credit check?

    The protection of personal information is governed by the Privacy Act, which establishes personal information-handling practices of federal government departments and agencies to respect the privacy of all Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees compliance with the Privacy Act.

    With respect to the security of your information, the credit report is made available through the credit reporting agency’s website using secure connectivity methods (e.g., point-to-point connections, Secure Sockets Layer or ‘SSL’ encryption), and client identification information on each transaction is validated by the credit reporting agency before being processed. The encryption process transforms sensitive information into a string of unrecognizable characters before they are sent over the Internet and helps keep the information private between the computer system and the Internet browser.

    In addition to encryption, a unique username and password would be required to authenticate the department or agency security official processing the credit check each time they access or use the service.

    Equifax details their privacy and security practices in the privacy policy published on their website.

  6. What does this mandatory requirement involve? 

    As part of the security screening assessment, credit bureau verification will be conducted for all individuals as part of security screening. It is mandatory that section “C” #3 of the Personnel Screening, Consent and Authorization Form (TBS 330-23) be initialed by the individual providing the Personnel Security Screening office with consent to conduct a credit check. The collection of information for personnel security screening purposes will not be undertaken without an individual’s written consent.

  7. What if an individual does not want to consent to a credit check?

    A credit check is a component of the new Standard on Security Screening. For initial requests where the individual refuses to provide consent or the required information, screening activities will cease and an administrative cancellation will follow. When a security screening is being updated or upgraded, the individual’s existing security screening must be suspended and reviewed for cause, and Human Resources should be consulted.

    This administrative cancellation will result in the individual no longer meeting the condition of the screening standard and could result in an administrative termination of employment, or cancellation or termination of a contract.

  8. Will the credit check affect my credit history?

    No, your credit history will not be affected by the credit check

  9. Will an individual receive the results of these checks?

    The results will remain within the Departmental Security office’s personnel security screening files. They are protected and properly safeguarded in accordance with the Policy on Government Security, the Standard on Security Screening and the Privacy Act.

    The Departmental Security office is not permitted to discuss an individuals’ information with the credit bureau because of privacy reasons. The only information an individual will automatically receive is a confirmation that a reliability status or security clearance has been granted, denied or revoked. The individual may contact the credit bureau to discuss their results.

  10. What if the results of my credit check are negative?

    If the results of the credit check provide adverse information, such as a history of collection or missed payments, a more in-depth assessment is required that may require an interview with the individual by Departmental Security. The results of this interview will assist with the assessment and determination to grant, deny or revoke the reliability status or security clearance.

  11. What will happen if I don’t pass the credit check? 

    A process will be applied to review individual cases that have extenuating circumstances.

  12. Is it possible that the results of a credit check could impact my position?

    It would be very unlikely that a credit check would form the basis for a denial or revocation of a reliability status or a security clearance. It is one part of a comprehensive assessment of information collected to determine reliability and trustworthiness.

    If it is deemed that the results of the credit check, along with other information found, could pose a risk to the functions being performed in an individual’s position, there is a possibility that these results will affect the specific assessment. Before any decision is made, however, individuals will be informed and given an opportunity to respond to the information.

How will this affect Statistics Canada?

  1. Who will be responsible for processing these checks? 

    The Departmental Security office will process these checks as one of the verifications undertaken in the personnel security screening process and will protect personal information in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

  2. Will this additional check cause any delays in processing a security screening request?

    This additional check should not cause any further delays as the report is available through the credit bureau’s supplier’s web interface. Should a report contain adverse information, delays may be incurred if a more in-depth assessment is required (e.g., an interview with the individual to better understand the circumstances).

Research Data Centre (RDC) Deemed Employees

Do these new security requirements apply to Deemed Employees accessing data in Research Data Centre?

Yes. In order to access confidential data in a RDC, researchers become deemed employees of Statistics Canada and are subject to the same security requirements as paid employees of Statistics Canada. It is important to note that these new requirements will be applied to all federal government employees, contractors, and volunteers.

How will the new security requirements impact RDC Course Registration?

Individuals applying or registering for a Research Data Centre course where they will access protected data must also follow the new security clearance requirements. Enough lead time for course registration must be considered. It is recommend that course participants start the security clearance process at least 1 month before the commencement of the course.

What are the new security requirements for International Researchers?

Individuals who are not Canadian citizens but reside in Canada, follow the same security requirements as Canadian citizens. Persons who do not reside in Canada will be required to obtain hard copy fingerprints from their local or state policy agency and send them via courier to Statistics Canada. They will also need to obtain a police clearance certificate from their federal police agency for the past 5 years (or in the case of researchers residing in the US, from their state police agency). Statistics Canada will submit this information to the RCMP for processing and conduct a credit check.

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