Bill C-279 (Historical)
An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Mike Wallace Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Not active, as of April 30, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the DNA Identification Act to provide for the establishment of a human remains index and a missing persons index to help law enforcement agencies search for and identify persons reported missing.
- Nov. 22, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
November 19th, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
Sue O'Sullivan Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Mr. Chair, dear committee members, good afternoon.
Thank you for inviting me today to discuss Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament, as it relates to the DNA Identification Act.
I would like to begin by providing you with a very brief overview of my office and its mandate. We were created in 2007. The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims in two main ways: individually and collectively. We help victims individually by speaking with them every day, answering their questions, and addressing their complaints. We help victims collectively by reviewing important issues and making recommendations to the federal government on how to improve its laws, policies, or programs to better support victims of crime.
The proposed amendments to the DNA Identification Act and the attached federal funding would create a national DNA missing persons index. This would supplement the work of the RCMP's National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains by enabling the collection and matching of DNA profiles from missing persons and unidentified remains to other DNA profiles. The creation of a DNA missing persons index is not the final answer, but it does provide another important tool in the tool box for investigators and coroners in locating missing persons or identifying human remains.
Since my appointment, I have had the opportunity to speak with victims and victims groups. They have a sincere and determined hope that the ability to match the DNA of missing persons to that of unidentified human remains would alleviate the suffering that the families of missing persons endure. Not knowing what has happened to a loved one is an overwhelming burden, a burden which is often accompanied by the unrelenting feeling that more could be done to try to locate their loved ones. For this reason, my office has on numerous occasions made recommendations to the Government of Canada that the development of these indices be given a high priority and that jurisdictional issues be resolved on an urgent basis.
Throughout the years, I have seen considerable support for the creation of a national missing persons index from the Canadian public, law enforcement, victims groups, parliamentarians, and various levels of government. ln 2005, the Department of Public Safety released a public consultation paper on the missing persons index. The following year, federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for justice agreed in principle to the concept of a missing persons index and directed an intergovernmental working group to resolve the ongoing concerns.
ln 2007, this committee, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, expressed its support in principle for Bill C-279, an act to amend the DNA Identification Act, and recommended that the government introduce legislation to establish a missing persons index. The government accepted this recommendation, but little progress was achieved over the following two years.
Following a statutory review of the DNA Identification Act, in June 2009 the committee, along with the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, recommended the creation a missing persons index and a victims index. For our part the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime made recommendations in 2009, 2011, and again in 2013, that the development of a missing persons index and an unidentified human remains index be a priority for the Government of Canada. ln addition to strong Parliamentary support for the creation of a missing persons index, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution in 2012 that also urged the federal government to move forward with creation of the indexes.
ln Canada, as we're aware, there is currently no capacity at a national level to compare and match the DNA of existing unidentified remains against the DNA of missing persons or their close relatives. This legislation will add five new indices to the National DNA Data Bank which could be used by provincial and municipal law enforcement agencies to investigate cases involving missing persons and unidentified remains. The capacity to compare the DNA profiles of missing persons to unidentified remains ultimately strengthens law enforcement's investigative capacity by providing a tool for comparison across Canada.
While I am very pleased by the changes in the DNA Identification Act that are proposed in this budget bill, there are important implementation and operational considerations for victims that I would like to highlight.
Once the missing persons index and other indices are created, it will be important to ensure that victims receive clear and consistent information with regard to the following: the purposes of collecting DNA information from a victim or a family member and how it will be stored and used; the retention period of the DNA profiles; the process for withdrawing a voluntary DNA sample from the database; the notification process if a match is found, particularly if a match means a death notification for a family; a point of contact for family members regarding information and updates; and all victims across Canada be provided with the same choices and options with respect to their involvement with these indices.
Most of the contact with victims will likely occur with provincial and municipal law enforcement agencies or contracted RCMP. I therefore encourage the Government of Canada to work with the provinces and territories so that the proper resources are available to ensure that victims have equal access to the indices and understand how they work.
ln conclusion, I fully support the amendments proposed in this bill regarding the creation of a national DNA indices of missing persons and unidentified human remains. Victims deserve to know what has happened to their loved ones. The missing persons index and unidentified human remains index are additional tools that we can use to provide answers to some of those families. It is time to move ahead with its implementation.
