The federal government changed security screening for new hires amid COVID-19, in a July 22, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The federal government changed security screening for new hires amid COVID-19, in a July 22, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Feds relax fingerprinting rules when screening new hires during COVID-19

Security screening measures still used

OTTAWA — The government has quietly relaxed a requirement to fingerprint prospective new federal hires as part of security screening, a move prompted by the need for physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A temporary change to the federal standard on security screening allows departments and agencies subject to the Policy on Government Security to grant conditional security statuses and clearances, the Treasury Board Secretariat said.

The government must ensure it can effectively respond to public needs during COVID-19 by hiring badly needed workers, the secretariat said.

“This has required urgently increasing the workforce necessary to implement the government’s emergency measures and to provide support where urgently needed, like health-care workers in Indigenous and northern communities.”

The secretariat said that given the physical distancing practices recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada, it is “not always possible to obtain fingerprints,” a common step in carrying out a criminal record check during screening.

The decision to grant a conditional security screening clearance under the temporary change in practice is the responsibility of the deputy head within each department or agency, based on individual circumstances.

Agencies continue to “diligently assess” candidates using security screening measures in a manner that does not present a public health risk, the secretariat said.

“This includes, for example, verifying a candidate’s identity and background, information, education and professional credentials and performing a credit check.

“This may include conducting name-based checks for law enforcement inquiries as an alternative to using digital fingerprints or extending the validity of existing screening levels that are due for revalidation during this period.”

All candidates for employment with the government are also required to self-declare the existence of a criminal record on the security screening application form.

“We are encouraging departments and agencies to only use this conditional screening practice for low-risk positions,” the secretariat said.

Even with the variation, access to classified information remains restricted only to employees who have been granted the appropriate security screening status, it added.

“Under these circumstances, any letters of offer would be conditional on the security screening ultimately being successfully completed and the employee being confirmed at the appropriate security screening level for the position.”

Between mid-March and May, 13 new hires at the Canadian Space Agency received conditional security clearances with no fingerprints, said Andrea Matte, a spokeswoman for the agency. ”Additional screening activities and security measures were put in place.”

Since May, with new sanitation measures available, the space agency has been able to take fingerprints for all but two of these new hires and they are now fully cleared, Matte said.

The direction from Treasury Board indicated the measure was meant for agencies that grant employees a level known as “reliability status,” whereas the RCMP uses the higher level of “enhanced reliability status” given the nature of its work and security levels within the organization, said Catherine Fortin, an RCMP spokeswoman.

“The RCMP did not provide the authority to implement this measure, and as a result there is no indication it was ever used in our organization,” she said. During the pandemic, hiring has been done on a priority basis and each of the regions had its own processes for use of personal protective equipment and cleaning protocols, Fortin added. “Any individuals being hired at this time would have to be considered critical.”

TBS has also encouraged departments and agencies to only use this conditional screening practice for low-risk positions.

Because the total number of conditional clearances granted using the variation will depend on decisions made within each department, an estimate of the number of people affected is not available, the Treasury Board Secretariat said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2020.

Federal Government

Just Posted

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Intricate cloth masks with Indigenous design made by Teresa Snow. Facebook/ Masks4Maskwacis
‘Masks 4 Maskwacis’ wins Northern Lights Volunteer Award

The group received recognition for their efforts to support their community during COVID-19.

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21 in Canada. (Government of Canada photo)
Alberta RCMP recognizes National Indigenous Peoples Day 2021

This year, June 21 marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples… Continue reading

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Most Read