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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 5 - Evidence - April 29, 2010


OTTAWA, Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts, met this day at 10:30 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Joan Fraser (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which is continuing its study of Bill S-2. We have three panels of witnesses this morning, and the first is Ms. Krista Gray-Donald, Director of Advocacy and Awareness at the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.

Krista Gray-Donald, Director of Advocacy and Awareness, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime: Thank you for having me here today. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, CRCVC, is a national, non-profit advocacy group for victims and survivors of serious violent crime. We provide direct assistance and support to victims across the country, as well as advocating for more services and rights for crime victims and for increased public safety. The CRCVC is pleased to appear today before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to take part in the debate over Bill S-2 to protect victims from sex offenders.

On a daily basis, we assist Canadians whose lives have been impacted by serious, violent crime, including recent and historic sexual assaults. These victims and survivors want more than anything to ensure that the tools are in place to prevent what happened to them or to their loved one from happening to anyone else.

The legislative changes proposed by Bill S-2 seek to enhance the current legislation concerning the registration of sex offenders and to provide concrete tools that law enforcement can use as both an investigative tool and a tool to prevent victimization and potentially save lives.

The bill proposes to more closely align the national registry with the Ontario registry. We see this as a great step forward for the national registry. The Ontario registry is more comprehensive and is used by law enforcement as an investigative tool. We feel that the more information specific to the offender, such as the inclusion of licence plate or vehicle data, employment information and the specifics of crimes that have been committed, the more law enforcement will be able to utilize the tool in a proactive manner.

We are very supportive of the mandatory inclusion provisions proposed. The sex offender registry cannot hope to be an effective database if not all offenders are captured within. The provisions of the current registry have allowed for far too many sexual offenders to avoid inclusion. In addition, the proposed changes simplify the process for the inclusion of offenders in the registry and remove the burden from the Crowns to make an application for inclusion.

Our office has advocated for the inclusion of the DNA samples with the offender's information in the sex offender registry. The DNA data bank has been used to link crimes and identify perpetrators. Sexual assault cases where the assailant is unknown to the victim may only have DNA to identify the offender. If it is a case of a repeat offence, the offender can also be identified.

The committee has heard from a number of witnesses, and our office echoes the sentiments that were raised by several of those witnesses. We do however have a couple of points that I would like to address concerning some of the testimony.

In hearing from Dr. Paul Fedoroff of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, the committee learned that the recidivism rates for sexual offenders do not vary greatly when comparing offenders who do receive treatment versus those who do not. I find that disconcerting and feel that it actually strengthens the argument that the police need more tools at their disposal, tools that will not only help to prevent victimization but also assist in solving crimes one they have occurred. The data supports the fact that a significant number of sexual offenders do reoffend and that the rates of recidivism are fairly significant over the long term for sexual offenders. With mandatory inclusion with reporting for significant periods of time, sexual assaults committed by repeat offenders will have a better chance of being solved.

Dr. Fedoroff also spoke of dwindling rates of sexual victimization. Unfortunately, the figures that Dr. Fedoroff referred to seem to capture the rates of reported sexual assaults. The results of the General Social Survey on Victimization, which captures self-reported crimes, do not support this data. They show that the reporting to police of sexual assaults is declining, not the actual incidence.

Based on the General Social Survey, GSS, results, it is believed that approximately 8 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police. I am also not certain that the statistics regarding reported victimization can fully capture the harm suffered by children. We cannot forget that children are frequently preyed upon and repeatedly victimized. There are a number of reasons why victims may not report. One that is frequently cited is that the victims have little faith that the police will be able to identify the offender. Providing police with a more comprehensive tool to do just that is one way we can demonstrate to victims that law enforcement is able to find the perpetrator.

I would also like to address comments made by the Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart. Ms. Stoddart raised some concerns as to whether the new provisions represent an intrusion on the privacy rights of the offenders that is proportional to the benefits to society, law enforcement and the victims. It is our contention that these measures represent a minimal infringement on the rights of the offenders. As Mr. Stephenson indicated, many who do register do not feel that it is a great intrusion. The victims of their crimes would also feel that this is a minimal infringement, one that pales in comparison to the breach of their privacy at the hands of these offenders.

The proposed enhancements to the registry will not prevent all sexual assaults from occurring in the future, nor will they prevent recidivism in sexual offenders. They will, however, prevent future offenders from escaping inclusion on the registry and will provide law enforcement with a more meaningful tool both to prevent victimization and to investigate when an assault does occur. I urge the committee to adopt this legislation.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We will of course have questions, beginning with Senator Wallace.

Senator Wallace: Thank you, Ms. Gray-Donald. That was a very informative presentation. We appreciate it.

I was interested to see your comments regarding the presentation that had been made by the Privacy Commissioner. The Privacy Commissioner, as you may have heard, spoke of the need for balance between the rights of offenders and the rights of victims and the privacy rights of each.

What has your experience been in dealing with victims, when we think of the intrusion into the privacy of victims? Could you expand on that balance of privacy involving victims and offenders, but particularly from the perspective of victims?

Ms. Gray-Donald: With respect to the criminal justice process, the rights of offenders by far outweigh the rights of victims in general but also specific to privacy. Victims are subject to having the portion of their lives that pertain to the crime committed against them played out in open court, in the media and in all aspects of the criminal justice process. The offender, for the most part, is able to pick and choose what information is relayed. That is seen by victims as unfair, and it has long been a concern for victims.

Specific to the registry and the comments made by Ms. Stoddart, the victims we work with feel that the information that will be contained within the database or the registry is not a significant infringement on the rights of the individuals who perpetrated the crimes. It is used for law enforcement purposes. It is not within the public domain. It is not accessible by the victims or by the public. The information is stored for a specific purpose, and it does not unduly infringe on their rights.

Senator Wallace: Given your experience, I suspect you have seen the devastation caused by the intrusion into the privacy of victims of sexual offences and their families, and how that intrusion affects their lives, their privacy and their ability to carry on in a normal way. I am sure you have seen very devastating examples. I am thinking particularly of the families. What kinds of impacts do you see on families, and what kinds of representations have they made to improve the laws to prevent others from having to endure that?

Ms. Gray-Donald: The impact on the families varies with the crime, of course. It depends on who the perpetrator is. In cases where the offender is a member of the family, it generally devastates and destroys the family. We have seen that across the board. Even in cases where the offender is a stranger or someone who is non-familial, it has lasting impacts on the family, especially in cases where children are abused.

For privacy concerns, were you looking only for things related to the families, or do you want the overall impact?

Senator Wallace: I was just looking to hear what your experience has been. We hear academics voicing opinions, and there is a need for statistics and surveys and so on. However, you are dealing with the reality in front of you. Every day, you deal with these issues. That is what I am wondering.

Ms. Gray-Donald: The victims and their families, which are also victims of these crimes, feel these effects for the long term. The physical damage from sexual assault heals so much faster than the psychological damage that is felt by these victims. Many of the children who are harmed do not begin to realize or feel the effects until much later in their lives, and throughout their lives they continue to feel the effects as they grow and change.

Children who are assaulted will generally need to seek some therapy to get over the fear when they are first assaulted. Each stage of development in their life generally brings back the trauma and they need to seek assistance again. It is not something for which there is a quick fix, for which they can just go to a therapist and get "fixed." It is something they will face for the bulk of their life, in many cases. Some people are very robust and able to work through the pain quickly, but they are by far the exception.

Parents feel a range of emotions. In cases where one half of a marital relationship has been assaulted, it generally puts a great strain on the marriage; many couples break up over sexual assaults. It is not uncommon to have ripple effects throughout the core family unit and the extended family to include grandparents and siblings and whatnot. It is a very significant crime.

Senator Wallace: Anything that any of us can do to prevent or help prevent that from occurring and affecting other families we will do. Thank you for all the great work you are doing.

Senator Lang: Thank you for taking time out to come to the committee this morning. I would like to go directly to your submission here. You state: "The bill proposes to more closely align the national registry with the Ontario registry"; and you see this as a great step forward for the national registry. You add that "The Ontario registry is more comprehensive and is used by law enforcements as an investigative tool."

I know you support the legislation as it is now, but would you support a further amendment to the legislation so that it mirrored the Ontario legislation and broadened it as opposed to the way it is now?

Ms. Gray-Donald: In what way would you like to broaden the bill?

Senator Lang: You talk about the Ontario legislation being broader in the context of including more information and that type of thing. I am not totally familiar with the Ontario legislation, quite frankly, but this issue has been raised a number of times. Would you support a further step in that direction?

I ask because, if we were to go in that direction, would you then support the concept of the amalgamation of the Ontario registry into the national registry, so that there would be just one registry as opposed to two?

Ms. Gray-Donald: I will start with your second question. I would like to see the two registries aligned solely for the basis of consistency across the board, across the country. I feel that legislation that affects offenders at this level needs to be consistent. Where possible, we should not be subjecting or treating offenders differently province to province.

I cannot speak specifically to what it would take to align the two registries. However, if you are talking about questions of information contained within, I would assume that information contained in the Ontario registry has withstood the various tests and would be found to be relevant in Charter tests, let us say. If it is useful to law enforcement — and you will hear shortly from law enforcement people — I would not object to having the two aligned.

Senator Runciman: The concern in some quarters might be about the scope of the legislation as related to the proactive area that you were very supportive of. Bill S-2 is limited to prevention and investigation of sexual crimes. The Ontario legislation is much broader. It talks about crime prevention or law enforcement purposes. It is a much more usable tool, if you will, for police agencies in Ontario than what this legislation will permit.

