Evidence of meeting #21 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 2nd 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

  • Kate Lines  Chief Superintendent, Ontario Provincial Police
  • David Truax  Superintendent, Ontario Provincial Police
  • Jim Mascola  Sergeant, Ontario Provincial Police

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

I'd like to bring this meeting to order. This is the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, meeting number 21. We're continuing with our study of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. It's a statutory review.

We'd like to welcome Chief Superintendent Kate Lines from the Ontario Provincial Police. I'd also like to recognize that we have invited the RCMP to be here, and Inspector Pierre Nezan is with us today. We welcome you, sir. With you is Stéphanie Gauthier, and I believe she's in charge of the registry, or the database. So we welcome you as observers this morning.

We'll ask Ms. Lines to introduce the rest of her staff and begin the presentation. Welcome, and you may begin at any time.

9:20 a.m.

C/Supt Kate Lines Chief Superintendent, Ontario Provincial Police

Thank you very much. It's my pleasure to be with you again today. I last appeared here with Superintendent Dave Truax, also from the Ontario Provincial Police, on April 21. Also with us today is an officer with the Ontario sex offender registry, Sergeant Jim Mascola, who has the presentation here. Can I go ahead and start?

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Yes, go ahead, please.

9:20 a.m.

Chief Superintendent, Ontario Provincial Police

C/Supt Kate Lines

I know that Jim and Anna Stephenson, the parents of Christopher Stephenson, whom our legislation in Ontario is named after, appeared before committee a few days after we did. This is the bill that was proclaimed on April 21, 2001.

Some of our findings were cited in some research that came from the U.S. back in 2002. They demonstrate how important it is for the police to have information about registered sex offenders in a particular area and why delays in getting this information are so dangerous. We know that 44% of these children are murdered within the first hour. Holly Jones was murdered on May 12, 2003, six years ago today. We know from information coming out of the investigation that Holly was killed within the first hour, probably 20 minutes or so after she was abducted. We also know that 74% are murdered within three hours and that 91% are murdered within 24 hours. We know from statements made from Joseph Fredericks, the killer of Christopher Stephenson, that Christopher died within the first 24 hours after he was abducted.

I can't emphasize strongly enough how crucial it is that this information be utilized. That is, the sex offender registry information should be utilized for law enforcement purposes other than those of a sexual nature. One of the reasons is that, particularly for abducted children, we don't always know in those first early hours what the motivation is. It could have a sexual purpose or it could have a ransom purpose. We're not always sure.

At this point, I'm going to turn it over to Superintendent Truax.

9:20 a.m.

Supt David Truax Superintendent, Ontario Provincial Police

Good morning, everyone.

Here is who must report: any offender convicted in Canada of a criteria sex offence who resides in Ontario or moves to the province; any offender found not criminally responsible for a criteria sex offence by reason of mental disorder and given an absolute or conditional discharge; any person given a form 52 under the national sex offender registry legislation who resides in Ontario.

What are the criteria offences? You have a list before you and I want to point out, under section 162 of the Criminal Code, the offence called voyeurism. I want to talk about the case of Paul Bernardo. After committing several murders, he also committed voyeurism while continuing to commit murder. That is why we included the offence of voyeurism in the province of Ontario.

I do not want to discuss in detail what is on the next page, because we are pressed for time.

The last sheet that I want to mention deals with criteria offences. You have a list of them before you.

I believe we now have our technology supporting us, so we will be able to continue this presentation with the use of the PowerPoint slides.

Go ahead, Jim.

9:25 a.m.

Sgt Jim Mascola Sergeant, Ontario Provincial Police

The Ontario sex offender registry is located within OPP headquarters in Orillia. The registry is designed to contain the names, dates of birth, and addresses of the offenders, and the offences that the offender is responsible for, plus any information that's prescribed under the provincial legislation.

Just before I go on, we do have a training site within the Ontario sex offender registry, and it's a mirror image of the actual site. The information that's on the training site does not have information about offenders, so the information you will see will not divulge any offender information.

When a police officer logs on to the sex offender registry, they receive training, and they have Entrust PKI capabilities in order to get on. They are also given training to ensure that they know how to use the system properly.

When any police service within the province of Ontario signs on, they can see how many non-compliant offenders are in their area; it automatically pops up on their screen. They can highlight that area to determine who those non-compliant offenders are so they can start an investigation with those offenders.

This is the very first search screen that we have on the sex offender registry. Every one of those areas is searchable. Under the last name, if a person has an alias or they're known under another name, we can search that as well because that information is also on the registry. Every one of those blue boxes is searchable by the officer who goes onto the system.

