An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Irwin Cotler  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 21, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act to facilitate the implementation of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act, S.C. 2005, c. 25. The enactment makes certain technical changes to those Acts. It also

(a) allows a court to require a person who is given notice of an application under subsection 487.055(1) of the Criminal Code and who wishes to participate in the hearing to appear by closed-circuit television or a similar means of communication;

(b) allows samples of bodily substances to be taken as soon as feasible after the time set by an order or a summons for the taking of the samples or, if no such time is set, as soon as feasible after the day on which an order is made or after an authorization is granted;

(c) requires the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to destroy the bodily substances collected under an order or authorization and the information transmitted with it if, in the opinion of the Attorney General or the Director of Military Prosecutions, as the case may be, the offence to which the order or authorization relates is not a designated offence;

(d) enables the Commissioner to communicate internationally the information that may be communicated within Canada under subsection 6(1) of the DNA Identification Act; and

(e) allows the Commissioner to communicate information for the purpose of the investigation of criminal offences, and allows the subsequent communication of that information for the purpose of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

February 15th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
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Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Greg Yost

I'll take a shot at answering that. The original legislation required that the DNA be taken as soon as a sentence was pronounced, which rapidly turned out to be inefficient, ineffective, with police having to be around at all times. It simply could not be done.

Bill C-13 contains in it a provision to allow the judge to set a time and place for the hearing. One of the improvements that the committee of officials suggested, and which is now to be found in this bill--it was actually in Bill C-72 as well--is a right to issue a warrant for a person's arrest. We also have introduced a new provision in this Bill C-72, which will allow the police department that is authorized to do it to authorize any other police department to do it on their behalf. So if the Toronto police were authorized and the person was picked up in Vancouver, we don't have to bring him back to Ontario; they can authorize him over there. This, we think, will make it a lot easier to collect the DNA.

Normally the orders are made to peace officers of a province because that's where the provincial court judge has authority. Some have apparently been making it through just a specific police department, but this amendment will cover all of those problems.

February 15th, 2007 / 9:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I have two areas where I have some concerns. I do understand that Bill C-18 is largely a reproduction of the previous Bill C-72, which had been presented by the previous Liberal government.

As you can understand, Liberals, in general, were supportive of this bill.

February 15th, 2007 / 9:30 a.m.
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Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I apologize if there was a bit of a mix-up. I had this on my schedule for 10 o'clock; this actually works out better. I'm now subject to House duty. This is a function that I didn't have as House leader or whip. I was always impressing upon others the importance of House duty, and now I have it myself. So this will work out very well.

I'm glad to be joined here by two colleagues who are experts on this particular piece of legislation, and I'm glad to have them at the table with me.

It's a pleasure for me, Mr. Chairman, to appear before you today to discuss a bill that addresses concerns that we all share about how to make better use of DNA to assist law enforcement, a bill that has been supported at second reading, I'm pleased to say, by all parties within the House.

As members are aware, the last Parliament passed Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act. As introduced, Bill C-13 included an expansion of the retroactive scheme to include persons convicted of a single murder and also of a single sexual offence committed at different times. There were some additions to the list of primary offences, including robbery and break and enter of a dwelling, and some additions to the secondary offence list, including criminal harassment and uttering threats.

Bill C-13 was the first opportunity Parliament had to consider the DNA scheme since it had come into force in June 2000. It was always recognized that the DNA legislation, which was pioneering, would have to be revisited in light of experience with its provisions, judicial considerations of the legislation, and developments in the rapidly developing DNA science and technology. Indeed, the legislation itself required a parliamentary review within five years, and I will come back to that point in a minute.

Even though Bill C-13 was never intended to replace the review, the hearings were quite extensive. Major amendments were made to the bill in committee that greatly extended the reach of the DNA databank provisions, including creating a new category of offences where judges would have no discretion and including all offences that are prosecuted by indictment and are punishable by five years under the Criminal Code as secondary designated offences.

The fact is, Mr. Chairman, most of Bill C-13 is not in force. There are technical glitches that must be addressed before it comes into force to make its provisions more effective in carrying out Parliament's intention.

The previous government recognized the need to make changes and introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005. Bill C-72 died on the order paper, and we have now introduced Bill C-18 to make the changes proposed in Bill C-72, along with other technical improvements in the legislation that were identified by federal and provincial officials after Bill C-72 was introduced into the House.

Bill C-18 is complicated in its drafting because some sections amend the former Bill C-13, so that when Bill C-13 is proclaimed, the new provisions will work better. I'm pleased to have the officials here with me who will be able to answer any questions you may have on how these two bills will work together.

To assist the committee, my department has prepared an unofficial consolidation to show how the Criminal Code DNA provisions will read if Bill C-18 is passed and then Bill C-13 is proclaimed, and I have provided copies to the clerk. There's also an excellent summary of the bill, including its background, which has been prepared, I understand, by the parliamentary information and research service.

Colleagues, as members know, DNA has had an immense impact on our criminal justice system. It has exonerated many people who were innocent but were convicted on the basis of witness testimony and circumstantial evidence. It has led to thousands of convictions where accused, who might have been able to go undetected in the past, are identified through DNA matches to known persons, thereby giving police the lead they need.

Moreover, cases in the past that might have gone to trial with the defence casting doubt on the accuracy of the victims' and other witnesses' recollections of events now are resolved by a guilty plea because the defence knows it cannot explain away the DNA evidence or cast doubt on the reliability of the science.

In the late eighties and early nineties, prosecutors began to use DNA, but it was only in 1995 that the Criminal Code first allowed for a judge to compel a person to provide a sample for DNA analysis, a provision that was unanimously upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.

It was in 1998 that Parliament passed the legislation necessary to take DNA samples from convicted offenders and to create the national DNA data bank to compare those samples with DNA samples found at crime scenes. I understand that members of the committee were able to tour the national DNA data bank yesterday. I'm sure you were impressed by the facility, and especially by the dedication and professionalism of the staff. It is certainly a most cost-effective institution, of which all Canadians can justly be proud.

The effectiveness of the data bank depends on the number of profiles in the convicted offenders index and the number in the crime scene index. The passage of this bill, and the subsequent proclamation of Bill C-13, will increase the number of samples in the convicted offenders index in a number of ways.

Firstly, it will create a new category of 16 extremely serious offences for which a judge will have no discretion not to make the data bank order. There are cases where persons convicted of these offences have not been required to provide a DNA sample for analysis.

Secondly, this bill will move some offences—most importantly, break and enter into a dwelling place and all child pornography offences—from the secondary designated offence list to the primary designated offence list, so that there will be a far greater likelihood that an order will be made.

Thirdly, this bill will add many more offences to the secondary designated offence list, including offences under the Criminal Code and under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that are prosecuted by indictment and that have a maximum sentence of five years or more.

Fourthly, it will provide many procedural changes to make it more likely that an order will be executed, for example, by allowing a judge to set a time and place for a person to appear to provide a DNA sample rather than having to do it at the time of sentencing, and providing for a warrant to be issued for the person's arrest if the person fails to show.

Fifthly, persons who are found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder will be brought within the scheme.

Sixthly, a new procedure will allow a judge to set a date for a hearing to consider whether to make a DNA order within 90 days of imposing a sentence. This is intended for the situations that inevitably occur in our busy courts, where a trial is concluded and a sentence is imposed but nobody remembered that a DNA order could be made in the particular case.

We cannot be certain how many more samples from convicted offenders will be submitted to the data bank for analysis and for uploading to the convicted offenders lists as a result of these changes. Much depends on the courts, prosecutors, and police. We trust they will use the new provisions to the fullest extent.

It seems certain, however, that these changes will at least double, and could triple, the number of samples coming in. I believe this legislation will have a similar effect on the number of samples being uploaded to the crime scene index. Certainly, the changes to the definitions of primary and secondary designated offences mean that samples from many more crimes could be uploaded, because the DNA data bank only uploads samples from those crime scenes involving a designated offence. For example, it will be possible, when the legislation comes into force, to upload samples from drug offences.

