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SECU Committee Report

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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE FIFTH REPORT OF THE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
ENTITLED STATUTORY REVIEW OF THE
SEX OFFENDER INFORMATION REGISTRY ACT


INTRODUCTION

The Government of Canada thanks the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for its report entitled Statutory Review of the Sex Offender Information Registry Act (December 2009), and acknowledges the input of witnesses who shared their advice to improve the operation of the National Sex Offender Registry.

The Government is pleased to provide its response to the Standing Committee’s eight recommendations.

On June 1, 2009, the Government of Canada took action on a key priority by introducing Bill C-34, the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act.  This legislation proposed significant reforms to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and the related Criminal Code provisions to strengthen the National Sex Offender Registry and DNA Databank.  The Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act was developed with the benefit of extensive consultations with law enforcement and provincial and territorial officials, and was consistent with the testimony of witnesses that appeared before the Standing Committee during the Statutory Review.

Some of the key issues that have been addressed in the proposed legislation include proactive use of the National Sex Offender Registry by police for prevention purposes; automatic inclusion on the Registry of all individuals convicted of sex offences; and inclusion of Canadians convicted abroad of a sexual offence who return to Canada.  The Bill also augments provisions with respect to information collected for the Registry, such as vehicle information and an offender’s method of operating; the reliability of the information in the Registry; and technological developments. 

The Government’s legislation has responded to the findings and recommendations of the Standing Committee.  The respective provisions of the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act are outlined in the response to each recommendation, as well as action to be initiated with regard to the National Sex Offender Registry operations.

The Government remains committed to the changes to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, as set out in the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, that will ensure the National Sex Offender Registry is an effective law enforcement tool that will better assist police in protecting the safety and security of Canadians.

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Committee recommends that the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and related legislation be amended to allow accredited law enforcement agencies in each province and territory to access the information contained in the national sex offender registry in order to investigate and prevent crimes and apply the Act.



Government Response

The Government supports this recommendation within parameters that ensure reasonable use of the Registry.

The issue of expanding police access to the National Sex Offender Registry was one of the key reforms in the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act.  The proposed amendments would broaden the purpose and principles of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act to ensure that the legislation allows police services to access the National Sex Offender Registry and collect information on registered sex offenders to prevent, as well as investigate, crimes of a sexual nature.  The Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act does not extend police access to the Registry for all crimes, since the Registry’s focus is on sex offences.

RECOMMENDATION 2

The Committee recommends that the Sex Offender Information Registry Act and related legislation be amended to provide for the automatic registration of offenders found guilty of offences listed in paragraph 490.011(1)(a), (c), (c.1), (d) or (e) of the Criminal Code, except in rare circumstances that warrant a departure from this rule when the judge is convinced that the impact of inclusion in the registry on the offender’s privacy and liberty would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest. SOIRA must clearly provide that, in these rare circumstances, the court must justify its decision.

Offenders found guilty of an offence listed in paragraph 490.011(1)(b) of the Criminal Code for whom the Crown has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender intended to commit a sexual offence listed in paragraphs 490.011(1)(a),(c),(c.1),(d) or (e) shall be subject to an order for inclusion in the sex offender registry, if the court deems such an order to be warranted.



Government Response

The Government does not support a model of automatic inclusion that allows judicial discretion to refuse a registration order once an offender is convicted of a designated offence.

The current Criminal Code provisions require the Crown Prosecutor to make an application to the Court to have a convicted sex offender ordered on the National Sex Offender Registry, and subsequently, allow judicial discretion to refuse a registration order where the court is satisfied that the impact of an offender’s registration is “grossly disproportionate” to the public interest.  This model has presented concerns as some convicted sex offenders have not been included on the Registry in cases where the Crown Prosecutor has not made an application or judges have concluded that the offender met the “grossly disproportionate” test.

The Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act proposes a fully automatic inclusion model where the Crown Prosecutor would no longer be required to make an application for a registration order and an offender would be automatically included on the National Sex Offender Registry upon conviction of a designated offence.  This model would respond to concerns that the database should include all convicted sex offenders on the Registry so that it can be as effective as possible when police are investigating crimes of a sexual nature.