I thank you for your time and welcome any questions you may have.
Bill C-377—Income Tax Act
Points of Order
November 28th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.
Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a different point of order. I want to recognize and commend my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley on a very well referenced and articulated point of order. I hope I can only match that. I assure the House I will surpass him on the aspect of brevity.
I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-377, an act to amend the income tax act (requirements for labour organizations). Although my colleagues from the NDP have also risen on this matter, I am not convinced the arguments they put forward have been complete in terms of substance. As such, I want to offer further points on this matter for your consideration, Mr. Speaker.
I submit that Bill C-377's provisions to provide for reporting and public disclosure of certain financial transactions and administrative practices of labour organizations envisages a new function and purpose within the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA. As such, the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation that authorizes CRA's current spending are being altered so that a new and distinct authorization for spending is being permanently created, which will therefore require a royal recommendation.
Past Speakers have ruled that legislation imposing additional functions on bodies funded by public money, if the functions are substantially different from their existing functions, will require a royal recommendation.
I believe that Bill C-377 will require royal recommendation for two reasons. First, the bill creates a new purpose for CRA in terms of a public reporting function that has no obligatory ties to taxation under the Income Tax Act. The bill would follow up on this additional purpose by creating what the CRA characterizes as “a comprehensive system that includes electronic processing, validations, and automatic posting to the CRA Web site”.
The Income Tax Act is concerned with the taxation of individuals, organizations and businesses. Any reporting requirements imposed on individuals and organizations are directly tied to their tax obligation or the exemption of these obligations. For example, charities can only keep their tax exempt status and donors only receive a tax receipt if the charity meets reporting requirements.
The Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for applying and interpreting the Income Tax Act in this regard. The primary goal of the agency, as Canada's tax administrator, is to ensure that taxpayers comply with their tax obligations and that Canada's tax base is protected. I want to stress that again: tax obligation.
Bill C-377 is strictly a function of publicly reporting information on one specific group of individuals, in this case labour organizations and labour trusts, outside of any direct obligations that those organizations or their members must have under the Income Tax Act. Given that it would create an additional purpose and new program requirements that would amend the Income Tax Act and modify the purpose of the CRA, the result is a new expenditure. The bill should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a Speaker's ruling in the other place on February 27, 1991 on pages 2262 through 2264 of the Journals regarding Bill S-18, an act to further the aspirations of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The Speaker found that provisions imposing additional functions on bodies funded by public money, if the functions are substantially different from their existing functions, require royal recommendation.
The member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale and the government will no doubt argue that because labour organizations receive a public benefit, as charities do, they should be required to report as charities do.
The simple rebuttal to this argument is the fact that the reporting requirement for charities is based on a tax obligation. A charity must publicly report information in order to keep the tax exempt status it receives and the preferential tax treatment its donors enjoy. This will simply not be the case with labour organizations under Bill C-377.
To further disprove this counter-argument, I think we need to look no further than the first incarnation of Bill C-377, which was Bill C-317. The bill tied the reporting function of labour organizations to the enjoyment of the tax exempt status offered to them in paragraph (k) of subsection 149(1) of the Income Tax Act. Labour organizations not in compliance with the financial disclosure requirements outlined in Bill C-317 would lose their tax exempt status. Bill C-317 also sought to effect the tax treatment of union members if their union did not comply with its requirements by not allowing union dues to be tax deductible.
In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-317, which was delivered on my birthday of November 4, 2011, and found on pages 2984 to 2986 of the Debates, you said that Bill C-317 had not respected the rules of the Standing Orders because to remove a tax exemption was in effect to raise taxes, which would require a ways and means motion, which the bill did not have.
Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, disallowed that and forced the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale to remove the parts of the bill that tied the reporting requirements to the enjoyment of tax exempt status by labour organizations and tax deductibility of dues by their members. In doing so, there is no longer any direct tie or connection to taxation or benefits received by labour organizations or their members. Labour organizations or trusts who fail to comply with the requirements of Bill C-377 will not lose their tax exempt status and their members will not lose the tax deductibility of their dues.
Bill C-377 solely becomes a simple public reporting function, which is a new function of the Income Tax Act and a new purpose for the CRA in its capacity to administer the act. As such, it should require a royal recommendation.
