An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibiting certain offenders from changing their name)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Randy White  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 6, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 16th, 2001 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I commend the member for putting forth the proposed legislation. I too regret, as he mentioned in his speech, that Bill C-240 is not votable.

It is great to be able to talk about issues in this place called the Parliament of Canada, the place of speaking, the place of words, but the ultimate purpose should be to put our words into action in a practical sense so that our goals as members of parliament representing our constituents are actually met.

Our primary goal with legislation like this is, as has been mentioned over and over again, the protection of children and women. We are talking about the ability of serious criminals to change their name.

The other day we spoke at length about the need for a national registry of sex offenders, those who prey on women and children. The purpose of things like that is very clear. We know we cannot make people good just by passing a law, but we also know that the function of law is to restrain those who are evil. That is why we are here and why motions and bills like this should be votable. We should be able to actually implement ideas that will make our society safe and restrain those who would do very bad things.

I am very concerned that there is almost a passive response to these initiatives on the governing side. I know our current rules of debate will be subject to revision and we need to really seriously ask the question whether we should be even able to have such a debate without bringing it to a vote. The second and the more important issue here is that, with the parliamentary secretary having given a speech that said basically the Liberals do not favour the legislation, it would mean that even if we were able to vote, it would go nowhere because they would tell their people to vote against it and that would be the end of the matter.

We are suffering from a lack of a democratic environment in the House. We are in a situation where we need to change some of these laws.

I would like to address another issue in the bill, the issue of jurisdiction. It has been pointed out that the keeping of vital statistics is a provincial matter, and I believe that is correct. When our children were born in the province of Alberta, we registered their births in Edmonton, not in Ottawa. I should not say they were all born in Edmonton because we also had a daughter born in southern Alberta, in the little town of Brooks. However, their births were registered in Alberta. I personally have a birth certificate from Saskatchewan, the province in which I grew up.

However, the fact of the matter is that we are dealing here with a criminal issue. We are dealing with people who can change their names, move to a different jurisdiction and, consequently, by changing their identity can become an unknown danger to people around them.

The member from the Bloc made a very good point when he said that we ought not to put a wall in front of people who are genuinely rehabilitated, who want to get on with life and who, from this point onward, want to be good, law-abiding citizens.

However, I think we err when we buy into the argument that a person convicted of a crime and having paid the penalty to society, as it is often said, is then off the hook. In our country we often find people only serving two-thirds of their sentence because the government does not enforce the full rule of law.

The fact of the matter is that all of us have obligations. I have never been convicted let alone even charged with a crime and yet I have an obligation. When I walk down the street at night and there are other people sharing the sidewalk, I have the same obligation not to attack them as the person who has served time in jail for having attacked someone.

I submit that our obligation to society does not end when we have fulfilled a sentence for having broken the law. All of us carry an ongoing obligation to society to maintain our surveillance and protection of others around us.

It boggles my mind that there is such resistance to many of the measures that we are trying to implement and promote, which would enhance the safety of Canadian citizens. We should have a number of really good laws like the one being proposed that would improve the safety of Canadians.

We can say that it is too harsh but I do not believe that it is. I do not believe that some of the penalties we are proposing, for example, serving consecutive sentences for crimes that are committed rather than concurrently, are too harsh. If people think that is too harsh, let them simply not break the law. The law will never apply to them, and they will have freedom for life.

Let us say they break the law, violate the safety and violate in some cases the property of other people. In the case of property, there should be restitution. In the case of personal violence against individuals, there should be time penalties and incarceration. There should be no discount for consecutive offences. There should be rules that tell us that if we do certain things there are consequences, and then we should stick to it. I do not see why that is difficult.

I have always said that I personally do not care whether there is capital punishment for murder or not because I am not going to commit murder. Therefore, I do not expect to face a charge which will lead to capital punishment. For people who are contemplating it, hopefully it would restrain them. That would be the overriding purpose.

I have drifted a little from the purpose of the bill, which would disallow offenders from actually changing their names in order to hide behind the cloak of anonymity when they re-entered society. We need to help these people all we can. Knowing that they have committed a crime, I do not think is a hindrance to their rehabilitation. I do not think it is not as useful for them to be able to hide and pretend that they did not commit a wrong, as it is for them to face up to the crime, admit they did it and ask their new neighbours to help them to be strong, to do what is right and to fix their life. It is an ongoing process.