I am curious. Yesterday, we had representatives of the criminal defence bar here. At least one of the representatives said something about "relatively minor crimes." Some members had strong disagreement with how they defined "relatively minor sexual crimes." I think the view of Madam Justice Carstairs is shared by many of us, if not all of us.

Do you see it as a concern or a problem that people who should not be captured by this will be? I suppose we are talking about very minor incidents, although that is very subjective. Do you have any concerns in that respect?

Ms. Gray-Donald: I will speak to defining a minor incident. I did not get to read the testimony from yesterday's presentations. However, I think what is viewed as a minor incident in law is different than what is viewed as a minor incident to a victim. That speaks to the fact that every incident is different and every victim's reaction is different.

If you are talking about truly minor offences that do not involve any sort of overt sexual touching, for example, I believe provisions in the legislation allow for an application to be made for exclusion. I think the provisions would apply in that instance. It is one area where we have to err on the side of caution. I hope that the judiciary would treat minor offences appropriately, and perhaps a minor sexual assault would be pled to a minor assault, for example. Therefore, it would not be caught in the registry. I think there are ways that the Crown can proceed. The judge has to approve a plea. There are ways we can avoid those inclusions.

The Chair: For the record, Ms. Gray-Donald, I think you will find that you cannot apply for exclusion. You can only apply for an exemption from the obligations to comply with reporting.

Ms. Gray-Donald: Okay. I will look into that.

The Chair: However, once you are on the list, you are on the list for life.

Senator Baker: I too would like to thank you for your presentation and the great work your organization does.

Senator Lang asked you for any amendments you might support and you asked for specifics. During testimony on this bill, it became evident that when the registry was created in December 2004, there was a one-year window in the legislation during which provincial attorneys general could initiate a procedure whereby persons could be captured that were under sentence at that time for the offences we are talking about. In other words, someone on probation or serving a sentence for a serious crime could be included within one year. That ended after the year passed. The legislation was amended a couple of years later, and that section was removed.

Here we are six years later. Some of the most serious crimes committed over the past 20 years of the nature we are talking about are not captured by the registry, although the perpetrators are still under sentence. In other words, someone who is under sentence, for example, would normally have a prohibition against owning a firearm. That prohibition normally lasts for 10 years or it could last for a lifetime.

This person is still under sentence. The suggestion has been made that perhaps we should entertain an amendment to Bill S-2 to make the bill retrospective in nature — what I would term retroactive — to apply to persons who are still under sentence. In other words, someone is convicted of break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence, namely sexual assault. This person is still under sentence, but will not be captured by this legislation because it covers only cases that occur after this legislation comes into effect.

Would you support an amendment to have the bill apply retrospectively to all persons who committed these serious offences and who are still under sentence? Would you require time to answer us in writing about whether you would support such an amendment?

Ms. Gray-Donald: I hesitate to make a blanket statement that all offenders convicted of a sexual offence should be subject to this legislation. We have to be careful about imposing new sanctions as part of a sentence on offenders who are already sentenced, which is what I believe that would amount to.

There are ways we can monitor or at least put provisions on offenders. For example, the National Parole Board can stipulate that offenders have to report contact with children, report romantic relationships, stay away from playgrounds and things like that. Breach of those conditions then becomes a parole violation.

I thought about this since reading the debate over retrospective versus retroactive. What might be more feasible is for any offences to be included that may have occurred 20 years ago, but there has not been a charge laid yet and, therefore, the offender is not yet sentenced. In that way, the offence would not have had to take place after the date this legislation comes into force, but sentencing for the offence could still be captured by the registry.

Senator Baker: I am sorry, but I do not follow your logic.

Ms. Gray-Donald: That is fine.

Senator Baker: You said that the legislation should apply to someone who committed an offence 20 years ago, but it would only apply upon conviction and sentencing in the future.

I am not talking about minor sexual offences. Someone who committed an offence, was convicted 10 years ago and is still under probation still committed a serious sexual offence. You seem hesitant to apply the law to them. Are you worried about applying the law retrospectively?

Ms. Gray-Donald: I should state that I would love to see the mandatory inclusion in the registry apply to all sexual offenders. My answer is what I thought would work. I think concerns would be raised about the impact on offenders who have already been sentenced. Inclusion in the registry would be seen as an addition to their sentence.

Senator Baker: I see.

Ms. Gray-Donald: As someone who works with victims of crime, I know that all of the victims with whom I work and that I personally would like to see all offenders convicted of sexual offences included and captured by this data bank. I do not know how that would work.

Does that clarify my response for you?

Senator Baker: Yes, it does. If you have any further thoughts on it, you could send them to the committee.

Senator Dawson: I have two comments. First is in regard to the Privacy Commissioner and what could be deemed a minimal infringement. I am not a regular member of this committee, but she has also appeared before the committees of which I am a member. The Privacy Commissioner's responsibility is to ensure privacy and the rights of the offenders but also the rights of the victims.

The more information that is collected about which the Privacy Commissioner is told it is a minimal intrusion, the more she must consider the use of such information for purposes that were not intended, although not necessarily illegal. The Privacy Commissioner is often told that the information gathered is a minimal intrusion. Her responsibility as a representative of Parliament is to ensure that privacy is privacy and that it is respected.

My second comment is with regard to how uniform the Ontario code and the Canadian one will be. I am sure we all agree that we have different provincial interpretations. As a Quebecer, and I think it would probably apply to my colleague Senator Baker, to be told we should use the Ontario model as inspiration for all Canadians is not something with which I would necessarily agree.

The Chair: Would you care to comment on Senator Dawson's comments?

Ms. Gray-Donald: I realize some people may hesitate to view the Ontario model as the best model, but I think that has to be worked out in its implementation. I am not saying the national registry has to become the Ontario registry. It is simply something that must be studied. Perhaps a new registry will come forward that all provinces use uniformly. It is not to say that the Ontario model becomes the national model.

Senator Lang: I want to pursue this a bit, for clarification. My understanding is that Quebec works under the national registry. Ontario has its own separate registry. That is the difference. There is only one other registry in existence. I do not understand the statement that you would not support it going under our national registry.

Senator Dawson: I do not want to become the witness. I am not saying I would not support it. I am just saying, with respect to the idea that the Ontario model should become the national model, a national model was developed that provinces accepted. If you start having provinces change their application and you change the national model, please trust a province to adapt to it if it wants to, not because Ontario did it. Even if Quebec had an extraordinary model, I do not think it should impose itself on the rest of the country, if we have a national model.

The Chair: This bill sets up a national sex offender registry. As I recall, Quebec police told us they would be pleased to find the resources to use and implement that. I think I am correct in that.

Senator Lang: Not to put you on the witness stand, Senator Dawson, but I do —

The Chair: I would draw to senators' attention that there are other fora in which we can have debates.

Senator Lang: I will pass it by in the interests of time.

Ms. Gray-Donald: Can I make one more comment on that? If we have a model that is seen as working in Ontario, we cannot ignore that fact and say we have to develop a new model. If something is working, we have to look into that and see whether it is applicable nationally. Then it is up to those in law enforcement and those who write the laws to convince the rest of the provinces that that is the right answer for Canada nationally.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Gray-Donald. It is not every day that a witness provokes a debate around this table in addition to questions directly to the witness. It has been interesting, and we are grateful to you for having taken the time to appear before us today.

We are very pleased to welcome now to our study on Bill S-9 from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, CACP, Vincent Westwick, General Counsel, Ottawa Police Service; and Staff Sergeant John McGetrick, also of the Ottawa Police Service. Thank you both for being with us. Please proceed with your opening statement.

[Translation]

Vincent Westwick, General Counsel, Ottawa Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: Madam Chair, my name is Vincent Westwick, I am the co-chair of the Law Amendments Committee, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Staff Sergeant John McGetrick of the Ottawa Police is accompanying me. He is the officer responsible for the Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit.

We are here today to represent the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Toronto's Chief of Police, Bill Blair, is the president of our association. He could not be here with us today because he is at a meeting with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, in Grande Prairie.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police represents over 900 chiefs, deputy chiefs and other police executives, as well as over 130 police services across Canada.

[English]

By advocating legislative reform, innovative solutions for crime and public issues, as well as promoting community partnerships and high professional standards, the CACP is dedicated to leading progressive change in policing.

It is always a pleasure to appear before Parliament and to make representations on new legislation or, in this case, legislation amending an existing statutory program. It is an important aspect of the work of our association to listen to our communities and our members, to consult with government and to make representations before Parliament. Presenting to the Senate of Canada the views of chiefs of police from across Canada and the experience of CACP members in policing and investigation is an important duty and a high honour.

I know that in your committee deliberations you have already heard from the experts on this topic from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Sûreté du Québec. I am not such an expert. My purpose is not to repeat their submissions, although the CACP clearly wants to go on record as fully supporting their position. They are members of the CACP. Rather, it is my hope today to discuss some of the broader concepts.

I would begin by noting for the committee that at the annual conference of the CACP in 2008, the membership passed a resolution calling upon the Government of Canada to bring the National Sex Offender Registry in line with the provisions of the Ontario registry.

Police in Canada need effective tools to prevent crime and to enforce the law of Canada when crime is committed. In our ever increasingly complex world, policing becomes more difficult. To meet the reasonable expectations of the Canadian public and to ensure safe Canadian communities, especially for our children, Canadian police need modern tools updated to reflect current technology, tools that can be used to prevent crimes being committed by those who are bent on breaking the law. The sex offender registry is such a tool.

