With Canada’s estimated annual marijuana market at $8.7
billion, there are thousands of talented people who have developed and
supplied this market for decades.
Imagine receiving a resumé stating: “Detail-oriented manager
with experience successfully managing a modern agricultural production,
distribution and retail operation. Ensured the marketing, delivery and
sale of branded products to thousands of happy, repeat clients
throughout Canada. Delivered consistent profits with annual revenue
growth rates exceeding 10 per cent.”
But many of these people may also have one glaring drawback — a
criminal record. Is this so bad? Where are the statistics that say
people with a criminal record make for bad employees?
As we start 2018, with Canada set to legalize marijuana, there
will be thousands of people who were convicted of minor drug offences
who may be ineligible for jobs because of decisions they made in the
Many job ads today state criminal record checks will be done.
This means millions of Canadians simply don’t apply, while employers
choose not to hire great candidates because they did something that was
once illegal but is now embraced by politicians.
They would be making a mistake, according to a study south of
the border, which found convicted criminal records not only made for
better employees, but had higher retention rates and made for better
Faced with high employment levels in the 2000s and the need to
support deployed troops overseas, the United States army decided to
relax the requirements for recruits, so it ended up hiring 4,862
convicted felons from 2002 until 2009. Harvard University in Cambridge,
Mass., went on to analyze their length of service, promotions and
reasons for separation, and then compared them to 1.3 million enlistees
without felony convictions.
It found those with criminal records were no more likely to be
terminated before completing their contracts, or to face disciplinary
action. On the other hand, army recruits with felony convictions were
five per cent more likely to achieve promotions, and they were also
Yes, some employment environments may be more relaxed and less
structured than the U.S. army but, given the chance, a person who has
built good habits in one environment will carry them into the next. The
likelihood of hiring a top-performing employee is a pretty convincing
argument to try out a candidate.
U.S. employers and politicians are increasingly realizing that
the 70 million Americans with a criminal record deserve employment, and
are turning to both legislative and business solutions. Andrew Cuomo,
governor of New York, for example, created a pledge that 80 companies so
far have signed, committing themselves to consider hiring qualified
candidates with criminal convictions.
The U.S. also provides a financial incentive to employers for
hiring those with a criminal. Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a
maximum tax credit of US$2,400 per employee is available through a
program running until at least 2019.
Implications for Canada
About 3.8 million Canadians — 23 per cent men and 4.3 per cent
women — have a criminal record, according to the John Howard Society.
Additionally, a large percentage of people who have criminal records are
Indigenous, meaning that criminal record checks could
disproportionately disadvantage this population. Of the 3.8 million,
500,000 have minor drug offences, according to Canada’s Health Minister
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, speaking to the CBC in November.
But Canada has another compelling reason for employers to
consider rehabilitated people — Correctional Service Canada’s non-profit
organization called CORCAN. It offers employment training and
employability skills to offenders in federal correctional institutions.
The organization produces thousands of job-ready employees every year.
Trained by professionals and working day in and day out, they
specialize in fields that include construction, maintenance and
CORCAN is a self-funding organization that also partners with
private and not-for-profit sector groups. From building housing for
Habitat for Humanity, to manufacturing office furniture to rebuilding
military ambulances, CORCAN uses the skills of professionals to train
and develop those with aptitude and interest.
As unemployment levels continue to drop in Canada — currently
below six per cent — employers in southern Ontario and British Columbia
are seeing a tightening of available talent. They are complaining that
it is tough to even get people to show up for interviews, much less find
new employees to hire. Turning to those with a criminal record, and
even those recently released from prison, is a really good option.
Beyond the business case to hire people with criminal records,
there is also a social case. By helping a person gain employment, we
greatly reduce the risk that people will re-offend. This reduces crime
in our communities, and reduces the cost to victims of crime, police,
courts and our prison systems.
Kael Campbell is president of Red Seal Recruiting Solutions in Victoria. For more information, visit www.redsealrecruiting.com or call (855) 733-7325.