Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Conservatives and The Sex Offenders Registry

It's with a great amount of pride and excitement that I welcome Victor Vargas, an alumnus of my not-so-humble Alma Mater as a new contributor here at The Nexus. Victor is extremely well-travelled, extremely intelligent and has a way of saying things that embodies the very meaning of the word "unique".

With great pleasure I welcome victor to what will hopefully be a long-time venue for his unique "Victorspeak".

At long last, a review panel of Canada's Sex Offenders Registry has decided it's "ineffective". To emphasize how ineffective this registry is, lets go over some of the highlights:

- Since it's creation five years ago, it has not been responsible for solving a single sex crime.
- Police say they are not permitted to tap the registry to prevent crimes — only to solve ones that have already occurred.
- David Truax, Ontario Provincial Police superintendent, says Ontario's sex registry gets 475 hits daily. The review committee was told that the Federal Registry about 165 times a year.
- The Ottawa registry is, to it's credit, only costing $2 million dollars in start up costs, and has an operating budget of $400,000.
- The National Registry is not mandatory. A prosecutor must apply for an order, and a judge can refuse. It also means that prosecutors can use inclusion in the registry as a bargaining chip in deal making.

Now if this was new information that the federal government didn't have access to, I could understand that it was able to go on as long as it did. However this Maclean's article, "Canada's Sex Offender Registry a National Embarrassment" by Michael Frisolanti had already figured this out by January 14, 2008.

In that article (an excellent read), Frisolanti had uncovered most of the points that were brought up to the review panel. One of the parts that interested me the most was when Macleans asked the Conservative government to comment on it and got this response.

Maclean's wanted to discuss some of those questions with senior officials in both the federal Department of Justice and the Public Safety ministry. Both interview requests were declined. Instead, [Stockwell] Day's press secretary, Mélisa Leclerc, provided an email response to a list of written questions. "Concerns related to the limitations in the legislation have been raised by law enforcement," she wrote. "Issues that were known at the time of drafting Bill S-3, and on which there was national consensus, were addressed."

As for specific shortcomings (no proactive use, the 15-day rule, discretionary inclusion), she wrote: "These are important and valid concerns. Our government is prepared to examine options to ensure that any loopholes are closed ... While the previous government may have seen the registry as primarily a public relations exercise, we regard it as a critical tool and will work with law enforcement agencies and the provinces and territories to strengthen it as required."

Now had the Conservatives addressed these concerns June of 2008 as opposed to June 2009 I would be ecstatic, but letting this amount of time elapse between when they realized the problems in the system till finally addressing them is just irresponsible.

And strangely this was a golden opportunity for the Conservatives last year. Stephen Harper could have rode onto the scene on a white horse and immediatly amended the Liberals' pathetic registry system, showing that he's a great leader and that the Conservatives were going to be a good and responsible government. Heck, he could have made it one of the points of his election campaign last year that would have earned him considerable support from parents accross the nation. Fixing the issue now feels like the Conservatives either didn't understand the importance of fixing the sex offender registry or were simply being lazy.

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, a sex offenders registry could be viewed as a nuts-and-bolts element of criminal justice that usually goes unnoticed until it goes awry.

    I would almost be tempted to suggest that sex offenders would be better tracked the way that I think guns would be better tracked -- through convictions for sex offences, like guns could be better tracked through gun licenses.

    In the case of sex offenders, however, that would force police to start tracking the residency of sex offenders. While it would likely be a more reliable system than relying on sex offenders to report where they live, and report their change of residence when they move, I would wonder if police forces really have the resources to do that.


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