All parents worry about the safety of their children. Walking to school, playing in neighbourhood parks or engaging in sports, we all want our children to be safe from those who would prey on their innocence and trustworthiness. While we in policing would describe the sex offender registry as a police tool, it is really more accurately described as a tool for the community. Therefore, in our submission, the debate surrounding Bill S-2 is not about more police power but rather is centred on the degree to which Parliament wishes to protect Canadian communities and the children who live in them.

Clause 28(1) of Bill S-2 restates the legislative purpose of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act to specifically include prevention. I will not read the whole section; it is there for you.

It is our submission that the inclusion of the word "prevent" in that new clause is a critically important enhancement to the policy statement for the registry. The other changes embodied in Bill S-2, in our view, flow from this fundamental principle.

It is the submission of the CACP that this is a crucial revision, not only because it is sound public policy, but also because it reflects what Canadian communities demand when it comes to the protection and safety of their most vulnerable members. Too often in the criminal justice sphere, prevention does not receive the legislative treatment it deserves. The CACP believes that prevention should be the overarching public policy of the sex offender registry — to prevent the worst kinds of crimes aimed at the most vulnerable members of our society. The fundamental value of Bill S-2 lies in the elements of prevention, which it so rightly advances.

The prevention of sexual violence is a goal I know we can all agree on. From a policing perspective, I can tell you that the word "prevention" can be an empty goal and an empty promise without the investigative tools to back it up.

However, the goal of prevention brings forth tough choices. To effectively prevent sex offences, the police require the relevant details on individuals included in the registry. For example, police need vehicle descriptions and licence plate numbers so that when we get a call about a suspicious vehicle we can match that information to an entry in the National Sex Offender Registry and act upon the appropriate risk level.

To expand the example, in order to meet the prevention objective, police need the information in a timely manner. Seven days is better than 15 days for a change of address.

Yes, the CACP recognizes that this information is an intrusion into the privacy of individuals who have been convicted of a sexual offence. We do not argue that a person convicted of a sexual offence loses his or her rights to privacy. Rather, the CACP argues that these minor intrusions into the privacy of a person convicted of a designated offence are entirely reasonable and justifiable in the circumstances. Using the language from Bill S-2, the intrusions are not "disproportionate to the public interest" of preventing further crime by the same individual.

I wish to reiterate a small but important aspect of the operation of the registry in relation to privacy. Contrary to what people may think and what may be the case with other police databases, access to this system is very limited. For example, I am advised that only 135 members of the entire RCMP force of over 30,000 have operational access to the database. In Ottawa, of a service of 2,000 members, only six have access to this system. Access is specialized work conducted by identified and specially trained police personnel.

The CACP supports Bill S-2. We believe the enhancements presented in this legislation are reasonable and practical and support the public policy objectives of the sex offender registry. More specifically, the CACP supports the following enhancements — enhancements, I might add, that are based on practice and practicality over the last several years of the experience of both the Ontario and the national registries. The specifics we support and urge you to pass are, first, that compliance with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act be a mandatory inclusion upon conviction, rather than following a discretionary application; second, that the all-important vehicle information now be part of the required information for registration; third, that the so-called administrative elements be included in the registry database; fourth, that the time lines for reporting a change of address, et cetera, be more reasonable; and last and most important, that the statutory purpose for consulting the database now include a preventive purpose.

On this last point, I would encourage the committee to include the broader language found in the Ontario legislation, which allows for consultation "for a law enforcement purpose."

I would like to propose two other modest suggestions for amendments to Bill S-2. First, in our submission, clause 15(1) should call for mandatory notification by the Correctional Service of Canada when persons are released or discharged from a federal facility. Second, the system is only as good as its data. Authority for verification currently comes from the declaration of principle in the original legislation. There ought to be a specific provision permitting address verification.

In conclusion, the CACP supports this bill.

I would like to make some brief comments about the review by this committee of the DNA legislation. Briefly stated, the CACP supports the concept that DNA be viewed and treated legislatively in the same fashion that the justice system treats fingerprints. In other words, DNA samples ought to be taken upon arrest in the same fashion and be subject to the same conditions as fingerprints are now.

I am aware that, in 1998, the Department of Justice Canada commissioned a legal opinion from a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice on this point. That opinion concluded that such an approach would likely violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In our submission, it is time to revisit that issue.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

The Chair: Did you have anything to add, Sergeant McGetrick?

John McGetrick, Staff Sergeant, Ottawa Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: No.

Senator Wallace: Thank you, Mr. Westwick and staff sergeant, for your presentation. You place considerable emphasis on the purpose of the bill and the focus that is now on prevention. You are not simply looking at the National Sex Offender Registry as an investigative tool but have emphasized the prevention aspect. You have given a couple of examples of changes that Bill S-2 would bring about — for example, as it relates to vehicle registration and change of address — that would be useful for police in the preventive aspect of their work.

Could you expand on how you see Bill S-2 leading to prevention of sexual offences? We have heard from witnesses who have questioned that. Bill S-2 will not prevent sexual crimes from occurring. However, from a policing point of view, what tools would this provide that would lead to actual prevention, in practical terms?

Mr. Westwick: Perhaps I will give you a short answer and then ask Sergeant McGetrick to give you the perspective of a front-line police officer.

I am glad that you picked up on our main theme of prevention. We think this is a huge step forward, and we applaud the Senate of Canada for introducing a bill of this sort. As I said earlier, prevention is not often covered in legislation. It is so important, and it is something the public demands of police. So often, we do not necessarily have the tools to do prevention. Prevention is a fundamental shift in philosophy, and we strongly endorse it.

Perhaps Mr. McGetrick can offer examples of details.

Mr. McGetrick: Crime prevention is a core policing responsibility in Ontario. When we are investigating perhaps up to 1,000 investigations a year at the Ottawa Police Service, we get numerous investigations where, for example, someone in a white or black van offered a child a ride or candy, and that is the end of the incident. Especially since the legislative amendments to the Ontario act in December 2008, our common practice is to go back to the office and check the registry in that particular area to see who owns a white van and who is registered and living in that area. We have been successful in identifying the drivers of these vehicles, and that denies them the opportunity of engaging further in that kind of conduct. That is a practical example of prevention. It has proven valuable to us.

Senator Wallace: When an incident occurs and someone is abducted, it is a matter of looking at potential offenders and being able to proceed in an efficient and timely way that is important. I take from what you say that this would help in that way.

Mr. Westwick: There is another ironic twist to this. As a result of the Jane Doe case years ago in Toronto and other changes in philosophy more broadly in policing, police quickly put out public information now. For example, if you live in Ottawa, you would have heard recently about a particular type of suspicious vehicle identified as having some interaction with children.

Lawyers tell the police they should put this information in the public's mind. The problem is that if there is nothing further police can do, that can cause disproportionate public angst. There may not be a crime; there may be some other explanation. Now that we put more information in the hands of the public, there is more public demand to do something with that information. Another type of prevention is involved, and that type of prevention is to reduce public angst when there is no crime and, consequently, no need for additional caution.

Senator Baker: Before I get to the main question concerning this bill, I want to ask you, Mr. Westwick, for verification on what you purported at the end of your presentation. You are an experienced person in the law. You said that upon arrest, DNA must be taken just as fingerprints and photographs are taken. Do you mean that on every hybrid offence, some of them relatively minor, before the Crown has decided which way it will proceed, indictably or summarily, everyone's DNA will be taken at that point?

Mr. Westwick: Yes. I am saying that in every situation where fingerprints are now legislatively called for, DNA would replace that. I understand that it sounds a bit dramatic. Technology has reached the point where DNA is a more effective tool in the same way as 100 years ago when the science of fingerprints reached the stage where police could use them as a tool for identification and investigation and for searching persons and crime scenes. The same is now true with DNA.

To not do that, we tell the Canadian public that we are using less effective technology than is available in our society. I am not sure how we can say that with a straight face.

Senator Baker: You will admit that the Supreme Court of Canada has looked at the comparison between DNA and fingerprinting and has concluded that DNA is much more invasive. This issue has been ruled on. In spite of that, you say we should go down this road.

Mr. Westwick: Let me clarify that. The Supreme Court of Canada has not ruled on this, as far as I am aware. In the mid-1990s when there was a push from Canadian police to use DNA and there was some appetite to look at it, the government of the day decided to have the matter reviewed by retired justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. Those justices ventured an opinion that would not be binding, but obviously because of who they were and the high office they held, the opinion was persuasive. The opinion was not a binding precedent of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Senator Baker: Not on this particular subject, but the issue has been visited in many other forms.

I have one question on the actual bill. Very serious crimes have been committed in the past. For example, say someone committed a break and enter into a dwelling house for the indictable offence of committing a sexual assault. It took place and the person was convicted in 2000 or 2002. That person would still be what you call "on sentence." In other words, the person would perhaps still be on probation, and certainly the prohibitions in the Criminal Code defined under "on sentence" would apply. That person would still be under sentence. Such offenders are not captured by Bill S-2.

When we passed this legislation in 2004, we allowed it to go back for one year of retrospective application. We did not allow it to go back to 2002, 2001 or 2000. We are now in 2010 passing the legislation. We have very serious crimes committed for which people are still on sentence, yet they will not be captured by this legislation.

You readily admit that you want to get to these serious crimes to ensure they are on the record so that our police forces can know who they are. Do you agree with Senator Boisvenu's point regarding the retrospective application of this law to ensure those persons are captured under this legislation?

Mr. Westwick: Yes.

Senator Baker: Good for you. You did not have it in your presentation.

Mr. Westwick: No, I did not. I have a bit of an internal conflict in this regard because my lawyer side recognizes the difficulties with it. My police side does not have any problem with it. I want to address my lawyer side for a moment, if I may.

