Employment repercussions of having a criminal record
May 19, 2010 2:53 PM   Subscribe

If I get arrested in an anti-logging protest, will I never be able to work as a teacher/engineer/doctor or any other professional organization? (in Canada specifically)

I am told that if you have any kind of criminal record, you will not be able to be hired as a professional of any sort in Canada. I am wondering if this is indeed strictly true; are employers allowed to consider what type of crime it was? being part of an anti-logging road blockade is much different that stealing or murder. Any insights? Thanks MF.
posted by figTree to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure about canada, but at least in the US, an arrest does not necessarily go on your criminal record. A conviction does. I've had a number of friends thrown in jail for a few hours/days as a scared-straight type thing and later released with a warning. Unless Canadian jails are Internet-equipped, I assume they let you go. Are they planning to prosecute?
posted by griphus at 3:02 PM on May 19, 2010

For engineering depending on what it was, you might not be able to work as a professional engineer, or engineer in training. There are still jobs that won't require this status though.

3rd last page covers what you are looking for:
"Good Character"

If it is on your criminal record, you could look towards something like a pardon.

In 1st year engineering, we had this topic brought up in class. A guy put his hand up, and asked about a criminal offense, and was told he could never be a professional engineer. He walked out of class and we never saw him again. Pretty sure he was a drug dealer.
posted by MechEng at 3:18 PM on May 19, 2010

Just to counter Dasein's statement, if I remember the story correctly, not too long ago he was removed from the bench. The person had applied thrice, declared the conviction, wasn't appointed. Then he didn't declare it, got appointed, and then there was a big scandal.

Here we are. In fact, he even had a pardon. Judges are different than professions, though.

But yeah, an arrest at a protest isn't all that likely to lead to a conviction, or even a trial. Don't do anything stupid - but I would say don't let it stop you from protesting.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:02 PM on May 19, 2010

We discussed this topic quite thoroughly in our professional ethics class in law school. It comes down to whether you can demonstrate that you are a person of good character and repute. Every profession has a reputation to protect. They do so by upholding a strict standard of conduct. Therefore, every profession will have canons and regulations that its members are expected to adhere to.

Criminal offences, even minor or morally ambiguous ones (like protesting), are troubling because they show an unwillingness to play by the rules. When you are a professional, break the rules and you are not only making a fool of yourself, you are also risking the reputation of your entire profession. It's risky to admit someone who may not honour this responsibility.

It's not clear whether you already were arrested, or if you're considering joining a protest and wondering what the risk is. Like Dasein said, if you were only arrested don't worry about it. However, if you still have a clean slate and are planning on applying for admission to a profession anytime soon, I'd say just don't do it, it's not worth the risk. If you do have a conviction (once again we don't have much information so I'm generalizing) the following factors might mitigate the offence:

- it was a youthful indiscretion (the younger the better, the longer ago the better)
- it was a cause that you are no longer involved with OR
- you have since found a lawful means of supporting the cause
- you are now living a stable, responsible lifestyle (steady employment/enrollment in school, have a spouse and/or kids to support or other commitment to responsibilities, etc.)

Also, don't stop at employment repercussions. Think about being unable to travel without enormous hassle, or being completely denied entry to certain countries. Every day our firm gets calls from people who are absolutely shocked that they can't travel to other countries because of some minor criminal conviction from back in the day. Yes, some of our clients are environmental protesters. Yes, some of them need to travel to visit sick and dying family members, or to be with their spouses who live in another country, and they are turned away at the border or airport. Yes, some of them were supposed to travel on business and were then in the awkward position of explaining to their employer why they never made it. It's very sad.

Don't do it!
posted by keep it under cover at 4:26 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know two people who have been arrested (one at a political protest a few years back) with neither ending up with a conviction. One of them just got dinged in a background check for a tutoring job. There are just too many things that can be affected by an arrest record. Basically every career choice I've made in the 14 years since I graduated from college (including government contract work both here and abroad and my present work in education) would have very likely not been available to me if I had an arrest record. The first thing you're gonna be asked to do when even just becoming a substitute teacher is getting background checks with the State Police and the FBI(and probably the equivalent in Canada). And I can almost guarantee that you'll be flagged on at least the federal background check. Look at it this way; If you can get passed over for a job for having bad credit why would it be any different for something like an arrest? Unless you are independently wealthy and can do whatever the hell you feel like doing at any given moment, I'd leave the civil disobedience to someone who can actually afford to live with the consequences. Just my 2 sesterce, mind you.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 6:34 PM on May 19, 2010

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