However, as I believe members are aware, the forensic DNA laboratories across Canada are struggling to meet the workload they now have. The advances in DNA technology mean that scientists can now extract DNA from small samples, such as the saliva that moistened glue on an envelope. Since police do not know which items found at a crime scene may have DNA, they may want dozens of items analyzed—chewing gum, beer cans, cigarette butts, clothing and sheets—in the hope of finding the one that has the offender's DNA.

Crime scene analysis is a labour-intensive process. Every step of the process has to be meticulously documented because the successful prosecution of an offence based on DNA evidence will require the police and the lab to show they did not mix up the samples or allow contamination of the sample. This is not work that can be done by untrained personnel or that lends itself to robotics. Accordingly, there is an almost insatiable demand by the police for DNA analysis and there is a limited supply of persons competent to do the crime scene analysis.

In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I would make two observations.

First, I believe it is urgent that Parliament pass Bill C-18 so that we can begin to feel its benefits. Certainly it may be possible that more extensive changes, then, are proposed in either Bill C-13 or Bill C-18 and can be made, particularly in light of the endorsement of the DNA legislation by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Rodgers case last April. However, such changes should be made after a full hearing of all the stakeholders and should not be grafted onto Bill C-18.

My second observation, Mr. Chairman, deals with how we might consider major changes to the DNA system. As members know, Parliament was supposed to have begun the parliamentary review no later than June 30, 2005. We are now more than 18 months past that date. Bill C-13 was intended to address the problems in the system identified in the first two years of the operation of the DNA data bank. It followed consultations undertaken in 2002, and at that time the consultation paper specifically stated that the consultations led by the Department of Justice in cooperation with the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada are part of the government's ongoing commitment to review and refine existing laws in response to evolving experience and stakeholder feedback. They are intended to support a parliamentary review scheduled for June 2005.

Many respondents to that consultation made it clear they wanted the whole system rethought and looked forward to the parliamentary review. The Canadian Association of Police Boards, for example, before answering the 12 questions in the consultation paper, stated:

The CAPB believes that at this juncture, the core issue is whether the incremental approach, such as is signalled in the consultation paper, remains appropriate, or whether legislators should instead be considering a much more comprehensive and wide scale use of DNA testing and collection.

How can we best advance the consideration of a comprehensive review that the CAPB and many others have been waiting for? Officials of the Department of Justice, the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP, and the national DNA data bank have all been ready for the beginning of the hearings since 2005. I understand they had prepared a discussion paper on the issues and a series of questions. Of course, Parliament was dissolved before the committee was able to conduct the review and the paper prepared by the officials has languished ever since. The paper could be quickly updated and form the basis of a consultation by the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Safety. The consultation could probably be completed by September, and the results of the consultation would form the basis for recommendations by government on how to change the legislation. Hearings on those recommendations would allow for a focused review on the use of DNA in the criminal justice system to begin late this year or early in 2008.

As always, I would appreciate the views of the committee on whether this would be an appropriate way to proceed.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear again before this committee.

An Act to amend certain acts in relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 4th, 2006 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-18, which is a bill to amend certain components of the law pertaining to the DNA Identification Act.

As has been mentioned by other speakers, Bill C-18 impacts the Criminal Code of Canada and the DNA Identification Act as well as the National Defence Act.

Allow me to say at the outset that I am in agreement with government members and other members that the bill should be directed to the justice committee for further scrutiny. It is actually refreshing to speak in favour of a bill that has been introduced by the government, perhaps because this bill is essentially a successor to Bill C-72, which had been introduced by the then minister of justice under the former Liberal government.

Bill C-18 is very similar to Bill C-72 which, as I have mentioned, was introduced by the Liberal government in the last Parliament, the 38th Parliament.

Certain other bills that have been introduced by the government reflect, if I may term it such, a rather simplistic view of the criminal justice system and, by extension, an overly simplistic view of human nature. Would that preventing wrongdoing be as simple as making punishments increasingly harsh for certain offences. Those who advocate such an approach to the criminal justice system, such as those who advocate something akin to “three strikes and you are out”, are creating a false expectation among citizens that the crime rate will automatically be reduced if the punishments for criminal activity are only increased substantially.

Regrettably, that conclusion is reflected to a large extent in the criminal justice system in our neighbour to the south, and the crime rate is actually higher in the United States than it is here in Canada.

When it comes to predicting human behaviour and to taking measures to reduce wrongdoing or criminal behaviour, it is not a simple task, certainly not as simple as imposing considerably harsher punishments in the hope or expectation that criminal activity will therefore decrease.

However much I have difficulty with certain bills which have been or will likely be introduced by the government, Bill C-18 is truly a step forward and, at a minimum, should be sent to committee.

I practised family and criminal law in the city of Brantford and in other centres for a period of some 25 years. In my practice, I had abundant opportunity to represent hundreds of individuals who had been charged with one or a series of criminal offences and, on occasion, had opportunities to prosecute accused persons as a part time crown attorney.

During my years practising law I had an opportunity to work with and to admire the skills of crown attorneys such as Don Angevine, Bob Kindon, George Orsini and others, and to learn a great deal from very distinguished defence counsel in the persons of Gerry Smits, John Renwick and others.

I also had the benefit of observing the balanced, fair approach that was customarily adopted by various judges in the country of Brant, including Justice James Kent, Justice Ken Lenz, Justice Gethin Edward, Justice Lawrence Thibideau and others.

I was and remain acutely aware of the maxim which must necessarily govern any criminal proceeding, that is, “if the criminal justice system renders it too easy to convict the guilty then the system renders it too difficult to acquit the innocent”. Simply put, it is important to ensure that individual rights are protected and that the potentially overwhelming crushing power of the state is harnessed and kept in check by rules of evidence and principles of sentencing that are eminently fair, reasonable and balanced.

As do many others, I well understand the concept of civil liberties, and I am always, through dint of experience, wary or leery of any measure which curtails individual liberties or allows the power of the state to interfere with an individual's rights of freedom and security of the person.

In my view, Bill C-18 strikes a proper balance and is not inappropriately intrusive of individual rights or freedoms. Rather, it strikes the appropriate balance between the maintaining of individual freedoms and the fundamental right of the state or society to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all citizens.

There are many offences in the Criminal Code which require an individual accused person to provide samples of his or her fingerprints to the police merely upon that individual having been charged with a criminal offence. In essence, the mere fact that an individual has been charged with a criminal offence, not convicted, allows the criminal justice system to procure his or her fingerprints. Failure on the part of the accused person to provide his fingerprints results in a further criminal charge being laid against him.

This particular section of the Criminal Code has been tested before courts in Canada, and courts have concluded that it is reasonable, in the best interests of all citizens and community safety, to obligate accused persons charged with certain offences to provide their fingerprints to the authorities. I would, and so many others would as individual citizens, be tremendously troubled by any bill which obligated all persons or citizens to provide their fingerprints to the police, as such a requirement would be unnecessarily interfering with the rights of citizens to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

However, this government bill, Bill C-18, does no such thing, and again, I am in support of the bill being referred to the justice committee for further consideration.

As members in this chamber will know, the science of DNA has been advanced considerably over the last 10 or 12 years, and experts have concluded that the analysis of DNA has become a very exact science. Certainly the public has come to accept DNA evidence as very significant, representing proof beyond a reasonable doubt, for instance, in criminal proceedings.

Such was not always the case. I think back in particular to the case of O.J. Simpson in or around 1995. It is difficult to know what was in the minds of the jury that ultimately acquitted Mr. Simpson. Mr. Speaker will know that jurors in the United States are at liberty to comment on their deliberations and their verdicts, unlike the system in Canada as it pertains to our juries.

Many analysts at that time commented that the evidence against Mr. Simpson was quite overwhelming and that the DNA evidence in particular was compelling and persuasive. However, the jury ultimately acquitted Mr. Simpson, which caused legal commentators to state that the members of the jury in acquitting Mr. Simpson and in seemingly ignoring the DNA evidence was the equivalent of a jury a century ago acquitting an accused person even though a photograph of the accused person committing the crime had been introduced as evidence.

A hypothetical jury of a century ago was suspicious of evidence which had been obtained by the use of, at that time, a newfangled device called a camera. One can only presume that the jury which found Mr. Simpson not guilty was suspicious of the DNA evidence which had been gathered and suspicious of the science behind the DNA.