Senator Baker: You were an RCMP officer at one point. Is that correct?

Mr. Westwick: Yes. As I understand the philosophy of why legislation, particularly criminal legislation, is not made retroactive, the thinking is that had that retroactive provision been in place when the person decided to commit the crime, its presence may somehow have impacted or influenced the person's decision not to commit the crime. Therefore, the person should not be held to that.

I do not believe, either personally or professionally, that a person who commits a sexual offence would have been influenced by the existence or applicability of the sex offender registry.

Senator Baker: We created the registry in 2004 and made the legislation retrospective. It was upheld by every court of appeal I know of in this nation. You agree with those courts of appeal, and the committee should welcome such an amendment.

Mr. Westwick: My colleagues who administer the registry will have administrative difficulties meeting that requirement. I would encourage the Government of Canada to be sensitive to the imposition such retroactivity will place on administration of the program. With that aside, it is an excellent idea.

Senator Baker: Good for you.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Good morning, Mr. Westwick. My question has to do with access to the DNA data bank. If I understand the act and its amendments correctly, you do not have the power to give out information to third parties on the contents of the sex offender registry. Is that right?

[English]

Mr. Westwick: My understanding of that is no. As I indicated in my opening remarks, the access to the system is very limited. I had not touched this in a while and went back to look at it and was surprised at how limited the access of the Ottawa police is. Perhaps Mr. McGetrick may have a comment on the access of third parties to the information. Would any third party ever get their hands on information from the registry?

Mr. McGetrick: It is so limited within our own organization. I often get questions from patrol officers calling the office and asking who is living in their neighbourhood. It is very restricted information. A police officer is not allowed to disclose to anyone in the public who is on the sex offender registry based on Ontario legislation. I do not foresee that as being an issue.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Do you feel there could be situations where we should expand access? For example, suppose I am the owner of a daycare and I want to hire someone; that person gives me authorization to check their criminal record. So I have permission from the person. The police service will be able to give me the information on their criminal record, but not about whether the person is on the sex offender registry, is that right?

[English]

Mr. Westwick: My understanding is that we would not be able to give out information in those circumstances. It presents an interesting public policy debate, but here my police side overcomes and says it would likely be in the best interests that this kind of information be closely held for investigative purposes and law enforcement purposes. I would like to take that away, though, senator, because I quite frankly had not put my mind to it, and it is an interesting thought. Subject to perhaps providing a further answer to you, my immediate thought is it may be difficult to control if the information goes into the hands of third parties.

The Chair: We would all be interested in your response to that, Mr. Westwick, but we will need it fairly quickly because we are nearing the end of our work on this bill.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: I am using the example of section 490.012 of the Criminal Code that makes it possible for a person to be on the registry even if they did not commit a sexual offence, but the prosecutor showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed an offence of break and enter with the intent to commit a sexual offence. So, on the criminal record, it says "break and enter," but the person is on the sex offender registry. So technically, that person could be hired in a daycare because the criminal record simply shows "break and enter," but the information about the person being on the sex offender registry is omitted, which could be somewhat of a contradiction and go against the public interest.

[English]

Mr. Westwick: That is a difficult question, senator. I would like to give that some thought, if I may, and perhaps get back to you. I do not have a good answer to give you, and I would rather not speak too quickly on it.

Senator Runciman: On that last subject, I was talking to the research folks earlier about an application under what they call the vulnerable sector under the current law, and if the individual in question consents, they can release that information. There are certainly built-in protections there if the individual does not consent, and I think automatically you might rule them out for consideration for employment. I do not know, but I think most people would react that way.

You have agreed with the usual subjects I raise with witnesses, the scope and the mandatory provisions for corrections, so I heartily endorse your submission. We have not had too many witnesses who have been strongly concerned about the bill, but yesterday we had some people from the criminal defence bar. They raised a number of points to which I would appreciate your response.

When we referenced scope, they were only at that point in time talking about the scope contained within Bill S-2, not the Ontario scope, which, as you mentioned earlier, is for law enforcement purposes much broader. He said it opens the door for "carte blanche misuse." I specifically asked the witness who used that term about the history in Ontario and whether they are having carte blanche misuse complaints. He could not respond. Staff sergeant, you are very actively involved. Are you hearing many complaints about police misusing this access?

Mr. McGetrick: Not at all.

Senator Runciman: Thank you for that.

Mr. Westwick: I may be able to supplement that, senator. I just finished 10 years in charge of the public complaints section of the Ottawa Police, and I am not aware of any complaint.

Senator Runciman: They also expressed the view that police already have adequate tools, and they mentioned that you can run a licence plate and gain access to CPIC — the Canadian Police Information Centre — and get background information. How is what would apply through this legislation different from the tools that are already in your tool kit?

Mr. McGetrick: Sexual assault is a unique crime, and, frankly, the investigative steps are unique. Offenders tend to keep going, and the sooner you can get on it, the better. We keep hearing the word "minor." I would like to point out that serious sexual predators start out trespassing at night or perhaps doing indecent acts, et cetera, and they can quite quickly escalate. An expedient investigative response is critical. If you have these tools, especially with vehicle information and everything handy, then you can narrow your focus of search immediately via a process of elimination, but many of these offenders do not stray very far from home in committing their offences. Just from a practical perspective, it has been an invaluable tool to our investigators.

Senator Runciman: You raised another issue that the criminal defence folks posited, and that is what you mentioned about this history of the gravity of offences increasing over a period of time. Certainly the most famous example was Bernardo. Have studies been done to confirm that in so many instances it is the case that they start at a gradual level with relatively so-called minor offences?

Mr. Westwick: Senator, I may get in trouble for saying this, but graphic evidence of that will released in the next 24 hours.

Senator Runciman: Okay.

Mr. Westwick: Graphic evidence.

Senator Runciman: I appreciate your making us aware of that.

Mr. Westwick: I am informed it was released this morning.

Senator Runciman: I was less than impressed with the testimony, and I am glad you are confirming my suspicions about a lot of this. They are concerned about individuals with what they classified as relatively minor offences being captured by this. What is your reaction to that?

Mr. Westwick: Simply put, there are no minor sexual assaults. In fact, we go further than that. In speaking to victims and securing the cooperation of victims, which continues to be an ongoing challenge, you cannot say to a victim that it is a minor matter. When you look at the trauma and the impact, you cannot say that it is minor. I do not think anyone who does that understands the nature of the offence and the trauma that flows from it. Sexual assault is a serious matter.

Senator Runciman: I have one more quick question relating specifically to your presentation. You were talking about the limited police access to databases. I guess you cannot respond with respect to the RCMP, but you said the Ottawa Police Service has only two people with access.

Mr. Westwick: It is actually six people.

Senator Runciman: Six, okay. Your brief says two.

Mr. Westwick: It is six out of 2,000.

Senator Runciman: What is the rationale for that? Is it because of privacy concerns? What is the problem there?

Mr. McGetrick: It is centralized expert investigation. All 1,400 patrol officers would have access through my investigative unit if they need it. However, as the investigation is being done within our section, we are best apt to have access to it.

Senator Runciman: You do not see that as a problem or a concern?

Mr. McGetrick: No. When privacy concerns are brought up, it is a good tool to have in place. It keeps the access limited, defined, and for the specific purpose.

Mr. Westwick: The version that was sent out says two, which is the copy you have. We confirmed this morning that there were actually four more people. We are a little red-faced because they did not know they have access and do not use it. There are in fact two people who use it and manage the system, so that is why we corrected that.

Senator Runciman: Do they know now?

Mr. Westwick: They know now.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: I would like you to take a leap into the future, let us say six months from now; the bill will have been passed by then. We are in September 2010. The bill is passed as introduced, with no amendments and with no retroactive or retrospective effect.

The prison system releases a criminal because he has reached the end of his sentence. So that criminal, who was sentenced eight or ten years ago, is not eligible to be on the registry because there was no registry ten years ago. And we know that the criminal will commit an offence because the prison system says in a final report that the recidivism rate is very high.

As legislators, would we be irresponsible if that criminal was released without our having a way of putting him on some registry or other in order to have some control?

Could you answer as a police officer and as a lawyer?

The Chair: That is a different issue.

[English]

Mr. Westwick: Thank you, senator. I do not know how to answer. Perhaps it is worth noting that the police do not make this submission thinking of the inclusion of this person's information on the registry as a punishment, although we understand that it has consequences. We are not unaware of the consequences, but we are not making the argument to do this for further punishment. We are doing it because it presents a preventive tool. We want to see that information so that we can prevent crimes.

I am certainly not a scientist, but if the science reaches a point and the evidence before the Senate at some point is that the recidivism rate is not as high as we are told it is, then maybe there is an argument to revisit the retroactivity. As long as the experts in our community are saying that there is a high propensity, a high rate of recidivism, I cannot understand why we would not want to have that information for prevention available.

Senator Joyal: My first question is for Staff Sergeant McGetrick. Yesterday we heard from one of your colleagues from the RCMP, Glenn Woods; I do not know whether you know the gentlemen. He has been with the RCMP for 35 years, involved in over 2,500 cases of sexual assault, and he has been the director of behavioural sciences for 10 years. He is one of the specialists on the issue we are dealing with today. In this testimony, he said, "Since the proclamation in 2002 and 2004, the National Sex Offender Registry has not enjoyed a lot of credibility within the law enforcement community."

We just heard from you that you thought there were only two officers at the Ottawa Police Service who would have access to the registry. Do you share his views that the registry lacked credibility within the law enforcement community? That is very big. The law enforcement community is not just the police. It is everyone who surrounds the police. It is the system, more or less, that he is referring to. How do you react to such an overwhelming qualification?