We're using the fictitious name “Zoolander” on the training site here. We've put that name in to search the database, and the following information has come up. Every person who has ever used the name Zoolander and is registered--or not even registered--on the database, or whose information is on the database, will pop up. You notice in the very first one there's his picture, his ID number, his address, his name, his date of birth. So if that's the person you're looking for, you can go to the “select” button, hit it, and the following slides will show what comes up.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

On a point of order, should we be in camera?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

No. He just said these are not real; they're fictitious.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Sorry, I missed that.

9:25 a.m.

Sergeant, Ontario Provincial Police

Sgt Jim Mascola

This is fictitious information. Actually, that's a picture of me on the registry. My mom's proud.

9:25 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:25 a.m.

Sergeant, Ontario Provincial Police

Sgt Jim Mascola

On the very first page of the registry, all of that offender's information will pop up on the screen, as will as a detailed map indicating where that offender lives, along with his picture and all the information.

The next couple of slides will show you what is contained in that offender's database. It has his name history. It has his status as to whether he's required to register or is non-compliant. It has an address history, which is also very important, because when officers are investigating crimes that have taken place a long time ago, they can query those addresses to determine whether or not an offender lived in that area. There is a phone history. There's a verification history, which is the responsibility of the police service that's responsible for that offender. The verification history is put in there to determine whether that offender's address and his particulars were verified by a police service.

In the next slide, his actual physical description is shown. Every one of those physical descriptors, as we'll see in slides later on, can be queried. If he's clean shaven, or has a bald spot, or even scars, marks, and tattoos, all of that information is put into the database, as well as his case history. The case history includes the agency that charged him, what the start date was, and a brief case scenario, which is very similar to the ViCLAS jargon that's used when they put out that information on the offence committed by the offender. Every word in that case narrative can be queried as well--you'll be able to see that in some slides--as can his conviction history.

These are some of the investigative benefits of the Ontario sex offender registry: it's a specific offender database for criteria sex offences; it allows the police and the offender to have a relationship, because the police are required by law to go to that offender's house to ensure that he lives there; it provides a reliable current address; and the police services in Ontario have 24/7 access to the database.

The police are accountable for the offenders in their area. There's no public notification, but there are provisions for notification to the public if the safety of the public is at risk.

As for proactive notification to the offender, this is done on three occasions. The police are required to serve that offender at the time of charge, because what happens is that the offender doesn't know that he is required to go on the registry when he has been convicted of one of those criteria offences. That's an issue after court. Once he's convicted, he's served. Then, if he goes into the institution, we at the OSOR also serve him.

We do have proactive software to identify non-compliance. Again, that's with the OSOR only, because we can determine when that person was released from jail or when that person was required to register. We do have an electronic connection between the provincial and the federal OMS, which gives us the release dates of offenders on the database, and that's crucial to determine non-compliance.

As for some of the other capabilities, we can do jurisdictional offender searches, provincial offender searches, radius searches, which we'll see in a second, and postal code searches. Through the inquiry builder, which is very good for the police services, if they have a description of an offender, they can search all those descriptors. We'll see that in a second.

We can also do text searches. Also, there are photographs, which is very important. We keep all the historical photographs, plus the current ones. Again, we're available 24/7. The OPP headquarters is also the NSOR centre for Ontario. We can do vehicle searches and we can do tattoo searches.

Under the inquiry builder, there are 196 different choices that the police services can choose from in order to try to track or identify a possible person of interest for a sex offence. This slide shows an example of an inquiry builder. This inquiry builder put in age, build, weight, hair colour, tattoo class, and eye colour; we can do right eye colour or left eye colour if they're different. What happens is that after you search it, the following people show up. There are five offenders there, all with their photographs and all matching that description.

The difference with the next slide is that we've taken out the tattoo; we're in the same query and we have 43 offenders. So it's very easy to narrow down your offenders with more information that the witnesses or the victim can provide to the police.

This is a key function of the OSOR. It's our radius search. The radius search we're doing here is 77 Memorial Avenue. That is a radius search of GHQ headquarters in Orillia. Again, it's fictitious. Once you put that information into the system and put a radius of 5,000 metres--which is five kilometres--a map pops up and identifies the address you want to run that from. For example, if you have a sexual assault at that location and you want to identify who your offenders are within that geographical area, you identify it on the map; it pops up on the map and you pinpoint it, You can identify the current addresses or you can identify all the offenders who ever lived in that jurisdiction. What happens is that the offenders show up; it gives you the offenders' addresses, their photographs, a detailed map of exactly where they live in relation to that offence location, as well as how far that offence location is. And that's very important.

