Evidence of meeting #52 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was information.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Joe Buckle  Director General, Forensic Science and Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Anne-Elizabeth Charland  Officer in Charge, Management Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • David Bird  Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • J. Bowen  Acting Director, Biology Project, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, Ms. Freeman.

Mr. Petit.

February 27th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Good morning to all the witnesses.

My question is for Mr. Bird or Mr. Buckle. I will try to be as precise as possible.

Let's suppose that a 14-year old youth is convicted of murder. The offender will not necessarily be treated as an adult but he'll come under a particular piece of legislation. This young man or woman will have to remain in custody for approximately three years, at the most. I repeat: this youth will not be treated as an adult, but we are talking about a case of murder.

One detail seems to be missing. Perhaps the RCMP counsel, Mr. Bird, could answer me. This difficulty may occur in the other provinces. However, I'm not familiar with the legislation from the other provinces. In Quebec, this measure applies to young offenders under the age of 18 who are convicted of murder, except in cases where the young offenders are sent to an adult institution. I would emphasize this nuance.

I would like to know whether or not, in these circumstances, the DNA for this individual would be sent to you or whether or not the judge could ask that this be done.

10:05 a.m.

Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

David Bird

The answer is yes. Young offenders are treated, for the purposes of DNA data banking orders by courts, exactly as adults are, and they will be subject to the same designated offences if they're found guilty, as opposed to being convicted. You'll see the various language. But a younger person would be eligible for DNA data banking for exactly the same offences as an adult would be, under exactly the same circumstances, and would have his DNA collected in exactly the same way as an adult would.

There's a distinction in how long it can be retained in the National DNA Data Bank, because as soon as their young offender records are required to be destroyed or the youth criminal justice records are archived, then destruction requirements are separated. So they're not kept in the same system for as long as an adult record, which would be kept indefinitely. That's the only distinction.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

My second question may be for Mr. Buckle.

We have DNA banks in Quebec that are not controlled by the RCMP, naturally. They come under the Civil Code and are used to determine paternity. We now have a Superior Court order. We used to do blood tests, but this is no longer done. We now do a DNA test.

The DNA test is always carried out by very specialized companies. They have numerous DNA samples which are used for comparison. These data banks have been around longer than yours and contain more DNA samples that you may have, even here, in Ottawa. In fact, paternity tests have been carried out for many years. Up to 3 000 to 4 000 are done per year.

Do you have any agreements with these laboratories, which are unique, whereby they forward the results of their research? Unless there is an identical system in the other provinces. I am not familiar with common law, which applies in these provinces.

10:10 a.m.

Director General, Forensic Science and Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

A/Commr Joe Buckle

Without validating any of these data banks by my answer, the answer to your question directly is no, we do not have any agreements, nor would we undertake sharing of the data within those types of data banks with the genetic information within the National DNA Data Bank.

Perhaps Mr. Bird would have a comment on the other legalities of the other data banks within the DNA Identification Act.

10:10 a.m.

Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

David Bird

The DNA Identification Act does not prescribe where crime scene profiles will come from. It simply obliges the commissioner to deal with what he receives for entering into the convicted offender index, and as a matter of policy and as a matter of the amendments to Bill C-13, that analysis would need to be done by the commissioner himself or someone he would contract to. However, at this time my understanding is that it is done entirely by RCMP officials, and I understand there's no policy change to permit this information, for the convicted offender index, to be contracted out.

With respect to the crime scene profiles, the problems are really related to policy on the use of the CODIS system to transmit information to the National DNA Data Bank. The labs' use of the CODIS system--this is a combined DNA analysis system that the FBI have developed and allow the world to use--allows for a consistent transfer of information, at least domestically, and that's essentially the system we use for exchanging information with the 27 other countries--I believe--that use the FBI system.

It makes for an easier transfer of information internationally, but that's not the primary purpose of it. It's really to allow the internal domestic data bank to operate effectively from the network of labs in Canada. So you have labs in Quebec and Ontario, separate from the RCMP labs, all using the same system to transmit their profiles to the DNA data bank.

My understanding is that if a private lab were to do this work, it would require, under the CODIS rules, that one of the official provincial labs or the RCMP lab validate the results of the research that was done, but that research would not go the other way. You would not be seeing information in the DNA data bank being sent to private labs for their use.

All the information is sent to the National DNA Data Bank, and once it's there, it's under the restrictions that allow for the communication of profiles. The convicted offender index could not be used to transmit information out, except in the case of a moderate match when there's a discussion between perhaps contractors of the police to determine whether or not they have a convicted offender match, but it would be used only for that purpose.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Petit.