We know differently now. DNA has come to be accepted as a very valuable tool in fighting crime and in determining the real wrongdoer or culprit.

Arguably, but for DNA evidence which was ultimately used to exonerate them, David Milgaard's name would never have been cleared, and Guy Paul Morin, wrongfully convicted of murdering Christine Jessop some years ago, would still be languishing in a penitentiary. DNA was used in those cases, and in many others, to exonerate an individual who had been, as it turned out, wrongfully convicted of a serious crime.

In that sense, DNA evidence assists each citizen of Canada as it can be used to eliminate innocent persons as well as potential suspects. For that reason, I have no difficulty, either personally or professionally, with Bill C-18.

As has been noted by others in their comments on the DNA Identification Act, “this Act is to establish a national DNA data bank to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act”.

Certainly, the National Data Bank follows strict guidelines, as specified in the DNA Identification Act, and the biological samples collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes.

I believe it is beyond dispute that the National DNA Data Bank assists law enforcement agencies in various ways to solve crimes by, first, helping to identify suspects, second, eliminating suspects when there is no match between the DNA found at the crime scene and a DNA profile in the national data bank, and third, linking crimes together when there are no suspects.

Simply put, we on this side believe that this legislation is a vital tool to protect the safety of Canadians. It is for that precise reason--

An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the intrusiveness was not in the method of taking the sample. It is a pin prick, which many diabetics do daily, or the plucking of a piece of hair.

What information an analysis of a sample can reveal could be of concern in years to come, but I agree with the member that this is mirror duplication of Bill C-72. I certainly will be pleased to support it. It is good legislation. It is needed legislation. It will improve enforcement when used as an enforcement tool and assist our law enforcement agencies.

An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this evening to speak to Bill C-18 which introduces a series of technical amendments to strengthen Canada's DNA databank laws. Canada is one of only a few number of countries in the world to have a National DNA Data Bank.

The legislation is similar to Bill C-72 introduced in the 38th Parliament. That Parliament came to an abrupt end when the current Conservative government collaborated with the other opposition parties to prematurely bring down the Liberal minority government.

These new legislative changes will allow for the implementation of Bill C-13, the former Liberal government's original DNA databank legislation. At the urging of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and police organizations across the country, the former Liberal government undertook a wide range of consultations with government agencies, privacy groups, and forensic and genetic organizations which led to the introduction and passage of Bill C-13. Bill C-13 is acknowledged as a key law enforcement tool.

Forensic DNA analysis has been instrumental not only in securing convictions but also in exonerating wrongly convicted individuals as some recent high profile cases have shown. Mr. Milgaard and Mr. Guy Paul Morin were just mentioned a few minutes ago.

As one of the most accurate methods of obtaining solid evidence in criminal investigations, deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA as it is commonly known, is found within the chromosomes of every living organism. Except for identical twins, it is believed that no two people have the same DNA. Based on that premise, DNA from bodily substances found at a crime scene may be compared with the DNA obtained from a suspect in order to determine whether both samples came from the same person.

The benefits of using such a system are numerous. Police are able to identify and arrest repeat offenders by comparing DNA information from a crime scene to the convicted offender's index. They are also able to determine whether a series of offences was committed by the same offender or whether more than one perpetrator was involved. Police are able to cross reference and link DNA profiles to other cases within and across jurisdictions.

Using DNA profiles help focus police investigations by more quickly eliminating suspects whose DNA is already in the databank in a case where no match from crime scene evidence is found.

Finally, the knowledge of DNA testing to solve crimes may also deter offenders from committing further crimes.

The National DNA Data Bank is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is used to assist Canada's law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a serious crime. The databank has two indices or data indicators. The crime scene index would contain DNA profiles from bodily substance found at the scene of a designated offence or within the body of a victim or any other person or thing associated with the commission of a designated offence.

The convicted offenders index contains DNA profiles taken from offenders either on their consent or following an order by the courts. It applies to offenders convicted of designated Criminal Code offences as well as people who are subject to the military code of service discipline and convicted of a designated offence under the National Defence Act.

We are keenly aware of the significant privacy concerns, particularly in relation to the retention of biological samples. Strong arguments have been advanced by the scientific community indicating that in its view the retention of biological samples is essential for the DNA databank to be able to adapt to technological changes in the future.

We are aware that the field of forensic DNA analysis is developing rapidly and forensic scientists have told us that as the technology evolves the DNA profiles of today are likely to become obsolete later on. Samples retained can be reanalyzed using new technology thereby insuring that Canada's databank is able to keep pace with technological advances.

Bill C-13, the DNA Identification Act, will authorize police to collect DNA samples from offenders convicted of designated criminal offences. The 38 primary designated offences were selected because of the nature of the offence, the seriousness of the offence, and the likelihood that some biological evidence would be left at the crime scene by the perpetrator. These include the most serious personal injury crimes including homicide and sexual offences. The legislation also provided for the inclusion of DNA to be collected from offenders of designated offences committed before the DNA Identification Act came into force.

The DNA databank is of little or no use for identifying serious offenders unless it already contains their DNA profile. There are criminological studies which suggest that offenders who commit serious offences have previously committed less serious ones. Some have advocated expanding the primary designated offence to include less serious offences.

In Canada, any broadening of the category of designated offences to provide for mandatory DNA sampling would be subjected to the charter of rights scrutiny. The taking of bodily substances from individuals is considered an intrusive process constituting a search. The challenge is to seek a reasonable balance between the rights of an individual and the desired protection of society.

Bill C-18 would add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder or to cause another person to be murdered to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions which would apply to offenders convicted of a single murder, sexual offence or manslaughter prior to June 30, 2002, when the legislation establishing a DNA databank came into effect.

During the course of the original hearings on the DNA databank, consultations indicated strong support for the creation of a National DNA Data Bank, but there were also concerns regarding Canadian values of privacy, public protection and individual rights guaranteed by the charter.

Various interest groups, including the Privacy Commissioner and the Barreau du Québec, suggested the bill did not contain sufficient safeguards to protect the use of DNA profiles from the samples of victims, cleared suspects, and people who volunteered samples to help police in their investigations.

As a consequence, the former government brought a motion to clarify that access to the information contained in the crime scene index shall be permanently removed if it relates to a victim or person who has been eliminated as a suspect in a criminal investigation.

The current legislation also proposed a change permitting the destruction of samples when the provincial attorney general certifies that the order was made for an offence not intended to be included in the DNA databank. This simpler approach would eliminate the expense of having the attorney general make an application to a court to have the order quashed.

In certain circumstances, the legislation would also allow a court to require a person, who wishes to participate in a hearing relating to an order for the taking of samples of bodily substances for forensic DNA analysis, to appear by video links, such as a closed-circuit television or a similar means of communication, for the retroactive hearings. This would significantly reduce the costs and security associated with transporting the offenders eligible for retroactive sampling.

As we all know, crime and criminal activity knows no borders. Offenders must be apprehended and prosecuted whenever they are found and law enforcement agencies must have the tools to do so. This legislation would allow a foreign law enforcement agency, for the purpose of the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offence, to submit a DNA profile for analysis and would allow the results thereof to be communicated to the foreign government by the commissioner.

The series of technical amendments set out in Bill C-18 would strengthen our country's DNA databank law and would improve law enforcement, not only within this country but beyond our borders as well.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about Bill C-18.

I was just thinking two thoughts by way of introduction. The member for Wild Rose is right. The viewing public might think with the numbers C-18, C-72 and C-13 that this is just a well-dressed bingo game that we are playing, but it is actually very serious material.

The combination of these bills will culminate in a better method and tool for police officers and the police forces to do their jobs both in inculpating, finding the people who have done crimes, but also as my speech will indicate, exculpating people when they are actually not guilty.

I also might give my friend from Fundy Royal compliments on his good speech. I think that people in our community, he and I share an undefended border between Westmorland County and Albert County, share the same belief system and the same community values.

The people in Albert and Westmorland counties might think that the member for Fundy Royal and I are dominating the debate. I think it is just because we are on the committee together and we work on these subjects, not always together but certainly with the same view. That view is to make the laws of Canada better and more effective.