The second issue I want to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, has to do with how Bill C-377 regulates the internal affairs of unions and their relationships with their members. In essence, this is a de facto labour relations function that is completely new for CRA and duplicates the function of the Canada Industrial Relations Board.
Bill C-377 is modelled on a United States reporting regulation for American unions that falls under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. This act legislates labour relations. It promotes labour union and labour management transparency through reporting and disclosure requirements for labour unions and their officials. This act is administered by the Office of Labor-Management Standards within the United States Department of Labor, not the Internal Revenue Service.
The reporting requirements in Bill C-377 were copied from the reporting requirements of the most detailed and onerous reporting form from the Office of Labor-Management Standards, Form LM-2. Specifically, the bill copies the revisions to the reporting regulations that were introduced on January 21, 2009, by the U.S. Department of Labor and later rescinded on October 13, 2009.
Mr. Speaker, I will provide you with a copy of the final rule for both actions, which was posted on the U.S. Federal Register, so you can see how this legislation is a copy of the U.S. labour relations regulations.
The Disclosure Act of 1959 requires the public disclosure of union financial reports. In fact, the public disclosure is through an online, searchable database known as the electronic labor organization reporting system, the same type of electronic system proposed by the bill.
Bill C-377 is, in effect, a replication of U.S. labor relations law and regulations, specifically the department of labor regulations for the labor-management reporting and disclosure act of 1959.
The Canada Labour Code currently includes a section that deals with union financial transparency and accountability. It requires unions to disclose financial statements to members on request, or to the Industrial Relations Board to enable members to view that information. Part of their function is to regulate labour organizations.
The finance committee received a number of submissions on this bill. One submission was from Le Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec. It included a legal opinion that argued that the bill was concerning labour relations. Although the argument was for an entirely different matter, I believe the substance concerning labour relations was sound, and it would be of assistance to you, Mr. Speaker, in your decision.
The predominant purpose of this bill, as promoted by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, is to increase the transparency and accountability of labour organizations. During second reading, the member stated:
With the passage of the bill, the public would be empowered to gauge the effectiveness, financial integrity and health of any labour union.
The bill's summary states:
This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to require that labour organizations provide financial information to the Minister for public disclosure.
The degree of detailed information this bill requires is far broader in scope than any other requirement on any other entity that is publicly disclosed by the government. This is clearly an attempt to monitor and regulate the activities of labour organizations. This is especially clear when the bill requires the detailed time and expenditures that labour organizations spend on non-labour relations activities, such as political activities and lobbying.
Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a previous Speaker's ruling on October 20, 2006, and found on page 4039 of the Debates regarding Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger) The bill proposed to expand the witness protection program to include persons whose lives were in danger because of acts committed against them by their spouses. The Speaker explained that the bill proposed:
...a protection that does not currently exist under the witness protection program. In doing so, the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function.
As a new function, such an activity is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation. ... New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
The government and the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale may argue that the function proposed by Bill C-377 is the same function the CRA performs with respect to Charities Directorate or other tax exempt organizations. Although it is true that the processes and infrastructure required may be similar, the function and purpose for those processes are very much different.
Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the Speaker's ruling on November 8, 2006, and found on pages 4905 and 4906 of the Debates regarding Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes). I believe the particulars on this issue have a lot of similarities in the case at hand and would deny this counter-argument.
Bill C-279 would have created a new purpose for the DNA Identification Act and established new indices in the DNA data bank, similar in context to the new database that would be created under this bill for unions. The Speaker explained there was an addition of a new purpose to the DNA Identification Act which was to identify missing persons via their DNA profiles. Again, this is similar to Bill C-377 that wishes to impose reporting requirements on another tax exempt organization under section 114 of the Income Tax Act.
In that ruling, the Speaker stated, “Amending legislation that proposes a distinctly new purpose must be accompanied by a further royal recommendation”. The Speaker's ruling on Bill C-279 clearly shows that just because a process, in that case the collecting of the DNA, and the infrastructure needed, meaning a database, are the same as the current function of an act, it is still considered a new function and purpose that gives rise to the requirement of a royal recommendation.
Mr. Speaker, whether you look at the detailed requirements of the bill, its summary, the testimony of government witnesses who spoke about how this would regulate unions or just read the statements made by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, clearly regulating labour relations is the dominant nature of this bill. No such labour relations function exists at the CRA currently. Therefore, this bill would create a new purpose, a new function and/or an activity at CRA that would require a royal recommendation.