Mr. McGetrick: It is difficult to comment, because we have dealt with Christopher's Law, the Ontario Sex Offender Registry, and we do not really use the national registry very often.

Certainly, based on how I view current Ontario legislation versus the 2004 version of the national registry, I would echo those comments, based on what I have heard. I do not know how many offenders we have in Ontario, but we have over 400 living in the city of Ottawa. My understanding is that two thirds of those were not even on the national registry because they were not ordered to be by a judge. This legislation seems to correct a lot of those areas.

Quite frankly, we have been dealing effectively with the Ontario legislation. The down side is that it is provincial legislation. We do not have the hybrid arrest and apprehension powers and so on, so we are welcoming these changes. It is not fair for me to comment on the national registry, because we have had the luxury of our own registry that has been effective, especially since the late 2008 amendments, which are similar to what is proposed here today.

Senator Joyal: We heard from the previous witness, Ms. Gray-Donald, and I apologize to her for being late for her testimony. I read in her brief that only 8 per cent of offences are reported, which means that the vast majority of them are unreported.

I do not want to be unfair to you, but would it be partly because the victims do not trust police effectiveness?

Mr. McGetrick: I am sure that is one of the factors. There are a multitude of factors for why a victim would not want to report, but certainly it is critical that the police continue to work on that. I would like to think we have made great strides over the last 15 or 20 years in how we interact with victims and our understanding of it, but that would be a fair comment. We want to reach out to those victims and work with them.

Senator Joyal: You talk a lot in your brief about prevention, but I think prevention is a very wide concept. Prevention is not only about preventing the offender from reoffending but also about informing the potential victims, the milieu that is the target of sexual predators especially, that this risk exists and outline what can be done. I feel there is an educational aspect to this bill that is neither well understood nor mentioned. It seems to me to be much more important to inform someone that he or she could be a potential victim than to try to prevent a criminal from going after the victim. The two of them are equally important in my opinion. However, we do not hear much from the police forces about that aspect of prevention. Is that a fair comment?

Mr. McGetrick: It is a fair comment. If we are not investigating, that perhaps means the crime did not actually happen. However, I really want to be careful —

Senator Joyal: I will stop you. In those cases, we know the crimes have happened.

Mr. McGetrick: I want to be careful that we are not blaming the victim for being victimized. The sensational and stranger sexual assault cases make the media. It is important to know that the vast majority of folks are victimized by someone they know.

I am always for more education, but I want to be careful that we are not putting the focus on the victim and laying blame there for the offence that happened. The offenders are the ones who make the improper choices.

Senator Joyal: I know. However, I was reading in the paper this morning that three people have been charged with luring children on the Internet. It is important to inform teenagers and kids, because they now have Internet access at five or six years old. It is important to have programs in school and to have community programs so that the information can be disseminated among those target groups.

We know that is where the predators concentrate their initiatives. It is a very important element of the overall effectiveness of this bill, in my opinion. Unless I do not know the reality that you have to face yourself.

Mr. McGetrick: I agree. We have school resource officers. We do engage in prevention. We would love to engage in more and we are working at it, but that is a fair comment.

Mr. Westwick: I want to say a word, senator, if I may, in response to your concern. While I personally have a great deal of concern about prevention, I do not think we do enough about prevention in Canada. We talk about it a lot, but we do not do it.

I said in my remarks that prevention comes with a cost, and that cost is that it runs smack into the privacy concerns and the balance that the Privacy Commissioner was talking about. I would not want the committee to be left with the impression that police are not concerned about public information. I would be in trouble with my own boss. Chiefs of police and deputies across this country are out every single night of the week, often at several community events and town halls, speaking about all sorts of prevention messages and all sorts of community safety messages. Sometimes it is to as few as three or four people at a small event, and sometimes it is to a large event. The whole philosophy of policing now is to provide that information to communities so that people can make intelligent choices about their life, their lifestyle and all sorts of matters and how they conduct their affairs. The provision of information to the communities so that they can be part of their own safety planning is a critical part of policing in today's day and age.

The Chair: Colleagues, we are bumping up against the clock again, and I know Senator Joyal has a final question to ask. I will remind senators, as I so often do, how helpful it is if they can keep their questions tight. I will also ask the witnesses to keep their responses tight so we can have time for more questions.

Senator Joyal: My last question, Mr. Westwick, is about the last section of your brief. You advocate that DNA data should be given upon arrest — not upon the charge but upon arrest. In your analysis of the opinion that was given to the government by the retired Supreme Court justice who produced that opinion in 1998, which aspect of his opinion would resist a court challenge today, given that you said it is time to revisit that issue? If we revisit that issue, it is because the circumstances and the elements at the base of that legal opinion have changed so much that, today, such an amendment to the DNA Identification Act would withstand a court challenge.

Mr. Westwick: I will try to be brief.

The Chair: You can always respond with a detailed opinion in writing.

Mr. Westwick: Thank you. Senator, that is a great question and I would love to debate it with you. The Supreme Court of Canada, over time, reverses itself as pressures, societal changes and influences from all aspects of society impinge upon it. We are saying is that it might be time, some 14 years later, to look at this and see whether those pressures and changes of society, and the views of the Supreme Court itself on a number of issues, would cause a new opinion.

There is no specific part of his opinion I would say is wrong. I would say it is time for those who are learned in this kind of law to refresh their opinion and see whether they still have the same view that they did 14 years ago with all that has happened and transpired in Canadian society.

Senator Joyal: Therefore you do not have any specific element of today's reality that would bring you to the conclusion that such a test would stand the court's critique.

Mr. Westwick: I would like to think that there are a number of them, but perhaps we could discuss them later.

Senator Carstairs: You made a comment about prevention coming at a cost, but then you made reference to the privacy concerns. I do not understand why you think prevention has anything to do with privacy concerns.

Mr. Westwick: With respect to this particular bill, the Privacy Commissioner is speaking about a balance, and we understand that. If privacy concerns were not an issue and privacy was not held with the same regard in Canadian society and by the Canadian Parliament as it is, our submissions would be much different.

Senator Carstairs: What does that have to do with prevention?

Mr. Westwick: The more information the police have in their hands, the more preventive and proactive they can be. However, proactivity and prevention have to be balanced with caution, I think. That is why we are making remarks that we hope are responsible in that regard.

Senator Carstairs: Mr. Westwick, your idea of prevention and mine are at opposite poles. I am talking about educating children, educating parents and educating teachers to educate the children in particular, so that they will not be victims of sexual assault.

Mr. Westwick: Right.

Senator Carstairs: You are talking about a police prevention initiative. What is your belief in the kinds of prevention programs that I am referring to?

Mr. Westwick: They are marvellous and police have been doing them for years. They will continue to do them and expand on them. I would agree with you wholeheartedly on that, Senator Carstairs.

Senator Carstairs: I would suggest it is not the police that should be doing it.

I would like to address the attitudes of police officers themselves towards sexual assaults. For many years, and I think you would have to agree, there was great discomfort on the part of the police force entering homes on family violence issues. That has made leaps forward, and I would suggest to you that the modern police officer has no difficulty with that particular issue.

Is there still some stigma involving the family and incest, which is a large portion of sexual assaults, in the relationship between the family and the police?

Mr. McGetrick: I would say not. My team is extremely well trained, educated and very sensitive to victim needs, children especially. In my 23 years, I would certainly agree with many of your comments. I have seen a lot of positive change.

Many victims deal with the uniform before they get to see a detective, and we do a lot of training with the front line with guidelines and attitudes. It starts right in basic training now, so I think we have made great strides in that regard.

Senator Carstairs: Statistics would indicate that children often have to tell as many as eight people that they were sexual assaulted before they are actually believed. Has that been your experience?

Mr. McGetrick: That would not be my experience. A sexual assault investigation is not like an impaired driver where you get technical evidence and it is fairly conclusive. A sexual assault investigation deals with human behaviour and interpretation. No, in any child sexual assault investigation, our goal is to be involved immediately. Though it sounds horrible, we do not even want the parents talking to their child. Our folks are trained to talk to them, listen and get the best pure version out of them they can. From my experience, I do not see that what you suggested is the case at all, quite frankly.

The Chair: Mr. Westwick, if I could go back to your written brief, you call for an amendment; you say clause 15.1 should call for mandatory notification by Correctional Service Canada. As I read the bill, there is no clause 15.1. Are you suggesting a new clause 15.1?

Mr. Westwick: Give me a moment to find where I was referring to that.

The Chair: Section 15 is on page 9 of the bill, and the reference in your brief is also on page 9 of your brief.

Mr. Westwick: I am not sure how to answer that. Perhaps I can look and get back to you. I have obviously quoted the wrong number, and I will check to see.

However, my point remains the same. My understanding is that now it is discretionary, and what we are suggesting is that it ought not to be discretionary; it ought to be mandatory. If I quoted the wrong section, I apologize.

The Chair: Working my way through the thickets of this proposed legislation, I may be misreading the bill.

Your second point on that same page of your brief is where you talk about data. The written brief said there ought to be a specific provision calling for address verification. When you spoke, you said a specific provision permitting address verification, not a specific provision calling for it. Was that just elegant variation, or did you make the change for a reason?

Mr. Westwick: I made the change for a reason. I think the language is better. I might say, having made these presentations before, this is the first time I have actually given my remarks in advance. I will not do that again.

The Chair: Please do not be deterred, because it is actually very helpful to us.

The researchers have found the right section 15.1, so you do not have to address yourself to that.

