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

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

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

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active 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

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Most Read