National DNA Data Bank
DNA technology has proved to be a valuable investigative tool which has helped to exonerate the innocent and to bring those responsible for serious crimes to justice. The legislation that Parliament enacted to govern the use of this technology within the criminal justice system has been found by Canadian courts to be respectful of the constitutional and privacy rights of suspects, and of persons found guilty of designated offences.
The National DNA Data Bank of Canada is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Ottawa. Since its official opening in 2000, it has provided crucial investigative leads and helped to solve serious criminal cases across the country and around the world. It has been instrumental in focusing investigations, eliminating suspects and protecting the innocent.
Canada's DNA data bank legislation was enacted in December 1998 and came into force on June 30, 2000. The legislation created a new statute governing the establishment and administration of a national DNA data bank and also amended the Criminal Code to permit a judge to make a post-conviction DNA data bank order authorizing the taking of bodily substances from a person found guilty of designated Criminal Code offences in order to include the offender's DNA profile in the national DNA data bank.
The legislation also included a limited retroactive scheme under which some offenders convicted before the date the DNA Identification Act came into force were eligible to have their DNA profiles included in the National DNA Data Bank. Inclusion was not automatic. The Crown had to apply to a provincial court judge and the judge had the discretion to make the order or to deny making it. Only an offender who had been declared a dangerous offender; or had been convicted of two murders committed at different times; or had been convicted of two sexual offences committed at different times and was still under sentence at the time an application was made to the court would be eligible under the retroactive scheme.
Bills C-13/C-18, which amended Canada's DNA data bank legislation, came into force on January 1, 2008. Bill C-13 expanded the retroactive provisions of the Criminal Code so that:
- all persons convicted before June 30, 2000 of murder, manslaughter or a sexual offence, and who are still under sentence, could be included in the National DNA Data Bank; and
- now-repealed sexual offences (indecent assault male, indecent assault female, and gross indecency) in the list of designated sexual offences could be included for the purposes of the retroactive provisions of the Criminal Code.
The retroactive provision resulted in the addition of approximately 3,200 convicted offenders in the National DNA Data Bank in 2008.
In addition, Bills C-13/C-18 expanded the scope of existing DNA legislation and improved the procedures surrounding the collection and management of DNA evidence contained in the data bank.
The DNA Data Bank consists of two collections or indices of DNA profiles: a crime scene index, containing DNA profiles derived from bodily substances found at a crime scene; and a convicted offenders index, containing DNA profiles derived from bodily substances taken from offenders against whom post-conviction DNA data bank orders have been made.
The DNA profiles are continually compared and, if a match is obtained, the fact of this match may be used to allow police investigating an unsolved designated offence, to apply for a DNA warrant to seek a new investigative sample of bodily substances from the individual. The DNA profile derived from the new sample would serve to exclude the individual as a suspect or become evidence in a prosecution for the crime.
As of January 31, 2012, there were over 237,000 DNA profiles in the convicted offender index and more than 71,000 DNA profiles in the crime scene index. In addition, there have been 21,563 matches between crime scene DNA profiles and convicted offender DNA profiles and 2,741 "forensic matches" (crime scene to crime scene).
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