In 1990, a 21-year-old woman was caught shoplifting. She then pleaded guilty to a charge of theft, receiving a conditional discharge. Some five years later, she applied for a position with the Montreal police force. So began a 13-year legal odyssey culminating in a Supreme Court of Canada decision (Montréal (City) v. Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, 2008 SCC 48) released in August of 2008.
As part of the background screening process, the Montreal police force became aware of the past guilty plea. It rejected her application on the basis that the guilty plea showed she did not possess the necessary “good moral character” required of police officers. The “good moral character” test was legitimate – it was a statutory requirement. The police force believed this test supported its rejection of the woman’s application.