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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Senator Baker: Good for you.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Senator Joyal: I will stop you. In those cases, we know the crimes
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
In conclusion, I would like to thank committee members for their kind
attention and express my appreciation for their invitation to participate in the
The Chair: Thank you very much. You provide significant food for
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
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.
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?
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
Senator Boisvenu: What is the percentage of incarcerated sexual
predators who undergo treatment during the 5 or 10 years of their sentence?
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.
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?
Mr. Harris: I cannot comment on that data directly; I am sorry.
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?
Mr. Harris: Yes, sir, that is correct.
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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Chair: I should have kept my mouth shut.
Senator Joyal: No, not at all; you said it better than I could express
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Colleagues, our next meeting will be on Wednesday next, May 5, at 4:15 in
this room. This meeting is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)