With that I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-18, a law designed to help implement the DNA databank legislative reforms. It does, however, and it must be said, build on the good Liberal Bill C-72. This was an excellent effort of the previous government to clean up some of these outdated and, frankly, awkward and lugubrious anomalies that exist in the current system.

The success of the DNA databank is impressive. It has provided critical evidence leading to convictions in nearly 2,300 serious crimes. It has been crucial in helping police solve over 300 armed robberies, 1,200 break and enters, 200 murders, and the member for Wild Rose might want this statistic, and 400 sexual assault cases in Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast. These are impressive numbers.

It is an extraordinary success. In addition, the national DNA data bank is one of the most powerful tools available to the country's police forces and courts. Even more importantly, the national DNA data bank makes it possible to exonerate innocent people and punish the real criminals.

We forget too often in the law and order rhetoric of the other side that there are people who have been falsely accused and falsely convicted of crimes. One of those falsely accused and falsely convicted cases is one too many. Not only is the DNA databank a great success story, it is an amazing example of technological use in the betterment of our justice system by providing indisputable evidence.

That is why I am pleased to see that the Conservative minority government introduced Bill C-18 and this is largely, as I indicated, based on former BillC-72 presented by the Liberal government.

The new modifications proposed by Bill C-18, and as they were in Bill C-72, will enable a number of modifications and ameliorations to the DNA databank in accordance with the proposed Liberal reform of the DNA databank included in Bill C-13 which received royal assent in May 2005. These improvements are eagerly awaited for by the police departments, the provinces and territories, and they cannot come too soon.

I must echo at this time two comments made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. One of them is that the Criminal Code of Canada, a large document that is roughly incoherent notwithstanding that it was created by a Conservative justice minister in the late 1800s, has been added to like a big overgrown shrub that needs pruning and frankly needs to be completely redone. Those sentiments are not just those of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. The hon. members for Fundy Royal and for Wild Rose will know that the esteemed professor from the University of Ottawa, David Paciocco, suggested that to us just recently at the standing committee.

In the beautiful province of Quebec, respected professor Daniel Grégoire has also called for these reforms.

The second point about the need to pass the bill, which is why we are in favour of it, is that the justice committee is bogged down with so many justice bills right now that we have to be sure the government is sincere. I have heard the expressions of sincerity from the hon. members of the committee, whom I know well. I take it that the committee is sincere in passing the bill, in getting it through committee and back to the House and into effect. Since we all agree on its raw and innate goodness, let us get it through the committee quickly and get it passed into law.

Once again, the current minority government is trying to show, however, that its great legislative agenda is its own. In fact, any bill that comes before us that has more than three pages was probably one that was introduced by the Liberal government and died on the order paper, not one of the new bills produced by the Conservative department of haste in bills. I call it the hasty bill writing department that the government must have over there.

For those keeping score, this is one of the good bills. This was a Liberal bill that a new number has been attached to. We will happily call it a Conservative bill for now, if we can just get it through committee. That being said, the DNA data bank, just as any other governmental program or legislative measure, raises concerns about privacy.

As many examples have shown in the past, personal information can travel fast over the legal borders that exist and over all the limitations that we think exist as well. This is why I stress the need to strike a balance between all citizens' rights to privacy, including suspects, and the need to protect our society as a whole from crime and criminality.

The respect of privacy has been so far protected in the DNA data bank by ensuring that the identity of all suspects is kept confidential to ensure fair treatment. We must ensure that the proposed changes do respect the boundaries of the current privacy provisions in the law of Canada.

The technology used in DNA identification has proven itself on many occasions over the years. DNA identification can play a vital role in convicting or exonerating people suspected of major crimes including murder, as well as other crimes that caused the death of innocent victims.

The changes currently proposed by Bill C-18 will allow even more law-abiding citizens to be exonerated of charges and will strengthen the current legislation on DNA sampling.

In fact, attempting to escape or avoid having a DNA sample taken seems to me to be sufficient reason for doubt about the motivations and motives of a suspect.

There is certainly reason to wonder why a potential suspect would do everything possible to avoid having a DNA sample taken when, in fact, the sample could lift all suspicion from that person, if he is innocent, of course.

Since the DNA data bank is a fairly recent tool, it is understandable that it needs to be tweaked and bettered to ensure that it reaches its maximum potential.

This is why adding attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions makes sense. The law is organic and it must grow with what is occurring out there in our communities.

Those added offences are serious. They are important. Those individuals, dangerous as they may be, should contribute a DNA sample to the DNA data bank to ensure that other crimes they might have committed in the past, or could commit in the future, will be linked to them and their DNA.

It is important for us on this side of the House to underline that we are a party, and I think all parliamentarians would agree, that respects and wants a rule of law in this country. We are a party--and I think as parliamentarians as well we could join in this statement--that wants a safer community. If the DNA data bank, improved as it would be by this bill, helps us catch more criminals who have done harm or who will do harm, this is a good thing.

Furthermore, I do believe that law-abiding citizens' rights to live peacefully should always be the first objective of all proposed legislation. It would not make sense to actually protect criminals from other criminal offences, and this is why it simply and clearly makes sense to ensure that information provided by the DNA data bank should be used, and needs to be, to investigate all criminal offences. Canadians will in the end benefit from criminals being better investigated, and perhaps having them linked to accusations and criminal offences as alleged would be a good thing as well.

Of course, these measures have to work both ways. Although law enforcement agencies should be able to use the DNA data bank information to investigate all criminal offences of certain individuals, it should not create some sort of tightly secured DNA data bank from which no information can be deleted. There is, in fact, a time limit to the efficacy of the DNA data bank.

Accessing and destroying specific information from the DNA data bank is essential to ensure errors can be corrected and true justice can be served. This is why simplifying the procedure for destroying samples also makes sense and is a very important part of an efficient DNA data bank.

As the DNA bank continues to grow with each sample taken, the usefulness of this extraordinary tool also continues to grow. It will make Canada a place where Canadian justice—as well as our police forces and investigators—is as fair and equitable as it can be.

The National DNA Data Bank is an impressive and wonderful resource. It is one of the most powerful investigative tools the justice system has ever had. Bill C-18 would make it even more efficient.

It is very important to underline for us on this side of the House that none of these bills being proposed by the government will work unless there are adequate resources to back them up. The only program statements that have been made with respect to justice in the past couple of weeks have been cuts.

Whether they are cuts to the judicial contestation program or cuts in the RCMP budget for a trial method of catching people at the roadside who are committing violations of our Criminal Code while impaired from drug abuse, these are the actions that back up the words of the government with respect to its law and order agenda.

I can only hope that through discussions such as these and the discussions that might happen at committee the government can see the folly of pronouncing grand statements about how the Conservatives are the stewards of law and order when they do not back that up with the allocation of resources necessary to put in effect the laws the Conservatives so proudly pronounce from every church steeple, city hall and mall encounter.

In short, and in conclusion, the Liberal Party and I, as a member of the justice committee, will in good faith give our word to support this bill in principle, to work diligently at committee to improve it and, more important, to move it along to put it into law, because after all, it is just Bill C-72 in new clothing. It was our idea. We put it together. Perhaps once, in a non-partisan way, I can say we do not care if the government gets the credit for it, because we know in our hearts that we put it into place.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure today of speaking in favour of Bill C-18 and in favour of sending Bill C-18 to the committee for further study.

The National DNA Data Bank is a great Canadian success story. It has assisted the police in their investigations of thousands of serious crimes. It is making an invaluable contribution to the safety of all Canadians. This bill can only increase that success.

Much of what I will say will be familiar to those who were involved in the debate on former bill C-13 in the last Parliament, and in particular, to members who were on the standing committee during its hearings into the bill because, as the minister stated, this bill paves the way for the proclamation of former Bill C-13. Nevertheless, it is important to outline for all members the way the legislation and the DNA system work.

The National DNA Data Bank carries out four principal functions and assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes by one, linking crimes together where there are no suspects. The DNA data bank would advise the police forces involved so that they can compare notes on their respective investigations.

Two, it helps to identify suspects. When the DNA data bank provides a match between a crime scene profile and a convicted offender profile, the police agency is advised and it can focus its investigations on that identified offender.

