04/15/2014 13:52 EDT | Updated 06/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Job background checks: non-criminal information off-limits

B.C.'s Privacy and Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham says the practice of including non-conviction information — including mental health records — should stop immediately.

"With the exception of those working with children and vulnerable adults, non-conviction information should be off-limits in an employment-related record check," said Denham in a statement released Tuesday.

She said that government and municipal boards should "immediately direct police forces to stop disclosing non-conviction information as part of employment-related records checks outside the vulnerable sector".

Such disclosure "can have a significant and lasting impact on an individual's privacy, human rights, and feelings of dignity and self-worth", she noted.

Expressing grave concern around the practice of including mental health information, Denham said this should never be included.

"There is no reason why this information should be disclosed to employers, who would have no right to otherwise ask about this information in the hiring process. Releasing this information threatens to further stigmatize the one in five of us who are affected by a mental health issue."

Vancouver police provided police information checks for 15,825 people last year, according to a police board report of Jan. 14.

Forty-nine of those included the release of mental health information.

"The VPD does not take lightly the disclosure of an incident with a mental health element," reads the report from Chief  Jim Chu. "Release of this information is limited to serious incidents that reflect a tenor of violence."

Abbotsford police Const. Ian MacDonald has said police never release information directly to the employer.

"So the individual always controls their information, and always can make an informed choice as to who would receive it subsequently."