The reason I asked about the difference between calling for and permitting has to do with resources. It has been suggested that requiring police to go around and verify every address every six months would actually eat up a lot of police time that might be more appropriately used, focused more directly on prevention or investigation of actual offences. I was wondering whether that was a concern as you were speaking to us.

Mr. Westwick: Not specifically. My concern arose from my review of the existing legislation; as I understand it, the authority for verification comes from what I would say is rather vague wording in the declaration of principle. I would be afraid that at some point in the future, some enterprising lawyer may challenge that. I thought that while the bill was open this would be a time to put in an explicit statutory reference to the verification process. There was not that much difference in the wording. That was my thinking.

I always worry, because I spend a good deal of my day responding to those kinds of challenges to police authority, and often the courts are reluctant to support police authority, particularly in an area like this where it does have an impact on privacy. I would be afraid we would be facing an application and we might be hard-pressed in referring only to the declaration of principle, which courts sometimes use and do not use. We would be much more comfortable if there were an explicit statutory reference.

The Chair: Sergeant McGetrick, would you have any comment on the matter of resources? Particularly I was struck by Mr. Westwick's phrase that 7 days is better than 15 days. If we do not have the resources to input, massage or whatever you need to do with the data, it would not be as timely. What about the whole resource matter; is that a concern?

Mr. McGetrick: I think it would be a concern from a retrospective point of view. I would love to have it; I think it is an excellent initiative. Having to enter historic data might be a concern, but comparing 7 days to 15 days, we do not have a resource issue; it is working in Ontario as far as compliance, verification checks and that sort of thing. Certainly in Ottawa it is working quite well.

The Chair: Thank you both very much. It was a very helpful and interesting session.

Mr. Westwick: It is truly a pleasure and an honour to come here, and we thank you very much for the opportunity.

Mr. McGetrick: Thank you very much.

[Translation]

The Chair: We are now going to proceed with our third group of witnesses, who are very important people for the purposes of our study. We have Mr. Andrew Harris, Senior Research Manager from the Correctional Service of Canada, and Mr. James Bonta, Director of Corrections Research, Corrections Research Unit, Public Safety Canada, who has already appeared before us.

[English]

I believe you will begin, Mr. Bonta.

James Bonta, Director, Corrections Research, Corrections Research Unit, Public Safety Canada: I thank the committee for the invitation to speak to you. I will try to be very brief.

I have spent the last 30 years trying to understand what works in offender rehabilitation programs. When I talk about offender rehabilitation, I am referring to systematic efforts to reduce in a reliable manner the recidivism of offenders and the risk to recidivate.

Over the years, researchers in Canada have been examining this research literature, and we have reviewed over 370 tests of intervention programs where the goal is to try to reduce offender recidivism. On average, we find that providing treatment to offenders reduces the likelihood of recidivism by about 8 percentage points. That may not seem like much to you, but if you are talking about great numbers of offenders, it can add up to be a significant number.

What is more interesting here, at least for me, is this 8 per cent reduction. When we look at the hundreds of studies, we also find that some studies show very large decreases in recidivism, while other treatment programs do not show as great an impact. In fact, some studies show that treatment will make offenders worse.

When looking at these studies, we look for patterns. What are the types of interventions that have consistent, positive impacts on reduced recidivism? We have identified a number of general principles that can be associated with the more effective programs.

The first principle we call the risk principle. It states that treatment programs are more effective when they are directed to moderate-risk to higher-risk offenders. When we provide intervention services to low-risk offenders, we find minimal impact. In terms of resources, we are advocating for the focus on moderate- to high-risk offenders.

The second principle we call the need principle, and it talks about what you should be treating in these programs. More specifically, we are suggesting the treatment of what we refer to as criminogenic needs. Offenders have different types of needs, some unrelated to their behaviour, whereas criminogenic needs are directly tied to their criminal activity, for example, substance abuse.

The third principle, responsivity, speaks to how we treat offenders. From a counselling perspective, it appears that with criminal offenders, cognitive behavioural types of intervention, which are very concrete and focus on the thinking of offenders, are more effective.

Thus, there are three principles. Risk: Who do we treat? The higher risk. What do we treat? Criminogenic needs. How do we address those criminogenic needs? By using cognitive behavioural interventions.

When we look at how well treatment programs follow those three principles, we find remarkable differences. Programs that hardly follow those principles show minimal effect. However, treatment programs that adhere to all three principles can show reductions in recidivism of up to 35 percentage points. Earlier, I talked about the general literature and an 8 per cent reduction, but if we hone in on those programs that follow those three principles, those programs can be far more effective.

We have been able to ascertain that programs that follow those principles are applicable to the treatment of women offenders. They are applicable to the treatment of youthful offenders. Before asking my colleague, Mr. Harris, to continue, I will briefly turn to the question of whether these principles apply to the treatment of sexual offenders.

The literature on the treatment of sexual offenders has been controversial. Our research group at Public Safety Canada, led by Dr. Karl Hanson, has conducted a review of the sex offender treatment programs with two things in mind. First, we will look only at high-quality evaluations. The sex offender treatment literature is plagued with some very poorly run evaluations, so we selected only the higher-quality evaluations out of hundreds of possible programs. Then we asked a question: Do those three principles — risk, need, responsivity — have anything to say about the treatment of sex offenders?

Unfortunately, by the time we eliminated poor quality studies, we were left with only 23 well-done evaluations of treatment programs. Even though the numbers are small in comparison to the general offender literature, the pattern of results seems to follow those three principles. Treatment programs that follow the risk, need, responsivity principle show reductions in recidivism at higher rates than programs that do not.

I hope this kind of information as to what benefits sex offenders in terms of intervention could be useful and informative to your deliberations. I will now turn to Dr. Harris, who specializes in sex offender risk assessment.

Andrew J.R. Harris, Senior Research Manager, Correctional Service Canada: Good morning, honourable senators. The release of eligible sexual offenders into the community often causes significant and understandable public concern. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics tells us that police-reported sexual offences peaked in 1993 and have been decreasing steadily ever since. This is congruent with international data showing that released sexual offenders are not reoffending as much as they did in the past.

While there is debate about why rates of reoffence are declining, there is no debate that these declines are happening. These declines in sexual offenders' recidivism are such that the major international sex offender recidivism prediction tool, the STATIC-99, has recently had to be revised to reflect these new, lower rates of recidivism. Table 1 in your handout compares older rates of sexual recidivism with more recent data. This table shows that recidivism rates have decreased by almost 50 per cent in several countries.

While any degree of violent offending is of serious concern, research shows that estimates of the risks posed to a community by the release of sexual offenders are routinely over-estimated.

I would like to provide the committee with information on two ways in which sexual offenders vary in the risk they pose. To most, sexual offenders are seen as uniformly threatening and of high risk. In reality, this is not the case.

I authored a paper in 2004 with my colleague, Dr. R. Karl Hanson, Sex Offender Recidivism: A Simple Question, which I was asked to address today.

First, our research showed important differences in risk that different types of sexual offenders pose to the community. Table 2 of my handout shows that at 5-, 10- and 15-year follow-up intervals, incest offenders recidivate with another sexual offence at a much lower rate than boy-victim child molesters. Girl-victim child molesters and rapists fall between the two extremes. While this data is somewhat dated, there are no scientific reasons to believe that the proportions of recidivism by type of sexual offenders would have changed.

Second, sexual offenders can be reliably and validly ranked using actuarial prediction measures from the least risky to the most risky. Data from a large representative sample of over 4,000 released sexual offenders, including samples from several countries, shows that approximately 40 per cent of sexual offenders will fall into the low-risk category; 30 per cent will fall into the low-moderate risk category; 20 per cent fall into the high-moderate risk category and 10 per cent fall into the high-risk category.

Table 3 shows that the likely recidivism of the different risk groups differs significantly. Hence, after five years in the community, you would expect only 2.8 per cent of low-risk offenders to have reoffended, while we would anticipate 17.9 per cent of high-risk offenders to have recidivated. Hence, sexual offenders have different risk potentials based upon risk level.

The only reliable way to gauge how likely a sexual offender is to recidivate once released into the community is with an actuarially based risk assessment. I have included two common examples in your hand out for review, the STATIC-99 and the RRASOR.

In conclusion, I would like to thank committee members for their kind attention and express my appreciation for their invitation to participate in the legislative process.

The Chair: Thank you very much. You provide significant food for thought.

Senator Wallace: Thank you for your presentation. You point out that since 1993, there has been a reduction in recidivism rates. What impact do you think the National Sex Offender Registry and the Ontario Sex Offender Registry have had on recidivism rates?

Mr. Harris: I know of no data on the impact of those registries. The best papers on registry information are from the United States. Data is not very comparable because the Americans have public registries and notification, which this bill does not envisage. The results of inquiries into the effectiveness of those American registries are, to say the least, extremely mixed. There is no data we can compare to the proposed bill or to the Ontario experience.

Senator Wallace: We have heard from other witnesses that there are significant differences between the American sex offender registry system and what we have in Canada. We have been cautioned to be leery of drawing direct comparisons between the American and Canadian experiences.

Have you any view from your own experience? Would it seem that registration and having this information compiled in the National Sex Offender Registry might affect recidivism rates? That is certainly the impression I have been given from law enforcement.

Mr. Harris: The reasons sex offenders commit sexual offences are quite varied. First, I will restate that in approximately 80 per cent of all violent offences, including sexual offences, the perpetrator knows the victim quite well. They are often intimate offences.

Second, only approximately 30 per cent of sexual offenders have sexual preference, in particular, for child victims. The rest would be best described as either offences of opportunity or offences of power.