Three, it assists by in fact eliminating suspects where there is no match between crime scene DNA and a profile in the data bank. This is often overlooked in debate about the DNA registry or amendments to the legislation impacting on the DNA registry, but a DNA registry has been used to eliminate suspects and in fact exonerate people. A lack of a match tells the police that none of the 100,000 convicted offenders whose DNA is in the data bank was involved.

Last, the DNA data bank is used to determine whether a serial offender is involved. The DNA bank would advise the police force that several crimes appear to have been committed by the same person. This is a very important fact indeed when police are assessing a certain criminal act as it is certainly helpful in their investigation to know whether it is someone who is acting in a repetitive or serial way.

As David Griffin, an executive officer of the Canadian Police Association, told the standing committee during hearings on former Bill C-13:

DNA analysis has proven to be a breakthrough technology in policing and the administration of justice. It is a science that assists in detecting and convicting offenders and acquitting the innocent. In serious police investigations, the cost savings in reducing the time spent on investigations and in identifying and confirming or eliminating suspects can be extraordinary. This is particularly important in crimes such as child abductions by strangers, where precious hours can be critical to finding the victim alive.

DNA orders can only be made against an offender for a limited number of offences. Judges retain a discretion to refuse to make an order in all but the most serious cases. The use of the information is strictly limited to the investigation of criminal offences. That again is an important fact that is often overlooked by those who would criticize the national DNA data bank, that it is only used for the investigation of criminal offences.

Bill C-18 does not change the fundamentals of the Criminal Code DNA provisions and the DNA Identification Act. The five year parliamentary review that is yet to begin is the proper form for considering more far-reaching changes. This bill is limited to technical improvements to the existing system.

The minister has already spoken of the ringing endorsement of the present legislation by the Supreme Court in the Rodgers case. Members can be assured that this bill is consistent with the charter. Moreover, the strong protections for privacy which are built into the scheme are also unchanged.

Canada has probably the strongest protections against the misuse of our DNA profiles, stronger in fact than any other country. In particular, the legislation provides that bodily samples collected pursuant to a DNA data bank authorization for inclusion in the National DNA Data Bank may only be used for forensic DNA analysis. Unused portions of bodily samples are required to be safely stored at the National DNA Data Bank.

Further, it is a criminal offence to use bodily samples or results of forensic DNA analysis obtained under a DNA data bank authorization other than for the transmission to the National DNA Data Bank. A breach of that provision is a hybrid offence that is subject to a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment when prosecuted by indictment.

Use of DNA profiles and bodily samples at the National DNA Data Bank is strictly limited to the narrow purposes of comparing offender profiles with crime scene profiles. Any use of stored information or bodily samples or communication of information that they may contain is strictly limited to the narrow identification purposes of the act. Again, this is something that is often lost on those who are critical of the data bank. In fact, any breach of those provisions is a criminal offence subject to a maximum of two years' imprisonment.

Communication of information as to whether a person's DNA profile is contained in the offenders index may only be made to appropriate law enforcement agencies or laboratories for investigative purposes or to authorized users of the RCMP automated conviction records retrieval system.

Although the seized bodily samples are retained for safekeeping in the DNA data bank after analysis, they may only be used for further forensic DNA analysis where significant technological advances have been made since the time the original DNA profile was derived. The results of such subsequent DNA analysis and any residue of the bodily sample are subject to the same rigid controls as the original profile and the original sample.

The sharing of DNA profiles with foreign governments and international organizations is only allowed for legitimate law enforcement purposes and only pursuant to specific agreements that must include safeguards to protect the privacy of the personal information disclosed.

I repeat that these legal protections are untouched by Bill C-18. All of those protections that protect the rights of Canadians against any possible misuse of the DNA data bank or any use outside of aiding our police in the protection of Canadians and society as a whole is unchanged and untouched by Bill C-18. In practice, they are buttressed by the procedural safeguards developed by the National DNA Data Bank.

By international agreement the DNA analysis process used by the data bank and other data banks in the world examines only a small segment of the entire human DNA blueprint. Scientists internationally have chosen 13 loci to analyze because there is a wide variation in those among the world's population. The DNA that is analyzed is often called anonymous DNA because apart from the ability to identify gender, there is no link to physical or medical attributes. Therefore, the profile generated by the DNA data bank will not reveal a person's hair, skin or eye colour.

The variations mean that except for identical twins, every person's DNA is unique. It is this power to identify a person beyond a shadow of a doubt that makes the DNA data bank and data collection such a valuable tool for law enforcement. It can identify an individual beyond a doubt.

The RCMP has developed internal procedures to ensure that there is no manipulation of the data. Upon receipt of a kit, the data bank separates the genetic material from the personal data. The biological sample and the identifying information are given the same unique bar code. The data bank keeps the biological sample and analyzes it. The personal information and full set of fingerprints of convicted offenders are sent to the Canadian Criminal Records Information Services, which retains them under strict security provisions. Therefore, the data bank has no idea whose sample it is analyzing or, in the case of a match, which convicted offender is linked to the crime scene.

It is important to emphasize that we have gone to great lengths to separate the information contained in the DNA sample and the information attributed to the person to whom that DNA belongs. It simply advises Canadian Criminal Records Information Services of the bar code and the service retrieves the identifying information and sends it to the laboratory that uploaded the profile to the crime scene index. It is of course not possible for unauthorized persons to enter the data bank or the Criminal Records Information Services to view or retrieve data.

The National DNA Data Bank's website has a wealth of information about how it actually operates and about the history and science behind it. I also hope that the members of the standing committee who have not had the opportunity to tour the National DNA Data Bank will arrange to do so. I know the staff would be most happy to show them how the system works and to answer all their questions. Certainly a tour of the data bank made it much easier for members who were considering former Bill C-13 to understand the submissions of the witnesses and to formulate their recommendations for amendments.

Finally, I remind the House that a National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee has been established by regulation. Its membership includes eminent scientists, specialists in privacy and human rights law, and a former justice of the Supreme Court. The committee's duties encompass any matter related to the establishment and operation of the DNA data bank.

Members will find much wisdom in the reports that the advisory committee has made over the years. Members of the advisory committee will, I trust, be witnesses when the parliamentary review of the legislation gets under way.

I now wish to turn to some of the specifics of Bill C-18. Fundamentally, the effectiveness of the National DNA Data Bank depends on three factors: one, the number of profiles from crime scenes; two, the number of profiles from convicted offenders; and three, the resources of the police to pursue leads generated by the data bank.

Upon passage of Bill C-18 and the proclamation of former Bill C-13, there will be many more offenders eligible for a DNA data bank order and the police will be able to upload many more crime scene profiles to the National DNA Data Bank. This will undoubtedly lead to more matches between crime scene samples and the convicted offender samples and more matches between crime scenes. That is ultimately the goal of the DNA data bank, to provide those matches.

As for the resources of the police, we earmarked $15 million over two years to increase the capacity of the National DNA Data Bank to process convicted offender samples and the capacity of the regional laboratories to process crime scene samples. Without these additional resources and without the changes proposed in Bill C-18, the proclamation of former Bill C-13 would be largely ineffective in achieving Parliament's purpose.

Former Bill C-13, however, contained flaws that required correction. The previous government introduced former Bill C-72 to correct problems in Bill C-13. That bill would have one, re-enacted the definition so as to make the various amendments fit together in a logical order; two, changed the forms to reflect the changes made in the procedures for obtaining an order in retroactive proceedings; three, ensured that the commissioner provided further information regarding a possible match only at the request of the laboratory or police; and finally, corrected a difference in the French and English versions of the section authorized in the international sharing of DNA profiles.

Former Bill C-72 contained many other changes to the drafting of Bill C-13 and two procedural changes requested by the provinces to reduce cost: a provision to permit retroactive hearings by video; and a simpler defective order procedure that would have eliminated the application to a court of appeal for the order to be quashed and substituted certification by the attorney general. These changes are reintroduced in Bill C-18 which is before us today. It contains, as the minister has said, many further clarifications and improvements that have been suggested by officials since former Bill C-72 was tabled.

Members should be aware that it will take several months for the provinces to be ready. They have to train their prosecutors, police, court administrators and clerical staff in the new procedures. Understandably, they will not begin that process until the bill has received royal assent.

