Nunavut minister defends criminal record vetting system for teachers
Man with recent criminal record hired as principal in Pond Inlet last December
Nunavut Finance Minister David Akeeagok rose in Nunavut’s assembly on Monday to defend what he called his department’s “high standard” for hiring teachers, in response to a question from Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser about whether the government has hired school workers with criminal records.
“People who are applying for senior leadership positions in our schools should be held to a very high standard,” Netser said on Monday, March 12.
Netser cited concerns brought to him by constituents, but did not name a specific individual or school.
This past December, Nunatsiaq News reported that the Government of Nunavut had hired a school principal at Nasivvik High School in Pond Inlet who had been convicted in 2016 on two counts of criminal harassment against an ex-girlfriend.
The man had committed those offences while working as a teacher in Prince Edward Island.
Akeeagok said teachers and “any of the senior staff within the schools,” are held to an “even higher” vulnerable sector security check, which is reserved for people who apply for work with children under 18 or for positions of authority over those who are vulnerable to harm.
“I thank the member for raising this and we are committed on making sure that we do have a good standard [for hiring], and consistent so everybody knows where our potential employees can come [from],” he said.
Under current GN hiring practices, outlined in its human resources manual, a criminal record does not necessarily prevent employment.
But all applicants must undergo criminal record checks, among other requirements, when applying for jobs that involve contact with children.
If a criminal record is discovered, the territorial government reserves the right to defer an offer of employment, or impose additional conditions or sanctions for the applicant to accept, the human resources manual says.
Netser admitted that a one-size-fits-all policy shouldn’t be applied to past criminal convictions, but stressed that people applying for jobs with authority over vulnerable individuals, like children, should receive special scrutiny.
“A qualified professional with a 20-year-old [impaired driving] conviction but a clean record since the incident should not be necessarily disqualified from working in our school for the rest of his or her life,” he said.
Akeeagok told Netser it is unlikely that he would be able to provide a percentage on how many of the GN’s roughly 5,490 positions are classified as positions of trust or highly sensitive.