Mr. Murphy.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, witnesses.

I'm going to follow up on some of Mr. Moore's points. Help me understand something, please. If you have over 108,000 samples in the NDDB for the convicted offender index, what proportion of those are from primary designated offence convictions, roughly speaking? Is it the vast majority?

10:15 a.m.

Director General, Forensic Science and Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

A/Commr Joe Buckle

According to our latest data, about 53% of those would be from primary designated offences, and about 46% from secondary designated offences.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

But in either case, I guess there's a concern. Certainly we've been given some information that the way the system works--before the intended law and the intended amendments--at least for primary designated offences, is that there is a 50% rate of insertion into the bank. It's hoped, I guess, that Bill C-18 will cure that by making these mandatory orders.

I respect that. But if you have, between primary and secondary designated offence convictions--there are some 35,000, almost, CSI samples--about 142,000 samples now in the bank, according to your brief, it seems to me, speaking to capacity here, that if this law is changed, we know that there are going to be mandated insertions into the bank, so to speak. So that will increase the volume darn near 200,000 over time. That's not even accurate--forget what I said--but it will increase the insertions into the bank.

There is some history here with respect to a letter from this committee's predecessor to the Auditor General, in May 2005, about backlog. I guess I want some assurance that with the additional $14 million, and the continuing $7 million in funding expected.... There's some concern, as legislators, from a public point of view, as to whether you'll be able to keep up with the demands of this new law.

A follow-up to that would be whether the government has consulted with you with respect to your budgetary needs, and have you given the Department of Justice--keeping the Chinese wall between the RCMP and the Department of Justice—assurance, and vice versa, that the job can be done with that funding?

10:15 a.m.

Director General, Forensic Science and Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

A/Commr Joe Buckle

Mr. Chair, I'd like to separate again, just so I can respond to the question, the convicted offender index and the crime scene index.

We estimated that changes to the legislation would increase the number of submissions to the convicted offender index by about 10,000 samples a year. The data bank was actually built back in 2000 for a much larger capacity than we're presently seeing. And our analysis indicated that within the data bank itself, we could certainly absorb those 10,000 extra samples without seeing any impact or any increase in the amount of time it would take to do the samples or any increase in the turnaround time. In other words, the data bank has sufficient capacity to handle the convicted offender samples.

The concern we had was with the crime scene index samples. Our conservative estimate is that the legislation will increase the potential sample intake by about 42%. We've built a business case, which we have presented to our colleagues in Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, PSEPC, that outlines our estimated needs of about $15 million for the first year, with an ongoing $7 million for the other years. That would take care of the sample increase coming in as a result of Bill C-18.

We recognize that there is a capacity gap that exists right now. I've discussed this with my colleagues within the RCMP, and the senior executive committee of the RCMP will release funding to Forensic Laboratory Services on April 1 this year so we can bridge that capacity gap in anticipation of further samples coming in because of Bill C-18.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I'm relatively new here, but the point is that there have been concerns. There's a letter—and maybe it was just politics, I don't know—about a backlog in 2005. So before there's going to be increased traffic to your facility, can you assure me, as a new person, that the issue, or the phantom of the backlog, has been completely addressed and settled, and can we assure the Canadian public that there's no backlog in DNA testing?

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Forensic Science and Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

A/Commr Joe Buckle

Our estimate of what the impact of Bill C-18 will be on the labs is exactly that. It's an estimate based on past conviction rates. We feel that our estimate was fairly robust; however, it doesn't anticipate potential changes in municipal priorities or provincial priorities, or even a shift in federal priorities that could increase the types of cases we see coming in. For example, if Calgary PD decided they wanted to make break and enter a priority and they were going to try to resolve those crimes, we would likely see a spike in those types of cases coming in that we hadn't anticipated up front.

With regard to the idea of a backlog impacting the system, I explained previously that I think we will always have a capacity issue, because since 1989 when we introduced DNA we have seen steady increases all the time for demand for that particular technology. I believe it's prudent for us to ensure that the resources that we are spending on it are expended in the most efficient and effective manner possible. That's ensuring that we address the most serious cases first. Our goal is to ensure that we respond to the police in the most timely fashion possible on those serious cases.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I want to know if there's a backlog now. It seemed to me a relatively simple question.

But thank you anyway.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

So what you're saying is that it's an ongoing pressure on the system to expand, Mr. Buckle?