In Canada, a total of 3.8 million people (1 million in Ontario) have a criminal record but are 50% less likely to secure employment due to the stigma associated with their record. Despite recent initiatives to support these individuals in finding meaningful employment, discrimination persists, hindering job opportunities even when the offence is unrelated to their position being pursued.

Past research conducted by the John Howard Society of Ontario (JHSO) has consistently shown the extensive use of criminal record checks by employers. This hiring practice poses significant barriers to individuals with criminal records seeking employment, which disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous Peoples, youth, and those experiencing challenges associated with mental health and addiction. Together, these findings highlight the widespread use of criminal record checks across diverse sectors in Ontario, limiting people with a criminal record from accessing employment opportunities.

Between 2020-2022, JHSO collaborated with a research team led by Dr. Kemi Anazodo to conduct a comprehensive survey administered to 400 hiring managers across Canada. The project aimed to understand the perspectives of managers on hiring individuals with criminal records. The research presented in this study illustrates the challenges faced by individuals with criminal records in Canada. The survey’s findings, coupled with six key recommendations, demonstrates the necessary steps towards a more inclusive employment landscape.

Key Takeaways

  • Despite being supportive of reintegration generally, employers hold negative perceptions about people with criminal records.

  • Criminal record checks continue to be used as a core component of assessing candidates during the hiring process.

  • While there is a degree of willingness among employers to hire individuals with criminal records, half of the respondents would not.

  • Employers used criminal record checks for various purposes, but many lacked clear organizational policies and communication regarding this practice.

  • Hiring managers had a range of suggestions for improving employment outcomes for individuals with criminal records.

Research Highlights

of the survey respondents reported that their company requires a criminal record
check f
or either all or some of their new employees
of respondents selected the liability/risk management as main reasons for conducting criminal record checks.
of respondents believe a record check should be required for all job applicants
of employers continue to exclude qualified job candidates with criminal records from workplaces


Enhanced technical skills for candidates 28%
More employer supports 27%
Funding incentives 27%
Improved soft skills and workplace attitudes 25%


Canadian employers should commit to Fair Chance Hiring by Joining Canada’s first Fair Chances Coalition and be part of the cultural change needed to combat stigma and open up pathways to a wider talent pool.

The provincial government in Ontario should amend the Ontario Human Rights code to expand the definition of “record of offences” to protect against discrimination based on criminal convictions that are not relevant to the position, bringing it inline with many other provinces.

The federal government should reform the Criminal Records Act to fix the broken record suspension (pardon) regime by instituting a “spent” regime model.

The provincial and federal governments should explore a tax credit incentive to motivate employers to hire people with criminal records.

The provincial government should consult with stakeholders and commit to creating legal requirements that guide record check practices in the Employment Standards Act (ESA) to prevent arbitrary exclusion of candidates with criminal records.

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development has demonstrated strong leadership in calling on employers in Ontario to consider fair chance hiring – continuing this effort and formalizing it into educational guidance for Ontario employers is urged.