The Yellowknife Women’s Society (YWS) recently received an anonymous note about an individual with a criminal record who works for one of our programs.
They were concerned about the fact that our organization also currently operates a daycare and are hoping to open another in our current office space. This note was accompanied by printouts of articles, dated from 2009 and 2010, about the individual’s arrest and conviction.
The YWS wants to assure parents, staff and the public in general that only people with both a clean criminal record and vulnerable sector check are allowed inside the daycare building; no individual with a criminal record is allowed on the property, at all, when children are present. This will be true for any daycare that we operate and any program that we run that includes children. We are committed to the safety and well-being of children while they are in our care.
Our organization also runs programs that serve only adults. This includes our emergency shelter, the Street Outreach program, Housing First and the Common Ground employment program. In these programs, we ask for criminal record checks from staff who are in positions where they may be in a position of trust or working alone with a client or another member of staff.
For each role, we consider the individual’s history, as well as the nature of their position and have a conversation with the individual about what has come up on their record, what they have learned from the experience and what they have done since their offence to improve themselves.
We also believe that once an individual has paid their debt to society, they need to have opportunities to reintegrate into the community and to earn a living, but at the same time, we do our due diligence to ensure that staff and clients are not put at risk. Any member of our staff or our community who has concerns about our hiring decisions is welcome to bring this to our attention and we can elaborate further on our risk assessment process.
Many of our employees work directly to help others; this allows individuals who have been convicted of crimes in the past to make a positive contribution to the community and gain respect for themselves and from their coworkers and clients. Our Common Ground employment program provides work to individuals who sometimes have extensive serious criminal records, giving them the opportunity to be seen making a contribution to keeping the community clean.
Understanding the complexity of involvement in the criminal justice system, particularly for Indigenous and other marginalized populations, is fundamental to our individualized approach to hiring and working alongside individuals with past criminal involvement.
The Yellowknife Women’s Society stands by our decision to provide employment opportunities to individuals with criminal records, when appropriate. We are also committed to ensuring the highest safety standards for our daycare. We feel that we are achieving both of these goals through the division of our services into separate locations that can cater to the very different populations we support.