National Sex Offender Registry
On April 15, 2011, Bill S-2, Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act, came into force. The passage of this Act has strengthened the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank by amending the following Acts – the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, the Criminal Code, the National Defence Act and the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
Sex Offender Information Registration Act
In 2004, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act established the National Sex Offender Registry, a national database containing information on convicted sex offenders.
This database is administered by the RCMP and provides police with rapid access to current vital information on convicted sex offenders to assist in the prevention or investigation of sexual offences. For example, police can access the sex offender database and query for a list of all known sex offenders within a geographic area. Any convicted sex offender on the Registry who lives, works, volunteers, goes to school or is even visiting temporarily in that geographical area will be instantly identified. Through the database, police have access to personal information, such as recent photos, descriptions of identifying marks and features that will assist in the investigation and prevention of sexual offences.
The provinces/territories are responsible for implementation of the SOIRA registration process in their respective jurisdiction and local police are responsible for inputting data and enforcement of the registration provisions.
Bill S-2, Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act, enacted the following fundamental reforms:
- automatic inclusion of convicted sex offenders in the Registry;
- mandatory DNA sampling for convicted sex offenders;
- proactive use of the Registry by police;
- registration of sex offenders convicted abroad;
- notifications to other police jurisdictions when high-risk registered offenders travel;
- operational and administrative amendments to enhance Registry operations; and
- amendments to the National Defence Act.
Automatic Inclusion of Convicted Sex Offenders in the Registry
The new legislation ensures all convicted sex offenders are now automatically included in the Registry.
Under the previous legislation, a convicted sex offender was registered only when the Crown asked the court to order registration and the judge granted the order. Inclusion on the Registry was inconsistent due to, for example, different provincial practices, plea bargains, or if the judge decided not to proceed with an order.
Mandatory DNA Sampling for Convicted Sex Offenders
The Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act ensures all convicted sex offenders will now be included in the National DNA Data Bank.
Proactive Use of the Registry by Police
Under the new legislation, police services can now search the database to produce a list of possible suspects to proactively prevent crimes of a sexual nature.
The previous rules allowed police to only use the Registry to solve sexual crimes after they happened. They could not use the information in the Sex Offender Registry to prevent harm before it occurred. This limitation meant police could not consult the Registry when responding to suspicious incidents such as a person lurking near a playground or school.
Registration of Sex Offenders Convicted Abroad
The new legislation ensures that Canadians convicted abroad of sex offences can now be included in the Sex Offender Registry when they return to Canada under the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
Additionally, individuals entering Canada who were convicted abroad of a sexual offence, and those who served their sentence abroad and were released by a foreign jurisdiction, will also be required to report to police within seven days of arriving in Canada.
Under the previous legislation, individuals returning to Canada after being convicted abroad of a sexual offence, were not registered.
Travel Notifications of Offenders to Other Police Jurisdictions
The new legislation allows police to use information in the Registry to issue travel notifications to other police jurisdictions when sex offenders are travelling to their area to assist them in the prevention or investigation of a crime of a sexual nature.
Under the previous legislation, police could not use the information in the Registry for this purpose.
Operational and Administrative Amendments
The following are some of the key operational and administrative amendments that have been implemented through the Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act:
- Registered sex offenders will now have to provide notice in advance if they are away from home for seven days or more.
- Registered sex offenders will need to notify Registry officials within seven days if their work or volunteer work address changes.
- The Registry will now include information on the license plate, make, model, body type, year of manufacture and colour for vehicles registered in the offender's name or regularly used, such as company vehicles.
- The Registry will also contain information about the sex offender's method of operating to help police investigate crimes.
- If an individual has been convicted of more than one sexual offence, they will remain in the sex offender Registry for life.
Amendments to the National Defence Act
Amendments have been made to the National Defence Act to ensure that reforms apply to the military justice system as well.