We believe the House should move swiftly to send Bill C-18 to committee and it is therefore with pleasure that I urge the House to give Bill C-18 second reading.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member pointed out in his comments, we have seen many justice bills, and I would like to thank him for his participation in them.

This bill is a reintroduction of a bill from the last Parliament, Bill C-72, technical amendments to the DNA database. The member may want to refresh our memory about the general mood of the House with regard to the importance of the DNA database as a tool to assist authorities in the resolution of matters of a criminal or judicial nature.

I would conclude that if they are technical amendments, the member has raised some interesting points and there may be a good basis for having the bill go to committee to complete the work that was started in the last Parliament.

The member raised one question, and I ask him for some clarification. He shared some concern about the number of justice bills raised and whether there was some ulterior motive or some concern about the volume in that it was affecting the ability of Parliament to function.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification. Bill C-18 impacts the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act.

I, along with many in this chamber, was a member of the House when the DNA Identification Act was created in 1998. The act came into force on June 30, 2000.

Section 13 specifically provides that within five years of the coming into force of the act a review of the provisions and operations should be undertaken by a committee of the House, the Senate, or by both. This review has not yet taken place and the current Minister of Justice by letter earlier this year states that the review “should begin as soon as possible after this bill receives royal assent”.

I believe for many reasons that the review should happen as soon as possible. I would like to know from the minister if his assurance for the mandated review really means only after more of his so-called law and order bills come before the House or if the review can take place within the next year in a reasonable amount of time. Where exactly is the review on the list of priorities of the minority government?

In a letter which I believe was sent to all members of the justice committee, the minister identified various issues he wished to be discussed and they are important areas for discussion. Among them are: having only one list of designated offences; the scope of judicial discretion with respect to making an order; taking DNA under the Identification of Criminals Act; international sharing; the one I just mentioned moments ago, kinship analysis; volunteer samples; victim samples; and exoneration.

The current Minister of Justice whom we have just heard from has urged that the amendments in Bill C-18 are needed to give the benefits of changes made under the former government's Bill C-13 passed recently. Former Bill C-13 was adopted on May 19, 2005 and only some parts of Bill C-13 are currently in force.

For people who may have not been part of that legislative process, it may be useful to set out the purpose of the DNA Identification Act. Section 3 states:

The purpose of this Act is to establish a national DNA data bank to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.

The principles of the act are contained in section 4 and include:

(a) the protection of society and the administration of justice are well served by the early detection, arrest and conviction of offenders, which can be facilitated by the use of DNA profiles;

(b) the DNA profiles, as well as samples of bodily substances from which the profiles are derived, may be used only for law enforcement purposes in accordance with this Act, and not for any unauthorized purpose; and

(c) to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves, safeguards must be placed on

(i) the use and communication of, and access to, DNA profiles and other information contained in the national DNA data bank, and

(ii) the use of, and access to, bodily substances that are transmitted to the Commissioner for the purposes of this Act.

The use of DNA analysis in solving crime has emerged as one of the most powerful tools that is currently available to law enforcement agencies for the administration of justice in our land. This has taken place in just over a decade. Actually it is remarkable. Its impact is akin to the introduction of fingerprint evidence in court over 100 years ago.

In the science of police investigation, DNA evidence is a major enhancement for the safety of Canadians. What is the value of DNA to public investigations? We should know that biological samples collected from a crime scene can either link a suspect to the scene or rule the suspect out as a donor of the DNA. Evidence from different crime scenes can be compared to link the same perpetrator to multiple offences, whether they occurred next door, across the country, or halfway around the world. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives.

DNA is referred to often as the blueprint of life. It is a fundamental building block of a person's complete and entire genetic makeup. DNA is found in virtually every tissue in the human body. Experts tell us that the DNA in a person's blood is the same in the skin cells, the saliva, the hair and other bodily parts. Highly discriminating other than with respect to identical twins, it is a powerful tool for identification. Every person's DNA is unique to them, again with the exception of identical twins.

The DNA molecule itself can last significant environmental challenges. It is very stable. This enables the forensic experts to obtain new information from very old biological evidence, or establish important data from very badly degraded samples, which can occur when say a body is found or a crime scene is unearthed long after the fact of incidence.

The stability of the molecule and the fact we have very discriminating features of individual DNA and the accuracy of the analysis techniques that the current DNA people use make this a very efficient and strong human identification technology. It is a most vital component of most of our police investigations today of a very serious nature.

I should state that the national data bank respects the considerations, as it should, of the genetic privacy of individuals and follows strict guidelines as specified in the DNA Identification Act. The biological samples that are collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes. Thus, the National DNA Data Bank assists the law enforcement communities in solving crimes by linking crimes together where there are no suspects, by helping to identify suspects or conversely by eliminating suspects where there is no match between the crime scene DNA and the DNA profile in the national data bank. Further, it assists in determining whether a serial offender is involved.

By statute, the national data bank, which is located here in Ottawa, is responsible for two principal indices. The first is a convicted offenders index, which is an electronic index that has been developed from DNA profiles, collected from offenders convicted by designated primary and secondary offences identified in section 487.04 of the Criminal Code. I believe, as of mid-May 2006, the convicted offender index had nearly 100,000 entries.

The second is the crime scene index, which is a separate electronic index composed of DNA profiles obtained from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences addressed under the act. Thus we have several thousands, as the minister said, of the DNA samples from convicted offenders, which are included in the National DNA Data Bank along with the samples from various crime scenes across the country.

Large numbers of police officers from every province and territory jurisdiction in Canada have been the recipients of specific and proper training on how to collect and forward the DNA samples, which are then sent to the data bank in Ottawa for the proper analysis.

We know that the National DNA Data Bank has recorded over 5,200 crime scene to offender matches and more than 750 crime scene to crime scene matches. As everyone should appreciate, this developing science has to be managed very appropriately and properly to safeguard people's constitutional rights.

We have had, though, over the last number of years continuous consultations with provinces and territories and the public at large. They all have been instrumental in developing the amending legislation over the last couple of bills. Again, under the former Liberal government in Bill C-13, changes were made to improve the public safety and the approach of the bill continued to respect the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and their privacy interests. This is the problematic challenge area of concern for many.

When the bill was before committee the last time, the Privacy Commissioner was there expressing some concerns. It is right that these types of debates happen. That is why it is totally necessary we have the overall review and, hopefully, that will not be delayed.

Under the act, we currently have both primary and secondary designated offences. The primary designated offences are considered the most serious criminal offences. They are, for example, sexual offences, murder and manslaughter. The significant but relatively less serious offences would come under the threshold of secondary designated offences in the act. Two examples that have been shown would be assault and arson.

For people to understand the practical difference, a judge who convicts a person of a primary designated offence is required to make an order for the collection of the DNA sample from the offender, unless the offender can convince the court otherwise, under a specific section, subsection 487.051(2) of the Criminal Code. It is usually mandatory unless there are strict criteria.

With a secondary designated offence, and this is the difference, a DNA sample collection order may be granted if the court, upon application of the Crown, is satisfied that it is in the best interests of justice to do so. It should be noted that if a person was convicted or discharged of any designated offence after June 30 of the year 2000, but the act was committed before that date, then the same criteria for granting an order under the secondary designated offence would apply.

Bill C-13 moved a number of previously listed secondary designated offences and the new offence of Internet luring of a child to the primary list. Also Bill C-13 proposed additions to the list of secondary designated offences. Examples of certain offences that moved to the primary list included child pornography and robbery.

Bill C-13 also made changes to the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system would remain consistent with the civilian justice system.

The former Liberal government also introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005, less than a year ago. That bill had a series of amendments to help implement the DNA data bank references that were endorsed by Parliament under Bill C-13, which I have just discussed. These technical amendments were to clarify definitions and procedures for obtaining a DNA data bank order and for sharing information. There was a provision to help DNA data bank orders to be carried out, even when, for logistical reasons, it may not have been possible to take the sample at the precise time as set out in the original order.

Bill C-72, which also died when the government fell last year, would have also simplified the procedure to destroy samples taken from those convicted of an offence not intended to be included in the DNA data bank. This is a whole specialized area. There is a lot of concern about whether samples ever really get destroyed or whether we just do not do the matching any more and we lose the ability to match properly.

