OTTAWA — All Canadians convicted of sex crimes will automatically have their names added to the national sex offender registry, under legislation Conservatives introduced Monday in a cross-country media blitz.
And whether it be a predatory pedophile, violent repeat rapist or an immature 21-year-old convicted of having a consensual relationship with a 15-year-old, police can use that information pre-emptively, rather than only as an investigative tool after a crime is committed.
“If police see an individual behaving suspiciously — near a school ground for example — they’ll be able to request information from the database,” Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said at a news conference in Ottawa.
“They will be able to learn if the person involved is a registered sex offender.”
The new legislation, which won’t likely be passed into law until next fall at the earliest, includes mandatory submission of DNA samples.
Currently, a judge has to approve registration of a convicted offender after a formal application by the Crown.
“Almost half the sex offenders escape the registry,” said Van Loan. “That is not acceptable.”
The legislation will also require that Canadians convicted of sex crimes outside the country be included in the registry.
“No longer will Canada be a safe haven from which travelling sex offenders can operate safely,” said the minister.
Whether the expanded registry is good criminal justice policy is open to debate.
Whether it is good politics is not.
“It’s very consistent with much of the Tory agenda on crime,” said criminologist Neil Boyd of Simon Fraser University.
“They’re looking at how they can shape public opinion.”
A half dozen different Tory cabinet ministers delivered the registry’s tough-on-crime message Monday at various points across Canada. The government had already leaked the news to selected media outlets a day earlier.
Despite the massive media roll-out, the government was unable to say whether any new financial resources would be needed to handle the expanded registry.
Opposition MPs leapt on the bandwagon.
“My question to the Conservatives is, what’s taken three-and-a-half years to do it?” NDP MP Joe Comartin asked outside the Commons.
MP Dominic LeBlanc sounded the requisite Liberal concerns about the Charter of Rights but added that “at first glance, anything that will improve the reliability of the information on the registry seems to us to be appropriate.”