Ex-offenders looking for a break

But changes to employee safety rules have some employers nervous about hiring
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/28/2013

On CBC’s 2012 TV show Redemption, 10 ex-offenders — imprisoned for crimes ranging from armed robbery and drug trafficking to extortion and assault — participated in a series of business-related challenges. One of them was chosen by venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary to receive $100,000 as a startup investment.

The premise sounds simple but, in real life, ex-offenders can have a much harder time catching a break and finding meaningful employment. They face more than a few barriers, including a lack of vocational experience, possible mental illness or addiction issues, social stigma and, of course, a criminal record if they haven’t been pardoned.

And with the passage of workplace violence and harassment legislation — such as Bill 168, which became law in Ontario in 2010 — the endeavour has become that much harder, according to Greg Rogers, executive director of the John Howard Society of Toronto, a non-profit organization supporting the rehabilitation of people who have been in conflict with the law.