It is like alcoholics. When they go to Alcoholics Anonymous, even though they may not have drunk liquor for a number of years, they still begin their speeches by saying their names and that they are alcoholics. They recognize that there is an ongoing temptation and that it takes great inner strength and the strength of those around them to support the positive changes and not reoffend in that sense.

Yes, it may be difficult for a person who has committed a crime to live with that identity. I am aware of several individuals who have committed crimes of a lesser level. I am their friend and I help them. They are doing fine. We do not shut our eyes and pretend it never happened. We have to realistically admit that it happened and work together toward the goal that will guarantee it will never happen again in that individual's life.

I believe in the whole basis of taking responsibility for what one does. That is the missing link in a lot of what leads to criminal behaviour in our society these days. There are youngsters in school. They could be youngsters who go home, the parents are absent, certain things happen and they are allowed to do whatever they want without being personally held accountable for it. That develops and eventually we have the commission of these crimes. I urge all members to support the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 16th, 2001 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, a happy St. Patrick's Day to you and other members.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-240. This is a bill that brings forward the discretionary powers of a judge to expand upon conditions that can be put in place to protect the public generally. It is a bill that would prohibit certain offenders from changing their names.

The discretionary powers that currently exist in terms of the sentence a judge may mete out, include such things as putting in place prohibitions on the possession of firearms, weapons or explosives, or the use of drugs or alcohol, or prohibiting an offender from associating with known criminals or associating with children. These are obviously protective measures that a judge in his or her wisdom has deemed necessary to continue with the rehabilitative process and, more important, to protect the public.

The purpose with this bill quite clearly is the prevention of an individual who has been convicted of a serious violent offence, whether it be of a sexual nature or violence, from changing his or her name either during or after incarceration so that the public might be informed and there might be an ability to recognize this individual by name. Banning the ability to change name I would suggest does enhance the ability to protect the public, so there is a very rational purpose behind the bill brought forward by the hon. member.

The revelation, or the heightened public awareness, came about quite recently that Karla Homolka might be planning to change her name. This certainly alarmed a lot of people around the country. There was a sense of fear and frustration on the part of many that a person convicted of such a heinous crime could somehow be released and live under an alias. It is very similar to the reason in which persons will often cloak themselves or wear masks to hide their identities.

Although in this notorious case it did not occur, there was an excellent point behind the rationale of the bill. Violent offenders often attempt to change their names and successfully change them while in prison. Although media publicity would make it virtually impossible in the case that I referred to for that individual to go unnoticed, the reality is that there are many violent offenders who are successful in hiding their identities. Then, subsequent to their release, blend into communities.

I realize the importance of rehabilitation and the ability of offenders, having paid their debt to society, to come back and to try to contribute in a productive way. However, there is also this ongoing threat in the case of certain types of offences.

I believe the hon. member would not take any umbrage with possible amendments to the legislation he has proposed. The bill calls for discretion. It is not the be all and end all answer to the problem. It calls for discretion on the part of judges to exercise whether they would impose this ban. It is, as well, enunciated that it is for a scheduled list of offences. A judge would obviously take into consideration certain circumstances as to whether it would be appropriate. This is not to be used in every case.

I understand the argument that once people have served their time that they want to get on with their lives. The greater purpose of public protection sometimes warrants that the knowledge exists that these individuals involved themselves previously with violence or in the worst of cases involving sexual violence with children. I would suspect that those vulnerable persons in our society must take a priority when it comes to protection.

The priority of the Conservative Party has always been with the rights and safety of the public. We sadly acknowledge that there are individuals who continue to pose in some instances a life long threat to children in particular. I am referring to pedophilia where it has been diagnosed in many cases as an affliction that remains with an individual. Sex offenders in particular continue to pose that threat even after release, if there is no follow up or treatment.

The parliamentary secretary gave the House a particularly odious self-congratulatory speech. He droned on about the ongoing dubious accomplishments of the Liberal government. The reality is when it comes to the CPIC system, we were on the verge of collapse just a few short years ago. We heard the re-announcement time and time again of the $115 million that went into the CPIC system.

The Canadian Police Association told Canadians it needed double that amount to make the system really work. It was only a few short years ago that it was described by a member of the police association as being held together with bubble gum and barbed wire. That was a bit of a different slant on things than we heard from the parliamentary secretary. This was coming from an individual more in the know.

