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DND improperly retains, uses information about pardoned convictions

I investigated complaints from two Canadian Forces members who felt their privacy had been violated when the Department of National Defence (DND) kept information on its files related to their criminal convictions and subsequently used that information to deny them employment opportunities.

In the first case, the member had been selected for a posting with a United Nations tour in the Middle East, but just prior to his departure the posting was cancelled by his base commanding officer. I learned that DND's Military Police discovered the member had been charged with impaired driving shortly before his planned departure date and had reviewed its records to determine whether the man had any other charges against him. It found seven references to other criminal offences and forwarded this information to the base commanding officer. When the commanding officer saw the record, he decided against sending the member overseas.

I determined that two of the offences should have been purged from the member's file since he had received a pardon for them. The Pardons and Clemency Division of the National Parole Board had notified DND of these pardons and of the department's requirements under the Criminal Records Act to segregate its records related to these offences from other criminal records in its custody. DND complied but only insofar as reference to the convictions was concerned - all the facts related to the charges that led to these two convictions remained on file.

Unfortunately, when only the reference to a conviction is removed from a record, what remains can be misleading to anyone who has access to that information. I therefore reminded DND that under the Privacy Act it is required to ensure that personal information used for an administrative purpose - that is, in a way that directly affects the individual to whom it relates - is accurate, up-to-date and complete.

As a result of my efforts, DND agreed to amend its policy on the retention of information about pardoned convictions to conform with both the Privacy Act and the Criminal Records Act.

In the second case, an individual obtained information that led him to believe DND used information about his convictions under the National Defence Act to reject his application for re-engagement in the Canadian Forces, despite the fact that he had been granted a pardon.

When I investigated the matter, I confirmed that DND had indeed used this information in its assessment of his application. I also confirmed with the Pardons and Clemency Division of the National Parole Board that it had granted a pardon to the individual but had neglected to inform DND. I therefore asked the National Parole Board to send appropriate notifications to DND and the National Archives, the current custodian of the individual's military records, so that they could amend his records as required.

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