OP ED: Want to volunteer – an absurd new fee put in place for background checks

The majority of organizations and community groups rely on volunteers to produce successful events, sports teams, and quality of life — why would the Ottawa Police Services Board vote to charge a fee for a volunteer’s background check?

Effective September 1, 2019, those who want to volunteer will have to pay $10.00 to receive their background check. On January 1, 2020 the fee rises to $20.00. Only expedited applications were previously paid for by the individual volunteer when required.

Recruiting volunteers is already a difficult task. Volunteers are the backbone of every community, sports association or service organization. The fee will only put in place another deterrence for members of the public to come forward to volunteer, not only because of the fee, but also the time that goes into an application and the process.

The Police Board claims that this will decrease their costs to process the approximately 83,000 applications they receive per year from the public. This volunteer ‘fee’ will apparently help to alleviate the cost of an employee’s background check who will now pay $65 for their employment check. Why should the work of a volunteer cover this cost?

In all communities there exists a core group of people who can be relied on to give of their time generously — this move will only deter that pool of people from doing so. This fee will have an effect on every child and adult who currently volunteer or want to do so, as well as affect the success of events and sporting teams. And, what about the hours of volunteer time that high school students must complete to graduate? Should parents have to cover this additional cost so their child can graduate or are the school boards expected to pick up this tab?

Please make your concerns known about this $10 fee to volunteer by contacting the Ottawa Police Services Board here and provide your feedback under the ‘Complaints about Policies and Services’.

I have volunteered here in Stittsville over the years – from walking miles to get our first community centre built; working in the snack bar every Saturday; teaching figure skating; helping out with Blossomfest; to bringing the local stories of interest to Stittsville on this site – and it is my personal opinion that this is a ludicrous decision made by the Police Board.

With enough backlash, we can only trust that the Board will reverse this decision to charge a fee to a person who wishes to volunteer to enhance their community.


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