Among other issues, Bill C-72 was to allow for hearings by video to reduce costs and security associated with two party and greater numbers of offenders eligible for a retroactive sampling as a result of Bill C-13. Therefore, Bill C-72 essentially picked up on some of the issues identified by the stakeholders during the consultations on the implementation of Bill C-13 and also from the committee debate. It was intended to have the technical amendment made under Bill C-72 come into force before the coming into force of the unproclaimed provision of Bill C-13 in order to increase the efficiency of the data bank system and reduce costs.

This has been a somewhat dry and truncated history of the legislation, but it puts us where we are today with the sections.

Bill C-18, introduced by the government based on the work of the former government, is supposed to represent a reincarnation of Bill C-72. Upon looking at the bill, amended forms, which were not ready for Bill C-72, have now been included in Bill C-18. As mentioned previously, we are now further behind the overall review of the legislation. We are again being asked by the Minister of Justice to do the technical amendments before the broader policy and review.

Bill C-18 has some substantive provisions also. I am not going to go through all of them today, that is what we have committee for, but I will give an example. It will make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. This is similar to the situation in the code where we have an offence for failing to show up for fingerprinting. This seems entirely logical to me. It also proposes to add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions.

Also, there are simple, or not so simple, procedural changes in Bill C-18. Examples of these amendments include allowing a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced and allowing the law enforcement agency authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another law enforcement agency to do it on its behalf when the offender has moved or been incarcerated outside of the jurisdiction. This would save time and money. As opposed to moving the offender back and forth, we would do the sampling in another jurisdiction, as long as all the orders had been properly made.

These are practical amendments that would assist in an efficient process and rectify some of the on the ground problems that are being experienced by people who have to deal with the various systems, from the justice system courthouse, all the way to the analysis here at the data bank.

For the most part, Bill C-18 is an enhanced version of previous government bills. Since we have last had the occasion to discuss DNA legislation, the Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Rogers, has held, among other things, that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated class of offenders is reasonable, reasonable as an infringement in our constitutional sense of the word.

In conclusion, I believe it is very appropriate to send the bill to committee for careful consideration. I will restate that I also think it is very appropriate that the House, our Parliament and some of the committees consider a full review so we can have a proper discussion about further emerging areas that need to be addressed, not only those outlined in the Minister of Justice's letters, but maybe some of the concerns of some of the other stakeholders. I think that would be a useful thing to do.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, and to recommend to the House that this bill be given second reading and referred to committee.

This bill is highly technical. It is necessary, however, to make these technical changes so that we can proclaim former Bill C-13, which was passed in the last Parliament with all party support.

Many members are familiar with the background of this bill because they were here when Bill C-13 was passed, but I will provide a brief background for the benefit of new members.

The National DNA Data Bank, which is operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, began operating on June 30, 2000. Basically, it compares DNA profiles of convicted offenders with DNA profiles found at crime scenes. It now contains almost 100,000 profiles from convicted offenders and about 30,000 profiles from crime scenes. The data bank has assisted almost 6,500 police investigations.

In 2001, federal and provincial prosecutors and officials identified a number of deficiencies in the legislation. The Uniform Law Conference, which includes representatives of the defence bar, passed resolutions calling for high priority to be given to remedying seven problems.

The government launched public consultations in the fall of 2002. It was only in May 2004 that former Bill C-35 was introduced to correct the problems that had been identified. The bill died on the order paper when the election was called and was reintroduced as former Bill C-13 in October 2004.

I believe it would be fair to say that while all parties supported the DNA data bank and the changes proposed in the former Bill C-13, many members wanted to make more extensive changes.

There were negotiations among the parties to develop a package of changes that could secure unanimous support for the bill. In May 2005, three key amendments to the bill were adopted.

First was extending the retroactive scheme to cover persons convicted of one murder, manslaughter or sexual assault. I recall that our party, in opposition, was particularly keen in bringing that issue forward.

Second was creating a category of very violent offences where the court would have no discretion to refuse to make the DNA order. Again, this was another initiative of the party that I am in, which made that recommendation in the last Parliament.

Third was extending the definition of secondary designated offences to cover all offences under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that are punishable on indictment by five years or more.

The bill then moved with lightning speed and with all party support through the House and the Senate because of an impending confidence vote on the budget.

The provisions of former Bill C-13 that came into force upon receiving royal assent were those dealing with the expansion of the retroactive scheme, which makes about 4,400 more offenders eligible to be sampled, the procedure for dealing with DNA orders that appear on their face to have been improperly made, and the procedures for dealing with moderate DNA matches.

The major amendments that have not yet been brought into force are the following.

First is allowing courts to make DNA data bank orders against a person who has been found “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder”.

Second is adding Internet luring of a child, uttering threats, criminal harassment, and “criminal organization” offences to the list of designated offences.

Third is moving “robbery” and “break and enter into a dwelling house” and child pornography related offences from the list of secondary designated offences to the list of primary designated offences.

Fourth is creating a new sub-category of the primary designated offence list of 16 extremely violent offences for which the courts will have no discretion whatsoever and must make the order.

Fifth is expanding the definition of secondary designated offences to include all offences that are punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.

Most members will agree that these are significant changes that will enhance the ability of the police to use the data bank and to protect Canadians from criminals.

Why, then, are they not yet in force? Federal, provincial and territorial officials, who were preparing for the proclamation of the remaining provisions of Bill C-13, identified a number of serious technical problems that should be corrected prior to proclamation and certain procedures that should be modified to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The former government, therefore, introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005 to make the necessary changes. However, that bill died when the election was called.

Officials have continued their work and they have identified more changes that would clarify Parliament's intent in passing former Bill C-13 and the procedures that should be modified to make the DNA legislation more effective.

As a former provincial crown prosecutor, I know how important it is to have clear procedures set out in the Criminal Code if legislation is to be effective. I am pleased that my department took the initiative of holding a two day meeting with prosecutors, police, forensic scientists and correctional personnel to go over Bill C-13 with a fine tooth comb.

Bill C-18, the present bill, proposes about a dozen changes that were not in the former Bill C-72, and those changes flowed directly from that meeting. Bill C-18 proposes no changes in the underlying policies or procedures already adopted by Parliament. It contains mainly drafting changes, such as the creation of 10 new forms. These changes are not dramatic and they will not grab the headlines, but they will be welcomed by the people in the field who need to make what Parliament passes work.

Bill C-18 also contains some substantive changes that I believe will be supported by all members of the House. In particular, it would add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions. These are very serious offences that indicate an elevated risk of reoffending and are punishable by life imprisonment, a higher punishment than for the sexual offences that are already included in the retroactive scheme.

It would also permit the Crown to apply for retroactive DNA data bank order where the offender was convicted prior to June 30, 2000 of one of the listed offences and is still under sentence for that offence, rather than requiring that the person be serving a sentence of two years or more.

There are a few cases of persons who, prior to June 30, 2000, received multiple consecutive sentences for various offences, including some of the offences that make an offender eligible for retroactive sampling and who are still under sentence. Although the court clearly considered them to be serious offenders, it did not impose a sentence of two years or more for any one of the relevant offences. It would also allow a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced.

It is believed that the main reason orders are not being made in many cases where they are already authorized is that prosecutors are extremely busy and are forgetting to remind the court to consider the issue. This would give both the prosecutor and the judge the time to review the files and, if the matter was simply missed, to have a hearing where the prosecution and the offender can present their arguments to the judge, who will decide whether to make the order.

It would also make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. It is expected that having a specific offence will better emphasize to the offender the necessity of appearing for sampling and so increase compliance with DNA data bank orders. It would authorize any police force that arrests the person for failing to appear for a DNA sample to take the sample.

It would be very expensive if offenders arrested in one province had to be sent back to the province where the order was made to have the sample taken. It would permit a police agency that has been authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another police agency to take the sample if that would be less expensive. The police have been hampered in their efforts to execute the orders where the offender has been incarcerated outside its jurisdiction or been conditionally released but resides outside its jurisdiction.

The procedure to have the order transferred to a court having jurisdiction and obtaining another order are time consuming and use up resources unnecessarily.

There are also some changes being made to ensure that the National DNA Data Bank can communicate with the forensic laboratories and with its international partners more effectively.

