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Refusal to Hire Due to Pardoned Criminal Conviction Discriminatory
September 22, 2008

The Supreme Court of Canada recently confirmed that employers may not refuse to hire job applicants because of criminal convictions for which they have been pardoned.

The decision involved an applicant for employment as a police officer who had been convicted of theft and received a criminal discharge. She was later pardoned for the offence. When she applied for employment with the Montreal police force in the following year her application was rejected because she did not meet the standard of “good moral character” required under Quebec’s Police Act. She claimed that that decision breached s. 18.2 of Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a criminal offence for which a pardon has been received.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed, holding that the employer discriminated against the job applicant by rejecting her application. The employer was not permitted to reject the applicant merely because of the fact of the conviction. Although the employer was entitled to consider the facts giving rise to a conviction in assessing whether the applicant was of good moral character, the Court said, it was also required to consider the fact that a pardon had been obtained.

Montreal (City) v. Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse), [2008] S.C.J. No. 49