Mr. Bonta: I do not have much to add with respect to registries and why recidivism rates decreased. The decrease began in 1993, which was before we had registries in many places. We also see this pattern internationally in places that do not have registries.

Mr. Harris: We review the literature, and I reference Finkelhor and Jones, and Jones and Finkelhor in your handout. The solution is multifactorial. You have much greater emphasis on prevention. Advances in and attention to treatments given to sexual offenders directly reduces recidivism, as Mr. Bonta said. We also must give credit to societal awareness of sexual assault and to law enforcement. It is my impression that sexual assault is spoken of much more. For example, we now prosecute men in high office who have committed these offences. I do not remember that happening at all when I was a young person.

We also see the Stranger Danger programs and others like that in schools. The attack against sexual offending has been on many fronts.

Senator Wallace: There obviously is no one answer to deal with all circumstances. There are a number of tools in the toolbox.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: I have a few quick questions to ask you. The first question is for Dr. Bonta. Your work focuses mainly on higher-risk sexual predators. Is that right?

[English]

Mr. Bonta: I need to clarify that, senator. To be more precise, the risk principle states that the intensity of treatment services should be matched to the risk level of the offender. We know that offenders vary in terms of risk, and the risk principle says that a higher-risk offender needs much more treatment than the lower-risk offender. Our present estimates are with high-risk, youthful offenders, and it has been stated they need a minimum of 100 treatment hours.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: What is the percentage of incarcerated sexual predators who undergo treatment during the 5 or 10 years of their sentence?

[English]

Mr. Bonta: I would direct that question to Dr. Harris, who works in the Correctional Service of Canada and can maybe better answer the question.

Mr. Harris: Senator, at the moment in the Correctional Service of Canada — my figures are not today — but we have approximately 12,000 people incarcerated. My memory of the last statistics I saw is that 17 per cent of those are sexual offenders. One hundred per cent will be offered treatment. I am sorry; off the top of my head I do not have the number of how many will accept some or all of those offers.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: The data I have is from a 2007 study done by your department. The minister created a working group to review the rehabilitation programs in prisons. It is said that one out of two criminals will participate in a rehabilitation program. Canada spends around $2 billion, and 40 per cent of the total goes to sexual predators. Are you familiar with that data?

[English]

Mr. Harris: I cannot comment on that data directly; I am sorry.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Here is my last question. You said that the number of sexual offences has in fact decreased over the last 20 years or so. Did I understand you correctly?

[English]

Mr. Harris: Yes, sir, that is correct.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Do you know what the statistics are on missing persons? During the same time when we saw almost a 15 per cent drop in sexual offences, there was a 40 per cent increase in disappearances, especially of children. I could give you several examples, including the Cédrika Provencher case, which is very well known.

Is it possible that the number of criminals has not gone down, but that the criminals are better at not getting caught?

[English]

Mr. Harris: My personal experience with that, senator, is no, quite frankly. I can address this only with regard to child victims, but, even if child victims do not come forward as children, it is my clinical experience that many more are coming forward now than used to.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: That is not what I was asking. My question has to do with the fact that, during the time when there were 15 per cent fewer sexual offences, there were 40 per cent more missing persons. We find one out of seven persons and we never find the other six, especially when they are children.

Based on those statistics, is it possible that the number of criminals has not necessarily gone down, but that the criminals are better at not getting caught, which would put a question mark on how effective the rehabilitation programs are for criminals?

[English]

Mr. Harris: There is no data to support that, senator.

Senator Runciman: Thank you for being here today. It is interesting data. You have a great deal of confidence in the statistics of Juristat and others. Could you confirm that the statistics from Statistics Canada and Juristat are really limited to sex offenders on conditional release or after warrant expiry?

Mr. Harris: With regard to Juristat, senator, no, those are police-reported sex offences.

Senator Runciman: They cover people on bail, on probation, on parole who commit sexual offences?

Mr. Harris: They would be included, yes, but it would also include people who have just started offending sexually.

Senator Runciman: I was informed that that was not the case, at least for Juristat, anyway. In any event, if I am wrong, I am wrong.

I am really interested in how your submission today applies to the legislation we are considering. You are here while we are taking a look at the sex offender registry and changes to it, which most witnesses believe are improvements to the registry. I am not sure what your bottom-line message here is regarding what you perceive to be reduced recidivism and improved treatment.

Are you suggesting that you do not see any real need for enhancements in the sex offender registry? Do you not see some sort of future need for continuing with the sex offender registry? I am curious about how your testimony here today relates to the issue we are considering.

Mr. Harris: I have nothing to say on the purposes of the bill. The purpose of my presentation is to outline that sex offenders vary greatly in the risk that they pose to the community. Therefore, if you choose to follow all sex offenders, there will be a large percentage of people who pose relatively little risk. Then you mix people on the registry of relatively little risk with people of considerable risk.

In terms of who you want on the registry, I would think you might want to concentrate on those that pose the most risk to society.

Mr. Bonta: If you are asking what the bottom line is, I agree with Dr. Harris. The bottom line is that offenders differ in terms of risk, first of all. There are certainly implications from that.

The point of my submission was that sex offenders' risk to reoffend can be altered through good treatment programs. I think when someone has been at a certain risk and through good treatment now poses minimal risk, there are implications for what that means.

Senator Runciman: I guess you are looking at it perhaps as an onerous obligation on someone who does not reoffend. We have had indicated that if they have a clean slate after a number of years those obligations are removed. If you listen to people who are involved directly in dealing with public safety — and you heard the testimony earlier — they believe those folks should be on the registry; there is no question about it. We will see a study, apparently coming out today, regarding the gravity of the offence increasing over time.

The Chair: I think that was not so much a reference to a study as a reference to imminent events, Senator Runciman. I think the news media are telling us all about those.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: We know that the majority of criminals will get a sentence of two years less a day for their first sexual offence. To get a sentence of more than two years, it must be their second or third sexual assault. Given that, in many provincial prisons in Canada, there are no programs for sexual predators, are we not creating serious problems for ourselves as a society by not treating these criminals as soon as they sexually assault a woman or child and by waiting for them to be in the federal system where there are more effective measures? As a society, are we not creating problems for ourselves by waiting for criminals to commit two or three crimes instead of treating them the first time they offend? They will end up in a federal prison where they will have access to better programs. Should we not get involved as soon as possible in their careers as criminals?

[English]

Mr. Bonta: Senator, I will try to answer your question. In our research we deal very much with the provinces and territories, and I am a little bit familiar with various systems out there. It is true that the available programming in the provinces and territories varies. Some jurisdictions do have good programs, not only within the prisons but also if someone is on probation.

What I want to raise for you to consider is that there is also a certain criminogenic effect of incarcerating low-risk offenders. The argument of let us more quickly take someone into the federal system, where he can get programming, needs to be balanced against the chance of placing someone who may be a relatively low-risk offender caught early in his career in an environment surrounded by higher-risk offenders who may direct him on a different path. It is a bit of a balancing act here.

The Chair: I have a supplementary question to the line I think Senator Runciman was following. What is the effect on the likelihood to reoffend of an increase in an offender's belief that he or she, but mostly he, will be caught? In other words, if an offender believes that being on a sex offender registry makes it more likely that he will be caught, does that affect his likelihood of reoffending?

Mr. Bonta: We have no research specifically on that topic. I could say a few words about the threat of punishment and whether or not that deters criminal offenders. A general economic model is that offenders weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Unfortunately, the vast majority of offenders are quite impulsive and do not take the time to do their calculations with calculators. In some crimes, and I think sexual crimes, a lot of emotion is wrapped up in this and the logical type of thinking is suspended.

Senator Carstairs: Could you give us any statistics with respect to how many prisoners actually opt to take the programs? You said 100 per cent were offered programs, and that is excellent, but I would like to know how many opt to take them. Also, what is the duration of their time in jail before they actually get the program? My information would be that they can spend a long time in prison before they actually have access to the kind of counselling and support that you are talking about.

My question actually has to do with the study that you did, Dr. Harris, and the low-offender category essentially for incest. In your studies, is that related to the fact that it happens usually in the home and the child grows up and is therefore no longer going to be a victim, and therefore the offender cannot offend?

Does it also have something to do with the fact that there is a sense of ownership of children within the family dynamic, and therefore what a person wants to do with a child within his family is perfectly acceptable to some people, though fortunately not the vast majority?

Mr. Harris: Our research shows that it is quite usual for sex offenders to have very skewed ideas about entitlement and the acceptability of sex with children in particular, especially in the home. However, I would add that most, although not all, incest offenders tend not to offend outside the home. If you will excuse me for using a controversial term, their victim pool, the people they consider possible victims, is relatively small compared to offenders who are willing to offend outside the home, so their risk tends to be lower.

In addition, one way or another, this tends to come out; especially, in the long memory of families, it tends to come out when the grandchildren start to come along. I have personally run treatment programs in the community where the incest perpetrator was actually not identified until the imminent arrival of grandchildren. My personal opinion — and I would say this is not a universally held opinion — is that it is important to get these men into treatment because they have an amazing and maddening tendency to minimize the impact of their offences. The fact remains that very few families are willing to exclude them from the family. These men are still involved with their families.

Senator Carstairs: Thank you.

Senator Joyal: I would like to go back to the statistic you mentioned earlier, Dr. Harris, that 80 per cent of the offenders know their victim.

Mr. Harris: Yes, in my oral testimony.

Senator Joyal: You mentioned also that other factors of course come into play with that 80 per cent, including the opportunity and the power — in other words, somebody who is in charge of a child or children, or somebody who has an opportunity to be in contact with children.