This one depicts an area within the province in which we selected an area of a possible offence location. This shows what the potential is for a number of offenders showing up close to that area. If you don't have that information, it's very difficult to try to identify someone as a point of interest, because every one of those red marks is an offender.

We also have vehicle searches. This is new legislation that allows us to put in vehicles that are associated with offenders, not only owned or leased, but commonly used. That means their work vehicle if they're a cab driver or a truck driver. We can put that information in there. As well, we can describe what that vehicle is like. What happens is a victim will commonly say, for example, that the person was driving a blue van. We weren't able to get that information prior to the last legislation. Now we can go in and run a search of all blue vans and they'll pop up on the system.

Again, we're going to discuss quickly the extensive descriptor searches. Here's an example of a possible descriptor search of a suspect and a location. Every one of those will be run on the system and identify an offender.

We talked about photographs earlier. The next set of photographs is of a guy from our office in 1974, 1984, and 2004. But we do have photographs of offenders on there from year to year to year, and you wouldn't believe the change in them. Some people get a tattoo on their face, or grow a moustache or shave their head, and it's very important to have those historical photographs. This is an example of it.

Tech searches. Commonly, a victim will tell the police that she doesn't know any information about the suspect, but she may have information about how the suspect perpetrated his crime. By that I mean she or he may have been sexually assaulted at a residence and not know where it is, but the offender used a pillow during his assault, or used a knife. We can go onto the case narrative here, run the word “pillow“ in this case, and every offender who's ever used a pillow in the province of Ontario, or outside of Ontario and lives in Ontario, will pop up on the system. In this case, because it's fictitious, two people pop up. The next slide will show that in this case narrative, the word “pillow” pops up.

Currently, the OSOR monitors move-in and move-out dates of offenders' residences. This is very important, because that triggers non-compliance. We manage when the information is verified and by whom, so the police services are responsible for verifying the information.

Another important aspect is that all persons on the Ontario sex offender registry are also on CPIC in the SIP category, which is “special interest to police”. If a police officer on the road stops that person, they can identify a potential address where that person may have moved and provide that information to the OSOR.

Currently, we have 2,500 users on the system who access that system daily.

This is just showing if we wanted to find out how many females were on the system. There are 95 females on the OSOR.

In our last slide prior to some questions, as of May 2009, since the inception of SOIRA in December 2004, 5,169 offenders have been convicted of criteria offences in Ontario. Of that 5,169, only 3,007 have been issued form 52 under the national scheme and were required to register with the national registry. This equates to 58.17% of convicted sex offenders required to register on the national registry. All of these convicted offenders are on the OSOR.

Barring that, if there are any questions....

9:35 a.m.

Chief Superintendent, Ontario Provincial Police

C/Supt Kate Lines

Perhaps I could add some closing comments, now that I've finished advancing the slides.

You may recall that when I was here on April 21, I was able to give you some very current, as of that morning, statistics for the sex offender registry. On April 21 there were 11,963 registered. As of this morning, there are 12,027. On April 21, 278 of these offenders were non-compliant. As of this morning, of those who are in the sex offender registry within the province of Ontario, 251 are non-compliant.

I'm happy to say that our compliance rate as of April 21 was 96.84%. This morning it is 97.16%.

I just wanted to close with that statistical update.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

We thank you very much. We'll go immediately to our questions and comments. We're going to run over time, and I hope that's okay with the witnesses. Hopefully the business that we have afterwards we'll be able to complete in a shorter length of time.

Mr. Holland, for seven minutes, please.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you so much, witnesses, for appearing before committee today. I appreciate your intervention.

One of the issues we've been wrestling with—certainly it has come up again and again to committee—is the issue of automatically registering sex offenders. Certainly, the point has been made, and made clearly, for the importance of having a list that covers all the right people and that you don't have people who should be on the list not getting on it.

Some people have expressed the concern that judicial discretion has allowed a number--you showed the statistics there--to not appear on the list. That creates holes. Conversely, we've had individuals express privacy concerns. There are instances where judicial discretion might be required. I'm wondering what your feeling is about the efficacy of automatic registration. Are there instances where it might not be appropriate for people to be on that list and yet they are getting on that list because there isn't the opportunity for judicial discretion, in your opinion?

Secondly, maybe with particular relation to an offence like voyeurism, which I can absolutely see as being a very serious offence that requires somebody being put on the list, can you also see a lesser offence of voyeurism where that may not be appropriate? How does that line get drawn without judicial discretion?