The parliamentary secretary also spoke about the communication and the exchange of information between departments. I want to speak very briefly on that. It appears that there is increasing evidence that there is a breakdown sometimes in the communication between departments, whether it be CSIS, the solicitor general's department, Corrections Canada, the RCMP and the parole board. Our RCMP on occasion do not share information with the department of immigration.

There is a very recent example of that. In the Amodeo case, this debacle where an individual wanted by Italian authorities was in Canada, there were communications from the Italian authorities to the RCMP and to the Department of Justice. There were applications under way for extradition. We know that on June 10 the immigration department received an application from the wife of this notorious individual that contained the name of Mr. Amodeo.

For some reason, and the minister has referred to legal documents and one can only assume this means the individuals were separated, it had the name in its possession. Surely someone in the department of immigration must have run a check either on the wife or Mr. Amodeo himself. It would have found the name red flagged on the CPIC system if it was operating properly. The system is also linked to Interpol. There is a question as to whether the CPIC system was working or whether this was a human error.

This communication break down can be very fatal when we are dealing with individuals like Mr. Amodeo who is suspected of involvement in three murders and Mafia connections in Italy.

That demonstrates the fact that this system is not foolproof. It is certainly subject to human frailties if the information is not entered. It also demonstrates that there is a need for protection. The use of that information is extremely important in law enforcement in this country. The bill would enhance the ability of law enforcement communities to use information successfully to protect the public.

There are other examples where the current system has failed us. The refusal of the government to eliminate the statutory release from corrections and conditional release. This allows even the most unco-operative offenders who continue to pose a threat and who have refused rehabilitative efforts, to be placed back in the community.

This often comes after serving less than two-thirds of their time. It is a sad reality that Canada has consistently seen violent criminals being released without proper rehabilitation. It is good proof that systems anywhere are not always perfect, but we have to do everything that we can to try to enhance the law. It is incumbent upon us to examine approaches such as the one put forward by the hon. member.

I have an example that would demonstrate how this would work. A not so notorious killer, or a rapist, or an unrepentant, unrehabilitated offender from Nova Scotia was released upon warrant expiry. He changed his name, moved to British Columbia, received a new driver's licence, new identification and set up a new life for himself, which he was entitled to do. What if that individual then applied to become a Boy Scout troop leader, a Big Brother or a coach?

That type of situation could put a child in serious jeopardy given that individual's past. It could be prevented possibly by the type of system that is envisaged in Bill C-240. There is no guarantee but it would be a step very much in the right direction.

The consequences of lack of knowledge can be tragic and at the very least it is entirely possible that this type of offender, if he committed a crime in British Columbia under a new name, would be given the benefit of extra judicial measures. It is a subterfuge to change the name or mask a person's identity. There needs to be responsibility. The purpose of the bill enunciates the type of crimes for which it would be appropriate.

The bill does not oblige judges to act. It simply allows the courts to make these types of prohibition orders. It may be a prohibition for life or for a short duration. The courts can consider the desirability and applicability of the circumstances. A court now makes prohibition orders on similar circumstances. As well, the penalties are tied into indictable offences. I cautiously support the bill, or a variation thereof, and I congratulate the hon. member for bringing it forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 16th, 2001 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to private member's bill, Bill C-240, respecting the rights of offenders to legally change their names.

The ability to propose measures that are not among the government's priorities is an important element of parliament, one that can from time to time lead to constructive changes that have been hoped for. The government is open to suggestions from those who sincerely believe they are proposing positive and significant changes.

In this case, the sponsor of the bill has brought an idea to the wrong legislative body. The process and the policies that govern legal name changes reside within the mandates of the provincial governments. Each province has an official registrar or equivalent that grants or denies name changes and registers these changes in official records. The federal government does not have jurisdiction in this area.

That said, I think the goals of the bill are of interest to all members of the House. We all would agree that the need to keep track of convicted offenders is an integral part of the public safety equation on which the government stands firm. It is especially a concern if an offender changes his or her name in an attempt to hide from authorities.

It is of course critically important that government and police agencies across the country have the ability to track offenders released from our penal institutions. That cannot be overemphasized, and the government stands firm in its resolve to ensure that is the case. That is precisely why the government has invested in important and useful tools to keep track of offenders.

We need only look at the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, and the national DNA databank as examples. The Canadian government has a national database containing information on all individuals who have been convicted of an indictable offence in Canada. It includes birth names, names chosen later in life, aliases and any other pertinent information with respect to the individual.

That database is called CPIC and it is maintained by our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is available to all police agencies across Canada. I can assure this House that CPIC has been a national success story in law enforcement since it first began operation in 1972. We continue to provide the necessary resources and tools, and it has become the envy of police forces around the world.

