Criminal background check on tenant

A woman applied to rent a basement apartment in a building owned by two Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) employees. The landlords asked for personal identification so they could “look into” the people allowed into their rental suite.

In response, the woman provided her driver’s licence and also that of her roommate.

Later the woman complained to our Office that the landlords had performed a background check for criminal records on her using their privileged access to the nation-wide Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database.

An internal investigation by the RCMP confirmed that one of the landlords, an RCMP officer, had run a CPIC check on the prospective renter because she was from “out of town.” The officer said he had done this to minimize the risks to officer safety and organisational security.

Information in the CPIC database is personal information as defined in the Privacy Act and therefore to be used only to satisfy a legitimate law enforcement purpose, in line with the policies and procedures governing the use of the database.

Our investigation found that the RCMP officer clearly accessed the database for personal reasons, and not for authorized operational purposes. On April 4, 2012, we informed the RCMP that the complaint was well founded.

In its April 30, 2012, response, the RCMP listed the remedial actions taken:

  • the officer would be made aware of the gravity of the situation and the inappropriateness of his actions;
  • the RCMP apologized in writing to the complainant for the violation of her privacy rights; and,
  • on April 20, the RCMP issued a communiqué reminding all employees of the policies and procedures governing the use of RCMP databases, including CPIC. Communiqués were also planned to inform employees of the measures to be taken in the event of transgressions.

Our Office is satisfied with these remedial actions.

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