Unlike its failed predecessor Bill C-317, the reporting requirements and the public disclosure imposed by Bill C-377 in no way is linked to the imposition or levitation of taxes, levies or tariffs. Instead, this bill seeks to use the powers of the Income Tax Act to solely provide public information that would constitute a new function or activity. In addition, the bill would clearly create a new labour relations function at the CRA that not only does not exist presently but duplicates this function that is already happening at the Canada Industrial Relations Board.
Because this bill would create a new function and purpose at the CRA, I respectfully submit that Bill C-377 should require a royal recommendation.
October 22nd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Minister, you're the Minister of Public Safety and you said that some of the work our committee has undertaken, since this review that you felt should have been done, is trivial and of a partisan nature. I'm wondering which work our committee has dealt with in the last two and one-half years that you would consider trivial. Is it Bill C-3, to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act? Is it our work on contraband tobacco, the witness protection program, the study of security issues concerning the Minister of Foreign Affairs, our taser study, agri-chemicals and agri-retail, arming of the CBSA officers? Is it Bill C-12, regarding emergency management? Is it Bill C-279, DNA identification? I could go on.
It has been significant work that this parliamentary committee has dealt with, none of which has been trivial, all of which may be partisan to some degree. But I would argue that it is unfair for you to assess this committee's work as either trivial or partisan.
Because I know you can run out the clock with that statement I want to ask you: were you aware that our committee was in the final process of finishing our report, and actually we changed our agenda, when you introduced this legislation on June 1 so you would not take advantage of our interest and expertise in this area?
It was not one year away, as you just suggested in your testimony.
DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie
Pursuant to order made earlier today, Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes) is withdrawn.
(Order discharged and bill withdrawn)
DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
Mike Wallace Burlington, ON
Mr. Speaker, throughout the debate on Bill C-279 many significant facts have been stated. There are nearly 100,000 missing persons in Canada every year. Over 6,000 missing person cases are currently unresolved, with an addition of over 450 new cases per year.
There are over 15,000 samples of unidentified DNA recovered from crime scenes across this country currently stored in the RCMP's national DNA data bank here in Ottawa.
As well, there are hundreds of sets of unidentified DNA from Jane and John Does found in morgues across Canada.
Given the need for a DNA data bank and the widespread support from Canadians, law enforcement professionals, the provincial and territorial governments, a DNA database for missing persons housed within the national DNA data bank is on the horizon. Bill C-279 helps make that possible.
The public safety committee recently studied Bill C-279 and referred it back to this House. The committee recognized our need for a national missing persons index, an MPI data bank, as soon as possible, and supported my bill in principle, but recognized that more work needs to be done.
That work is being done and experts will be back in the fall to testify before the committee.
I am happy to tell this House that the Minister of Public Safety himself has expressed interest in looking into this concept as a possible future government bill.
Members from all parties have acknowledged their support and the support in principle from their respective parties.
Canada is the DNA leader. It is known for pushing the technology, how it handles DNA, and how it will handle a DNA data bank. We should support Canada's commitment as a leader in DNA and set a great example for other countries to follow.
I would like to thank Lindsey's mother, Judy Peterson, for inspiring this bill and the Minister of Natural Resources who has worked tirelessly on this issue before I took it over.
Bill C-279 may not exist after today, but the concept will and I will continue to work hard with our government to make this happen. At this time I would seek the withdrawal of my bill, Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act.
Speaker's Ruling--Devils Lake Diversion Project
Request for Emergency Debate
June 13th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie
Earlier today, the hon. member for Winnipeg North requested an emergency debate on the Devils Lake diversion pursuant to Standing Order 52.
The Speaker took the request under advisement and has asked me to inform the House that having considered the request, he has concluded that it meets the requirements of the Standing Order.
Accordingly, to give members an opportunity to prepare for the debate, it will be scheduled for Thursday, June 14, 2007, at the completion of debate on government orders, but in any event no later than 9 p.m. pursuant to special order adopted earlier today.
It being 5:20 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, I now invite the hon. member for Burlington to address the House concerning Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).
Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
April 30th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Mr. Speaker, I will be presenting two reports. First, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, November 22, 2006, the committee has considered Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes), and agreed on Tuesday, April 24, 2007, to report it with amendments.