RECOMMENDATION 3

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada examine the possibility of expanding the application of the Sex Offender Information Registry Act so that Canadian citizens found guilty abroad of a sex offence equivalent to one of the offences set out in subsection 490.011(1) of the Criminal Code are subject to review for an order to be issued for inclusion in the national sex offender registry.



Government Response

The Government supports this recommendation and the issue has been fully addressed in the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act.

The Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act includes the following two reforms to ensure that Canadians who are convicted of sexual offences abroad and returning to Canada have a requirement to register on the National Sex Offender Registry:

Where an offender is transferred to Canada under the International Transfer of Offenders Act to serve out the remainder of their sentence, and has committed an analogous offence under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, the offender would be required to register as if he/she had committed the offence in Canada.  A determination regarding equivalency of the offence is made as part of the transfer approval process.

For those convicted of a sexual offence outside of Canada and returning at the end of sentence, there would be a court-based process for registration.  Any individual entering Canada who has been previously convicted of an offence equivalent to a designated registerable sexual offence will be required to report this fact to a local police station within seven days of arriving in Canada.  Once identified, a province or territory may serve the individual with a notice informing them of their obligation to register.  Failure to identify within seven days upon arrival, and failure to register once served, will both be Criminal Code offences. The only way such individuals can be exempt from registration would be to apply to a court on the grounds that they were not convicted abroad of an equivalent sexual offence.

RECOMMENDATION 4

The Committee recommends that the Sex Offender Information Registry Act be amended to include new administrative fields in the national sex offender registry, to allow persons recording the information in the registry to indicate whether the offender is incarcerated or deceased.



Government Response

The Government supports this recommendation and the issue has been fully addressed in the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act.       

The Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act includes a proposed amendment that would clarify the authority of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to administer the Registry database as required to ensure proper maintenance.  This provision would allow the RCMP to add new fields in the Registry database that are administrative in nature including, for example, dates of incarceration or death.

RECOMMENDATION 5

The Committee recommends that the Sex Offender Information Registry Act be amended so that the licence plate number, make, model, year, colour and description of any motor vehicle owned, leased or regularly used by the offender be recorded in the national sex offender registry. Offenders should be required to update this information.



Government Response

The Government supports this recommendation.

In the amended Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, reported back to the House of Commons by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, a provision is included that would require registered sex offenders to provide and update the licence plate, make, model, body type, year of manufacture and colour for vehicles that are registered in their name or that they use regularly.

RECOMMENDATION 6

The Committee also recommends that the Sex Offender Information Registry Act be amended so that the offender’s modus operandi may be recorded in the national sex offender registry.



Government Response

The Government supports this recommendation.

In the amended Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, reported back to the House of Commons by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security,  a provision was included that would ensure law enforcement officials have the authority to enter information in the National Sex Offender Registry regarding a registered sex offender’s “method of operating” in relation to the offence.

RECOMMENDATION 7

The Committee recommends that the Sex Offender Information Registry Act and related legislation be amended so that the federal, provincial and territorial correctional services are required to inform release registration centre employees in a timely manner of the release of offenders subject to SOIRA.

To this end, the Government of Canada should examine the possibility of establishing electronic links between the federal, provincial and territorial correctional services and the national sex offender registry so that information about the release of registered offenders is automatically conveyed to the national registry.



Government Response

The Government supports this recommendation and these issues have been addressed in the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act.

The legislation included a provision to ensure that federal and provincial Corrections’ officials have the authority to inform National Sex Offender Registry officials when a registered sex offender is released from custody for temporary releases of seven days or more, at the end of the sentence and, if applicable, when readmitted to custody.

A provision was also included in the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act to allow electronic links to be established between the National Sex Offender Registry and other databases for information sharing consistent with the Registry’s prevention and investigative purposes, as long as no permanent link is established.

RECOMMENDATION 8

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada invest in the software for the national sex offender registry so that it offers search functions including the geographic representation of a sex offender’s address and data filtering by the victim’s age and gender, relationship to the offender, location of past offences and modus operandi comparable or more effective than the system in place in Ontario.



Government Response

This recommendation requires further consultation.

Recommendation 8 proposes an enhancement to the software currently used to administer the National Sex Offender Registry database.  Given that responsibility for Registry operations is shared between the federal and provincial/territorial governments, further consultation is required among the respective officials regarding the proposed software enhancement, estimated costs and feasibility of implementation.