Is that statistic reflected on the 40 per cent low-risk, 30 per cent moderate-risk and so forth? In other words, how would you scale that 80 per cent? Are they all of the same risk intensity? Do you see the connection I am trying to make?

Mr. Harris: Yes, and I do not actually know.

Mr. Bonta: I think within that 80 per cent you will find the same kind of distribution, approximately, of low-risk to higher-risk people. The other 20 per cent, the strangers, perhaps may form a higher proportion of high-risk offenders.

Senator Joyal: In that context, I know there is a lot of diversity of opinions in relation to homosexuality and pedophilia. Do you have any expertise or statistics on that where we could link that to the chart on page 3 of your brief?

Mr. Harris: I have never done any studies, but I could provide the committee with some information on that. A spate of studies has recently been brought up in the media due to certain remarks by a Catholic bishop, I believe, within the last month. Basically there is no scientific relationship between homosexuality and attraction to children. From both my clinical experience and my reading, that appears just not to be the way it works, quite frankly.

Senator Joyal: Thank you for your answer.

You have mentioned that 80 per cent of offenders know their victims and only 8 per cent of sexual offences are reported. Would you agree that those 92 per cent of offences that might have been committed and not reported would be committed by people either who know their victim or who by opportunity are in contact with children or in a position of power in relation to children? I am trying to understand where most of the danger exists among the 92 per cent that are not reported.

Mr. Harris: That statistic comes from victimization studies, which are basically phone interview studies, where the interviewers phone and ask whether you have been a victim of a crime in the past year and they work from innocuous crimes down to sexual offences. It is particularly instructive that they ask these people why they do not report these sexual offences, and my memory is that approximately 70 per cent of those people who did not report said that they did not report it because they did not believe it was serious enough. Please excuse me if I am a bit off on the number, but I can provide the reference to the committee.

They ask about any unwanted sexual touching, kissing, remarks, all inappropriate and all of which can do damage and are hurtful, but some of these things would have been socially inappropriate and clumsy come-ons, unwanted touching in the workplace. You get into real danger saying what is a serious sexual assault and what is not, but not all of these are criminal-type things the courts or the police would wish to deal with.

The Chair: Might we rephrase that slightly to say that not all of these are things where the victim feels it is worthwhile to go through the hassle of going to the police and whatnot? As the law is written, the courts are supposed to deal with it all, but if things are unreported because people did not feel it was important enough, then what you are saying is that a significant proportion of the people who do not report cases make that judgment themselves. Then there is the other proportion of people who do not report because of family problems or because they are terrified. However, I would not want to say that the judicial system does not take these things seriously.

Mr. Harris: Quite appropriately; thank you.

The Chair: That might have been inferred from part of the way you turned your remarks.

Senator Joyal: Thank you. I wanted to ask for those precisions from our experts.

The Chair: I should have kept my mouth shut.

Senator Joyal: No, not at all; you said it better than I could express it myself.

In relation to the higher-risk offenders, would you say that the treatments available today, according to today's medical science or psychiatric science, are always available in prisons when people are incarcerated and that prisoners have the opportunity to have access to them? I am talking about the higher-risk here, and I accept what Senator Boisvenu has mentioned, which is that somebody might be caught for a lower offence but in fact that person is on a criminal trend, if you want, in relation to sexual offences. I can understand that.

Are we concentrating enough of the availability of the programs on the higher-risk offenders, or how does it work in practical terms?

Mr. Bonta: I will start with the provincial system. As I mentioned before, some provincial systems do not have extensive treatment programming. Others, maybe some of the bigger provinces, have specializations in that. There is variability. Therefore the answer to your question is that, no, not every high-risk sex offender who ends up in a provincial system will have equal opportunity for quality treatment.

Senator Joyal: In other words, when the person is released, there is an even greater risk because that person did not go into any kind of treatment that would have reduced the risk he or she represents for society.

Mr. Bonta: It is possible.

Senator Joyal: What about in the federal penitentiary system?

Mr. Harris: An effort would be made to offer and to engage. When I say an effort, I mean a repeated and consistent effort would be made to engage all sex offenders, but especially high-risk sex offenders, in treatment. It is obvious we cannot force them to take it, but strong efforts are made.

Senator Joyal: Would you say the resources needed are available in all the penitentiaries?

Mr. Harris: I would not be able to comment on that with any confidence, senator; I am sorry.

Senator Joyal: You mentioned that since 1993 there has been a decrease, according to Juristat. Do you have statistics on that period of 17 years from 1993 to today so that we can see the trend? Could we see whether the trend has always been going down or whether there are peaks in the line?

Mr. Harris: Yes, senator, I have it with me. I will provide it to the clerk.

Senator Joyal: Let me be more specific. In that trend of decrease, have you noticed that some of the offences, say the most outrageous ones, have been increasing and some others have been decreasing, which makes an average? In other words, can you qualify that trend?

Mr. Harris: No.

Senator Joyal: Is the reduction equal for all of the offences, or do some offences remain the same through that period of time? Do you understand my point?

Mr. Harris: We have not broken it down that way. This decrease is part of an international, long-term decrease in violent crime overall that is being experienced basically in all of the Westernized countries.

Mr. Bonta: Because each international jurisdiction will define sexual offences differently, it is very difficult to break it down according to what happens in Canada as opposed to the United States.

The Chair: You cited earlier various factors that might have contributed to the declining rate of sexual offences. I noticed that in the risk assessment scale you provided to us, age is a big one.

Mr. Harris: Yes.

The Chair: The population is aging. Is that potentially one reason for the decline in the rate of sexual offences?

Mr. Harris: In short, senator, yes.

Senator Baker: We are dealing with the registry, who should be on the registry and the level of supervision that is given by the registry.

The adjudication on who is a high-risk offender or poses a danger of reoffending is first done when somebody is arrested for a very serious crime. I will use the example of break and enter of a dwelling house to commit a sexual offence. At that point, an adjudication is made on judicial interim release, and usually there is a reverse onus there, and your statistics are called upon as to whether or not this person should be released awaiting trial. One of the chief factors under consideration is the chance that that person will reoffend if he or she is released.

The second time that an analysis is done of whether someone is a high-risk offender is upon sentencing. I notice that Mr. Bonta has given evidence in many cases, or his words have been used, his studies have been used, on a person's risk of reoffending. In the judgment, upon conviction, an offender receives a period of incarceration, and then the risk of reoffending is taken into account in the probationary period. An authority is given to the probation officer to determine whether someone will attend a course of education or instruction. Perhaps you could comment on whether that is adequate.

After the probationary period is dealt with, the judge, in the ancillary orders, has to put someone on the DNA list, the sexual offender registry list, the prohibition for arms and this sort of thing.

After that person is released, then this bill comes into effect. What is the purpose of the bill? It is to check up on that person as an investigative tool in investigating offences that are committed. One of the provisions of the Ontario legislation was that the police would do regular checks. In fact, I believe Senator Runciman said that every time the person checked in there had to be a police check on the verification of that person's arrest and so on immediately after.

Whether someone is a high-risk offender has been dealt with in the court process and his treatment decided by the probationary officer, if you look at the most recent case law. Is there anything untoward, anything that you object to in having teeth in the Sex Offender Information Registration Act to permit the police to do regular checks on such a person? Do you see anything wrong with the bill?

Mr. Bonta: Senator Baker, we have spoken before, and if I can remind you, I am a civil servant.

Senator Baker: You reminded me of that before, too.

Mr. Bonta: As a researcher, I would like to stick to what I know in research evidence. With respect to the bill itself, I think it is up to the legislators to forge forward with that.

I would like to say this regarding the real situation probation officers have with high-risk offenders, and it is as true with high-risk violent offenders as it is with high-risk sex offenders: The challenge for probation officers is to engage these offenders in good treatment programming. Certainly, especially with sex offenders, there is a large aspect of denial of the offence and taking responsibility for it. A probation officer needs to deal with that. How can the probation officer motivate this person to attend treatment and to stay in treatment? There are probably many different mechanisms that could be use. Perhaps being monitored on the sex offender registry is one.

In our own research, in a study we just completed, we trained probation officers to better adhere to the risk-need-responsivity principles, and that involved motivating offenders to accept treatment and accept responsibility. We just published our findings this week. We found a 15 per cent reduction in recidivism for medium-risk to high-risk offenders.

My point is that sometimes good interpersonal skills can go a long way in helping offenders turn their lives around.

Senator Baker: I will conclude with this: My reason for asking is that in many of these cases where I have read the judgments, alcohol and drugs play a factor in the commission of these offences. Although the person is directed by the probation officer not to be in an establishment where alcohol is served or to refrain from consuming alcohol or to not be in a certain area during a certain period of time, the person sometimes breaks that condition and an offence takes place.

I believe this is the intent of a great many people who back this bill. They say that if the possible offender knew that the police could be watching, perhaps that would be a deterrent to that person breaking the conditions given by the probation officer. I do not know whether that would affect whether or not someone would break their conditions. Do you have any comment on that?

Mr. Bonta: As I said before, most offenders are generally impulsive and do not think it through. In my reading of the offender treatment literature, threats of punishment from whatever source tend to work only with people like you and me, low-risk offenders who think things out, are reflective and weigh the consequences. Low-risk offenders, being low-risk offenders, will do fine without too much intervention.

The Chair: Thank you to both of you. This was very helpful and instructive. We do appreciate it, and we look forward to seeing that data, Dr. Harris.

Colleagues, our next meeting will be on Wednesday next, May 5, at 4:15 in this room. This meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)