Criminal record check fees to be waived for non-profit groups 

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PERFECT PAST Getting a criminal records check is expected to become less expensive once a piece of provincial legislation is updated to scrap the fees charged for volunteers in non-profit youth organizations who need to prove they don't have a criminal past.

Life might get a bit easier soon for people who run non-profit volunteer organizations focused on kids and vulnerable adults.

Provincial regulations now force volunteers who want to work with kids and the vulnerable to have a criminal record check done before they can start their work.

This is a barrier for some want-to-be volunteers as it costs $20 to have police run a criminal record check.

Provincial leaders are currently debating changes to the Criminal Records Act. The proposed changes will clear the way for people who want to help volunteer and non-profit agencies to get their criminal record checks done at no cost.

Ann Hosein, the deputy provincial commissioner with B.C. Girl Guides, said she hopes the legislation passes because the changes will really help her organization.

She said that with 40 registered girls participating in Sparks, Brownies, Treks and a Guiding unit in Whistler the organization is always looking for good leaders. The criminal records check fee is a barrier to attracting new helpers.

"At the moment most of us pay for ourselves because there's no way we could use the girls' money on that," said Hosein from her office in Vancouver. "Most pay our own."

Hosein said she is looking forward to seeing the details of the program that will reportedly allow organizations like hers to have the fees waived.

Steve Legge, president of the Whistler Minor Hockey Association, said the initiative won't impact his organization because in the time he has been involved with minor hockey the Whistler RCMP hasn't made coaches and other hockey volunteers pay for a record check as long as they provide a signed letter signed from the president of the association.

The proposed new rules will allow volunteers who qualify for the fee relief to consent to sharing the results of their criminal record checks with other organizations. Sharing existing, verified checks means reduced costs for people who need multiple checks for a few agencies.

The new regulations will also cover publicly funded employees. The amendments follow consultations with volunteer-based and non-profit groups concerned with the costs and duplication of effort in volunteer screening.

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