Let me tell the House why. CPIC is the primary tool used to identify suspects, to access outstanding warrants and restraining orders, to screen out sex offenders from jobs involving contact with children and to flag files of dangerous offenders. It is a database that serves over 60,000 law enforcement officers in each province and territory and it handles over 100 million queries from 15,000 points of access.

CPIC is linked to over 400 criminal justice agencies in Canada as well as internationally, and the government has committed millions of dollars to upgrade and renew CPIC to ensure it remains a valuable resource, which it is.

The government has also put in place another mechanism to identify some of Canada's most serious and repeat offenders: the national DNA databank. This is a tool that has, in my view and in the view of the government, revolutionized the way police work is done in Canada today. It is already proving to be a very valuable tool with respect to public safety.

The DNA databank is maintained by the RCMP. It contains a crime scene index that includes DNA profiles from unsolved crime scenes as well as a convicted offenders index containing DNA profiles from serious and repeat offenders. It has been in place since last June as a result of the wisdom and foresight of our government. It has already had an unprecedented number of matches between crime scenes and convicted offenders and it is helping police conduct their investigations more effectively and efficiently.

As you can see, Madam Speaker, the national DNA bank is yet another example of how the government is keeping tabs on criminals.

My point, and the reason the government has invested in these tools, is simple. Because of leading edge technology at our disposal, like CPIC and the DNA databank, we effectively keep track of offenders in a number of ways and not only through their names. We also use fingerprints and even their DNA. We do not, I repeat, do not, simply rely on criminals to tell us their proper names. That would be pretty naive.

The reality for criminals in Canada is that they can run but they cannot hide. This is especially important for victims of crime. I can assure you, Madam Speaker, and all members in the House, indeed, all Canadians, that it is the victims who are our first concern.

I have an enormous amount of sympathy for victims. I worked with them when I was chair of the Waterloo Regional Police Service and I can tell members that because victims are involved in our criminal justice system through no fault of their own, we should be there for them. While it is true that many wish to hear nothing further from their perpetrators, there are also countless victims who wish to be kept informed of what happens to offenders once they enter a federal penitentiary. In those cases, then, victims are most certainly brought into the process by Correctional Service Canada as well as the National Parole Board. Each of these agencies has active victim outreach programs which, upon the victim's request, provide information about the location of the offender, upcoming hearings, transfers, conditional release dates and other details.

It is important to realize that the agencies within the criminal justice system also talk to each other. Correctional Service Canada, for example, and the National Parole Board work closely with the RCMP to provide information that is relevant, important and of interest to the CPIC people.

It is the practice of Correctional Service Canada to provide information in each instance where an offender succeeds in formally changing his or her name. What that means is that all authorities who have a key role to play in the administration of an offender's sentence have access to information about the offender which is continually updated with important information the police authorities need to know.

On the other side of the issue are those offenders who make an effort to rehabilitate themselves and who want to put their troubled pasts behind them. These are the offenders who participate in programs that are available to them in the criminal justice system. These are the offenders who participate in mental health programs, literacy programs and educational opportunities. These are the offenders who try to make, and hopefully do make, an honest effort to put their pasts behind them, move on to a new and law abiding life and reintegrate into society.

I speak of the majority of offenders when I mention those people. Upon their return to the community some of these individuals seek anonymity to break the ties with their past so that they can make a fresh start. Regardless, the appropriate authorities still have a record of those people.

It is important to realize that even if offenders succeed in changing their names through a provincial government registry, that information is added to our existing federal government databases. The information is maintained by our national police force and shared with local police services across Canada.

In conclusion, it is my belief and the belief of the government that with the DNA databank, CPIC and the co-operation of the RCMP and municipal and provincial police services across this great country, we already have the tools to ensure these efforts are maintained in a positive way.

I point out again, as I did at the beginning, that it is beyond the jurisdiction of parliament to deal with this issue. For those reasons, then, I do not support Bill C-240 and I ask all hon. members in the House to do the same.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 16th, 2001 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

moved that Bill C-240, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibiting certain offenders from changing their name), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, Bill C-240 would prohibit serious offenders from changing their names, provided of course that they get direction from the courts.

One would wonder why on earth this is a particular issue. It is unfortunate, by the way, that the bill is not votable because I do believe it would pass. I guess the issue of private members' business not being votable and yet being debated is a subject for another day. What the final outcome of that will be, I will never know.