Parliament certainly wanted to encourage these exchanges, but the amendment, as passed in Bill C-13, is not as clear as it should be. As well, the National Defence Act is being amended so that the DNA regime applicable to the military continues to mirror the civilian regime.

There are many other technical changes of this nature in the bill and I am sure that when the bill gets to committee for detailed consideration, officials will explain them all. I trust this is sufficient, however, for members to realize that the changes proposed by this bill will be very helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges who have to use the legislation on a daily basis.

Passage of this bill will allow for the proclamation of the rest of former Bill C-13 and should ensure that it is implemented smoothly.

It is, of course, not the end of the changes to the DNA legislation. As members are aware, the five year parliamentary review of the DNA legislation should have begun by June 30, 2005. Officials of my department, the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP and the National DNA Data Bank are ready to assist the committee as soon as it is mandated to commence the review.

The delay in beginning the review is not entirely unfortunate. The committee will be able to consider such issues as making the taking of a DNA sample automatic upon conviction, or even more variations in light of the strong endorsement of the existing legislation by the Supreme Court in R. v. Rogers, which was decided in April of this year.

Rogers was primarily a case involving the ex parte nature of retroactive hearings, but Rogers also challenged the constitutionality of the scheme.

It is useful to consider the Supreme Court's detailed reasons upholding the constitutionality of the legislation. I want to quote from this because it is important for our discussions. The Supreme Court stated:

There is no question that DNA evidence has revolutionized the way many crimes are investigated and prosecuted. The use of this new technology has not only led to the successful identification and prosecution of many dangerous criminals, it has served to exonerate many persons who were wrongfully suspected or convicted. The importance of this forensic development to the administration of justice can hardly be overstated. At the same time, the profound implications of government seizure and use of DNA samples on the privacy and security of the person cannot be ignored. A proper balance between these competing interests must be achieved within our constitutional framework.

The court continues to state:

For reasons that follow, I have concluded that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated classes of convicted offenders is reasonable within the meaning of s. 8 of the Charter.

That is the section of the charter dealing with the protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The court continues to state:

Society’s interest in using this powerful new technology to assist law enforcement agencies in the identification of offenders is beyond dispute. The resulting impact on the physical integrity of the targeted offenders is minimal. The potential invasive impact on the right to privacy has carefully been circumscribed by legislative safeguards that restrict the use of the DNA data bank as an identification tool only.

The Supreme Court continues to state:

Unlike the warrant provisions, the DNA data bank provisions do not target suspected offenders in respect of particular offences. Rather, they target offenders who have been convicted of different categories of offences. They do not provide for the gathering of evidence for use in a specific prosecution. Rather, they provide for the collection of samples solely for the purpose of creating DNA profiles for inclusion in the data bank. In any future investigation, a comparison between DNA evidence obtained at a crime scene and the data bank DNA profile will either serve to exonerate or identify a suspect. However, if a crime scene DNA profile matches an existing profile in the data bank, the sample is not released. Usual investigative methods, including DNA warrants, must be resorted to in order to gather evidence in pursuit of the investigation.

The court continues to state:

In my view, in considering the purpose of the DNA data bank provisions, the appropriate analogy is to fingerprinting and other identification measures taken for law enforcement purposes. The purpose of the legislative scheme is expressly set out in s. 3 of the DNA Identification Act, “...to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.”

The court continues to state:

The DNA data bank provisions contained in the DNA Identification Act and the Criminal Code are intended to put modern DNA technology to use in the identification of potential and known offenders. The DNA Identification Act is a modern supplement to the Identification of Criminals Act.

I am sure the committee will undertake a full review of the DNA legislation and it will want to consider carefully the implications of this judgment. I hope all parties on the committee will be able to come to an agreement as to the best way to proceed so as to protect Canadians while continuing to respect their charter and privacy rights.

However, we do not know when the committee will be struck, start its hearings or make its recommendations. I am speaking of the committee that will do the entire review that Parliament mandated a committee to do. We should not wait for this longer and broader process to implement changes that are generally acknowledged to be needed right now.

Therefore, I am pleased to recommend that Bill C-18 be given a second reading and sent to the standing committee for its review.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I see the hon. member across the way is displaying his charm once more.

I also think the hon. member understands clearly that the call for the election and, ultimately, if there is an election caused, it will be the opposition members who will have to take responsibility since they will be voting to dissolve Parliament and we will be voting to sustain Parliament in order to continue the work that I will now lay out.

This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.

On Friday we will call consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, the do not call bill; report stage and third reading of Bill S-36 respecting rough diamonds; report stage and third reading of Bill C-63, respecting the Canada Elections Act; and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation.

We will return to this work on Monday, adding to the list the reference before second reading of Bill C-76, the citizenship and adoption bill; and second reading of Bill C-75, the public health agency legislation.

Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. There are some three dozen bills before the House or in committee on which the House I am sure will want to make progress in the next period of time. They will include the bill introduced yesterday to implement the 2005 tax cuts announced on November 14; Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-67, the surplus legislation; Bill C-61, the marine bill; Bill C-72, the DNA legislation; Bill C-46, the correctional services bill; Bill C-77, the citizenship prohibitions bill; Bill C-60, the copyright legislation; Bill C-73, the Telecom bill; Bill C-60 respecting drug impaired driving; Bill C-19, the competition legislation; Bill C-50 respecting cruelty to animals; Bill C-51, the judges legislation; Bill C-52, the fisheries bill; Bill C-59 respecting Investment Canada; Bills C-64 and C-65 amending the Criminal Code.

In addition, there are the supplementary estimates introduced in October that provide spending authority for a wide variety of services to the Canadian public and we the government would certainly like to see this passed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have turned it off for the member.

We have built up a number of samples in our database that should not have been taken or were mistakenly taken by our police forces across the country, which I suppose is inevitable when introducing new technology. Some of the crimes with which the accused persons were charged did not fall within the scope of the legislation and some crimes were of a more minor nature and the samples should not have been taken. However we have the samples and there is no provision within the legislation, either in 2000 or 2005, to dispose of them.

I have to add that there is a serious problem with our technology as to whether we are actually capable of disposing of those samples without damaging other samples that we are entitled to have within the data bank. It becomes a little complex but it is a problem and I will use it as one of the examples. It is one that we should be addressing when we eventually get around to reviewing the 2000 legislation.

However, to confirm for my friend from Mississauga South, this is very much a technical bill to correct a few errors that were made in the last legislation in the spring. I do not see any charter issues in any of the amendments that are being proposed in Bill C-72.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am comfortable in assuring the member for Mississauga South that Bill C-72, in my opinion, does not raise any charter issues. My reference to the charter issues still outstanding are as a result of the 2000 legislation and some argument with regard to the 2005 legislation that we passed in the spring. I certainly had a couple of concerns about the 2005 legislation and there were several other issues raised. I will give an example of one of the issues that was raised.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important that the House understand the history of our DNA legislation and how it applies as an investigative tool for our police forces across the country.

Approximately five years ago, after quite a long investigation by various parliamentary committees, we finally had legislation with regard to taking DNA samples. The justice committee spent a good deal of time during the spring and fall of 2004 analyzing a new bill, which passed in the spring of 2005. This issue is back before the House because a number of points were missed in that legislation. This may be the Irish in me coming out, but I want to say “I told you so” because we rammed the initial bill through too quickly.

When we went to implement that law, it became apparent that a number of points needed to be corrected. That has now been done in Bill C-72. A good deal of these points concern forms that have to be updated to comply with the new legislation. Most came to the attention of the government as a result of a federal-provincial conference of attorneys general and solicitors general that was held in the late spring. There really is nothing in this bill that would not have been in it in the spring. We are going to support these changes because they are badly needed.

It is hard to say how effective this technology has been without pointing to specific cases. Another case was broken this week concerning a murder that happened about 21 years ago in one of the western provinces. Officials were able to make a positive match as a result of a DNA sample that was made available as a result of the legislation we passed in the spring. The person, who is in custody in Ontario for other crimes, has been charged with that murder because of the DNA evidence. That is being repeated many times.

It is really important that this legislation be in an effective format so that it can be used efficiently by our police forces across the country. For all these reasons, we will be supporting Bill C-72.