Second, I also have the honour to present the committee's ninth report, concerning the subject matter of Bill C-279. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.
I would like to read for members two brief excerpts from the ninth report. The first states:
The Committee in principle fully supports the intention underlying Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes), and believes that the necessary steps must be taken, either by amending the DNA Identification Act or by providing for the establishment of a DNA human remains index and a DNA missing persons index, to help law enforcement agencies to search for and identify persons reported missing.
Although we have deleted the clauses in the bill, we fully support the bill.
We conclude by recommending:
--that the Government consider the advisability of bringing in the legislation necessary to establish missing persons indexes after the completion of federal-provincial-territorial discussions on its implementation.
April 26th, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
The Vice-Chair Roy Cullen
Thank you, Mr. Wappel.
That's going to wrap it up. I should point out that Interpol estimates about 5% to 7% of world trade is now counterfeit goods. In fact, I was just in Europe at the Council of Europe, where they are doing a lot of work on this and trying to elevate the importance of it. The studies there are saying it's 7% to 10% of world trade that's now in counterfeit goods.
Nonetheless, I want to thank all the witnesses for coming. Of course, as the name of this committee would suggest, we're focused primarily on public safety and national security, and I note that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is beginning some work, and I think they will delve, I'm sure, looking at their witness list, more into the piracy issues, as they do not affect us directly at public health and safety.
I have a request, Mr. Geist. You had mentioned the RCMP report Project Sham, I think it was called. We didn't hear about that from the RCMP, to my recollection, and I think you accessed it through Access to Information? If you could make a copy of that report available to the committee, we'd much appreciate it. It would be quicker to do it that way.
Thank you again, ladies and gentlemen. We're going to pause now for about two minutes, and then we have to come back in camera to deal with the item on the agenda, Bill C-279. I don't think it should take too long.
Thank you very much.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
April 24th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
The Chair Garry Breitkreuz
We are now going to proceed with the clause-by-clause of Bill C-279, the DNA Identification Act. The bill has five clauses. The normal procedure here is to have a discussion and then vote on each of these.
Do we want to have any discussion before I call for clause 1 to carry?
April 24th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice Canada
I won't go into the financial end of it, because I'm on the legal issues committee and we have no mandate on the finances. I rather suspect that will be an interesting issue when we get further down the road.
Basically, Bill C-240 was in the House and Bill C-279 was in the House, and when we did the consultation, the support was for a national one run by the RCMP. That's what we've been focusing on. If the federal government passed amendments to the DNA Identification Act or a separate missing persons data bank act with these kinds of safeguards and consents, etc., then the provinces would be under no obligation to make use of it. It would just be a service there for them to use if they wished. The higher your fee for service, the less likely they are to take advantage of it, I would imagine.
April 24th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice Canada
I assure you that those are the kinds of issues that we have dealt with.
The question of the person who doesn't want to be identified is one that is an operational issue, if I can put it that way. We always think of this in terms of Judy Peterson's missing child, a young child, and obviously the parents have a major interest. One of the problems is that an awful lot of missing persons reports are of a different nature entirely. Probably the biggest example is Project KARE, which you have heard of, where they gather the DNA from the sex trade workers. They actually wouldn't fit into Bill C-279. The police are not a relative so they have no right to upload it, and that's one of the issues, if it's to be a useful tool for the police, that we have to deal with.
My understanding is that in other jurisdictions that have these the police protocols have.... You find a person three years later who's disappeared at age 16 and you ask, why did you leave? There may be allegations of abuse. There can be all kinds of things that go in a completely different direction. The normal thing is that an adult is not going to be forcefully, if I can put it that way, identified to the person who reported them.
Those are difficult issues that would require police protocols. The operational side was dealing with that more than the legal side. We were aware of that issue.
The one that's probably bothered us the most is the privacy and charter implications surrounding the person. It's been uploaded in a normal way and sometime later it's a case of--I don't know if we can call it this--good news, bad news. We have good news: your child is alive. We have bad news: we think your child is involved as a killer out in Kingston, or something like that. That would be difficult.