The reason this issue has been raised for several years now, in fact for about eight years, is that I have been working with people throughout the country, starting with a lady by the name of Rosie in Windsor, Ontario, who was assaulted by an individual and left for dead. The individual was put in prison. He promptly changed his name and all his ID. He was released from prison, unbeknownst to her. She was not told anything. He came back to town with a new driver's licence, new ID, new everything, and began once again to stalk her.

I looked at that situation with her and found it to be accurate and true. When I made a bit of noise about it in the House of Commons, a number of letters started to trickle in about similar circumstances. Then lots of letters started to come in, so I did a fairly intensive bit of research and found that it was actually becoming common practice in the country. My findings show that the people who are doing it more often than not are sex offenders.

Next week I will be making a national presentation on all individuals who will be eligible next year for section 745 early release. They are first degree murderers looking for the old faint hope clause. We have done a fair bit of research on it, as we have every other year since the beginning. I find from looking at the first page of the list that two of the four people have applied for name changes in anticipation of moving into our society again.

One of them is Darren Andrew Kelly, a.k.a. Ryan Scott Brady. Anybody who knows about this fellow knows he is one dude who should not be out on our streets, much less have a name change and the opportunity to have his identity hidden while he is out in our subdivisions and communities. He is serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a three year old girl in Sechelt. The girl was abducted from a motel room, molested and then murdered. Kelly is also considered to be the person responsible for the beating death of young Aaron Kaplan of Vancouver. Kelly is believed to have also molested the Kaplan boy before killing him by bludgeoning him about the head and chest with a 40 pound chunk of concrete. He sought the name change while in prison in Saskatchewan.

I sincerely hope that the individual who is no doubt going to speak against this from the Liberal side does not rag on isolated incidents and look for the extreme cases. I can assure the other side that is not the case. I have list upon list of all of these individuals, or many of them. In fact, I could not spend enough time tracking all these people down because there were so many of them. Suffice it to say that some of Canada's worst sex offenders, oftentimes not murderers but serious sex offenders who have done all sorts of things, are on this list.

I want to talk about Robert Gordon Stevens. The logic in this case is absolutely beyond me. Robert Gordon Stevens was a very serious sex offender who abused children. He went to prison. He met a fellow in another prison who was also a serious sex offender and who had changed his name from Willoughby to Oatway. Stevens and Willoughby-Oatway met in another prison and had themselves a little arranged matrimonial ceremony while in prison. Stevens then changed his name to Oatway, which meant that Robert Gordon Stevens became Bobby Gordon Oatway and Willoughby was also named Oatway. Bobby Oatway is the result of this. Bobby left prison and admitted to the public that not only was he a serious sex offender, a well known fact in British Columbia, but also that he was in his crime cycle.

A lot of things happened and he moved back in, but while we were dealing with this issue under the name of Bobby Oatway I had a call from a lady in Quesnel who said she did not think he was Bobby Oatway. She said that she had been one of his victims and his name was Gordon Stevens. We traced it and found out what had happened.

It is far too easy for serious sex offenders to hide in our society as it is, much less to allow serious offenders to change their names while in prison, while in the custody of Canada.

The bill makes provision for the courts to disallow individuals, where the circumstances involve serious crime, from changing their names or hiding their identities for a certain period. That way we can give some assurance to the public that if these offenders are out in public they are at least not disappearing as easily as the present kinds of technicalities allow.

I hope that some day the bill will come to the House of Commons and be voted on, because I find it passing strange in this country and in the House of Commons that the bill would not be passed and that we are having a change of heart on the national sex offender registry as well. The government says yes, it will develop a registry, but then says it already has one, which is not the case.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 6th, 2001 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-240, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibiting certain offenders from changing their name).

Mr. Speaker, once again I am introducing legislation in the House of Commons which would, if adopted, prevent serious offenders from changing their names while incarcerated. It must be a right of Canadians to know who is residing in and around their homes if one of these persons is a convicted killer or serious sex offender.

Currently incarcerated inmates are able to apply for and receive changes of names, changes of drivers' licences and other documents. When on parole or released, they can slip into any neighbourhood while an innocent, unsuspecting public believes all is well. I am personally aware of serious sex offenders who have changed their names and even admitted they were a danger to the public when they were released.

We cannot wait for offenders who have hidden their identity to reoffend and then say we have made mistakes. We have an obligation to protect the public.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)