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Guideline for Applying for an Approval Letter

1. Overview

All permit, factory licence, and magazine licence holders of types E (high), I (initiation systems), and D (military and law enforcement) explosives must undergo screening for the purposes of protecting persons, property, and the environment from harm and/or keeping dangerous substances secure.

Screening is for federal licence holders and their employees who will have unsupervised access to types E, I, and D explosives. These persons must submit the application form along with an original1 or good copy of their criminal record check to obtain an approval letter from the Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD). Alternate screening documents such as a Permis Général, FAST card, NEXUS card, Firearms Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), or Employee Possessor Clearance issued by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives if the employee holds a valid Canadian work permit are considered to be an equivalent document to an approval letter.

2. Application

To apply for an approval letter under the screening regulations, applicants will need a criminal record check. Criminal Record checks can be obtained from any federal, provincial, municipal, and Aboriginal policing agency office such as local police, provincial police, or the RCMP who conduct background checks as part of their operational day-to-day activities. Alternatively, individuals can utilize companies; (including online services) who have agreements in place with police agencies for conducting criminal record checks.  See Addendum for more information when using the services of companies offering criminal record checks. The criminal record check is based on searches of a number of criminal intelligence databases for information on convictions, specific offences, and criminal associations.

The standard criminal record check application forms include the following information:

  • Personal information (Name, Maiden Name, Other Names Used, Address, City, Province, Postal Code, Place of Birth, Sex, Home Telephone Number);
  • Date of Birth;
  • Reason for Request; and
  • Signature of Applicant.

This criminal record check must have been conducted within one year of applying for an approval letter.

Once applicants have received the criminal record check results, they need to forward the results along with a completed Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD) application form. The ERD will respond with an approval or denial letter.

Fees for the criminal record checks are the responsibility of the individual or company obtaining them.

A non-resident of Canada can apply for an Approval Letter by submitting the application form F08-01 accompanied by a Certified police certificate from their country of origin, or a valid work permit, and a letter from the licence holder stating they require an approval letter to perform their duties.

3. Acceptance Criteria

The circumstances for refusal of a licence of an approval letter are for serious crimes committed within the previous five years, in addition to an order prohibiting the possession of explosives. These include convictions involving explosives, murder, attempted murder, and indictable offences involving violence (Part 8, section 183 subsection (2)). There are no exceptions.

4. Issuing the Approval Letter

When the criminal record check shows appropriate results, an approval letter will be issued by the Minister of Natural Resources to the applicant. This letter of approval is valid for a period of five years.

A notification of approval/denial will be issued directly to the applicant advising whether or not they have been approved within 30 days, and to the licence or permit holder if indicated on the application.

5. Refusal and Appeal

The Minister must refuse to issue an approval letter and must give the applicant written notice giving reasons of the refusal if

  1. the applicant has made a false or misleading statement in the application; or
  2. the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe that issuing the approval letter for the licence, permit or certificate mentioned in the application would constitute a risk to the safety or security of persons.

An applicant may, within 30 days after the day on which they receive a notice of refusal from the Minister, send the Minister a written request for a review of the refusal on the grounds that the information on which the refusal was based is incorrect, accompanied by any additional documents or any other information in writing that is necessary to support the request. If the additional information is deemed to be sufficient, the Minister will approve and issue the screening approval letter. Otherwise, the Minister will confirm the denial in writing to the applicant. If the applicant is not satisfied with the Minister’s decision, he or she can appeal the decision to the appropriate federal court.

6. Who Must Have an Approval Letter or Equivalent Document

An approval letter or equivalent document must be held by any employee, director, or contractor who, in carrying out their functions:

  1. has access to a high-hazard explosive (types E, I, and D);
  2. permits others to have access to a high-hazard explosives (types E, I, and D); or
  3. controls, directly or indirectly, a person who has access to a high-hazard explosive (types E, I, and D) or permits others to have access to such an explosive.

Anyone who has sufficient contact with explosives material, or who controls or appoints someone who does, and that provides for the opportunity to take or use them for unlawful purposes, must have an approval letter or equivalent document.

This would include individuals who, in the course of their duties, are involved in the physical handling of explosive materials as part of the production process and/or the shipping, transporting, selling, and using the explosives. It would also include supervisors, managers, as well as contractors and company directors if they have unsupervised access to high-hazard (types E, I, and D) explosives.

Contractors are those individuals hired by the licence holder to perform specific duties or to work for the licence holder. These do not include third-party individuals or companies for which the licence holder cannot be held responsible (e.g., third-party transport companies or couriers).

7. Obligation of the Licence Holder

The screening of individuals is an important aspect of the overall security as access must be addressed as part of any Security Plan. It is the responsibility of the licence holder to ensure all employees working with types E, I, or D explosives have an approval letter or equivalent document.

Licence, certificate, or permit holders must not allow persons who do not hold an approval letter or equivalent document to have access to types E, I, or D explosives unless acting in the course of their duties as a peace officer or an employee of the federal government. Individuals that have applied for an approval letter and are waiting on the results may have access to high hazard explosives if they are supervised. Visitors must either be supervised or hold an approval letter or an equivalent document unless acting in the course of their duties as a peace officer, an employee of the federal government, or an inspector appointed under the Explosives Act.

For the purposes of these Regulations, an individual is supervised by another person while he or she has access to explosives if at the time he or she:

  • Is in the presence of the other person who has an approval letter or equivalent document; or
  • Is in a place where any handling or removal of the explosives is controlled by another person with an approval letter or equivalent document.

If you have any questions, the Explosives Regulatory Division can be reached at the coordinates below.

8. Application for a Licence

Upon the initial application for, or renewal of, a licence, certificate, or permit, the applicant must provide proof they have an approval letter or possess an equivalent document with their application or renewal. Please do not forward the original approval letter or equivalent document. Photocopies of the documents are acceptable.

All applicants for a licence, certificate, or permit, or their renewal, must include a list of employees that are required to have an approval letter and must indicate whether the employee has applied for the letter and whether it has been received.

For larger companies with multiple sites, and where there are individuals that could be associated with multiple sites, a company may compile a single list of all company personnel who, in the course of their duties, are required to have an approval letter, and submit this list with each application or renewal.

1Definition of Original Criminal Record Check. An original criminal record check may be: 1) the original document obtained from a police agency based on a name or fingerprint search, 2) the document (paper or electronic) obtained from other than a police agency with agreements in place to conduct criminal record check searches, and which has been verified by the non-police agency.  If electronic, it must only be accessible to the individual and those persons/companies who have been given permission by the individual to view the electronic document.


If using the services of a non-police agency for a criminal record check, the service provider’s application form for a criminal record check will include sections that the applicant must complete in full in addition to a text area requesting the applicant to declare any criminal history2.

A.1 Providing Results to NRCan

When applying for an Approval Letter, the original, a good copy, or a link to results of criminal record checks must be provided to ERD along with a completed Application for Approval Letter (Form F08-01).

A.2 Interpretation of Criminal Record Check Results

An Approval Letter from NRCan will be issued:

  • If the criminal record check comes back as “Clear"
  • If the check comes back “Not Clear” with accurate disclosures with results that align with the NRCan denial/acceptance criteria
  • A fingerprint check that does not contain any of the reasons for denial under Part 8, section 183 subsection (2)

If the results of a criminal record check do not permit a proper evaluation of the Refusal Criteria, ERD will request a fingerprint check.

2 – Police agencies cannot release criminal record details to non-police agencies but they can confirm the accuracy of the applicant’s declaration of their criminal record. 

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