The view of--I'll say this--the federal Department of Justice, because some of the provinces are not quite as convinced as we are, is that if the police have obtained information in an appropriate manner, and they would have done this in accordance with the legislation that's provided to them, and if this leads them to something else that they're entitled to follow--if I can use an analogy, the parents show up with a picture of the child, and for whatever reason it's recognized as the picture taken off a closed-circuit camera while a robbery was under way--the police would have, we believe, the right to follow that up. But it's very important that you inform the person who's uploading it and that this be the right person who has some genuine interest in it, that there is this possibility, that it could happen, and you ask, “Do you want us to check the crime scene index or not?” If they say no, you could cut it out.
Ron knows the way these things are operated in other jurisdictions because he deals with them all the time. But I understand that this kind of “fill out the form with which one you want checked” is what's used in other countries.
April 24th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
Karen Sallows Director, Strategic Coordinator, Research and Evaluation Division, Department of Public Safety
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Hello. I am the Director of the Strategic Coordination, Research and Evaluation Division at Public Safety Canada. I am the one in the department in charge of the Missing Persons Index file, the MPI. I appear before you as such.
I would like to introduce two of my colleagues who have been working on this file for several years. There is, first of all, Mr. Ronald Fourney, Director of National Services and Research at Forensic Science and Identification Services in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Mr. Greg Yost, Counsel at the Criminal Law Policy Section in the Department of Justice. We will be pleased to answer your questions on this subject.
However, I would like to start with a presentation outlining the context of the Missing Persons Index initiative and its progress.
Most view a national MPI as creating the capability to allow the DNA profile of a missing person or close biological relative to be compared to the DNA profiles derived from found unidentified human remains from jurisdictions across Canada. Coroners and police in Canada can use many other forensic and investigative tools, including a specialized index on CPIC, the national computer system used by all police. Local authorities sometimes do use DNA technology locally for identification or to assist in missing persons cases, but there is no centralized or standard way for DNA-based comparisons to be made across jurisdictions and no common approach by authorities.
As you may know, the possibility of establishing a missing persons index was raised briefly in 1994 and again in 1996 as part of public consultations related to what is now the DNA Identification Act, for which the Minister of Public Safety is responsible. More recently, Judy Peterson of British Columbia--whose daughter, Lindsey, has been missing for many years--proposed an MPI in response to the 2002 Department of Justice public consultations on the operation of the DNA data bank legislation, and of course there have been previous private members' bills on the subject.
In the fall of 2003, the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for Justice ordered an FPT working group on this Missing Persons Index to be set up. They also asked officials to review issues raised by the establishment of a national index primarily for humanitarian reasons.
I chair the FPT working group on the Missing Persons Index but I am here as a federal public servant. I will provide an overview of the work undertaken by the group over the last several years and sum up the work accomplished and the anticipated timelines. However, since a large amount of information was provided on a confidential basis during the discussions in the working group, I am not in a position to divulge the individual positions of the various jurisdictions at this stage.
The mandate of the FPT working group is to assess matters related to the extent of the Index as well as privacy issues, legal, operational and financial aspects, and to undertake public consultations, to recommend potential models, and to provide support to the ministers and deputy ministers responsible for Justice with regard to setting up an MPI and related decisions.
The public consultation was completed in summer 2005. There were 150 respondents from the general public, police associations, several police services, provincial governments, missing persons organizations, and some bar associations. Detailed results from the consultation are available for the standing committee's examination. But in a nutshell, the results indicated strong support for a national MPI managed by the RCMP.
Also, as part of the consultation process, the FPT working group discussed the issues and challenges the proposal raises with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the national DNA data bank advisory committee, Mr. Gary Lunn, and Mrs. Peterson.
I should note that letters of support from concerned citizens who support the creation of a national MPI are received on an ongoing basis by the Department of Public Safety. This remains an issue that is close to the hearts of many Canadians, especially those who are in the unfortunate situation of knowing someone who is missing.
In November 2005, following the consultation results, FPT ministers confirmed their commitment to develop options. They directed officials to conduct detailed work on the cost, privacy, and legal implications. An overarching principle in developing an MPI model was to do no harm to the existing criminal law regime.
Three subcommittees were formed.
The missing persons definition subcommittee reviewed the resources and police procedures that already exist and focused on what guidelines would be required to ensure the most effective management of missing persons cases when these profiles were included in a national MPI.
The legal, administrative, and privacy issues subcommittee focused its research on analyzing the various legal issues involved in an MPI. These included issues such as the implications of cross-matching the MPI with the national DNA data bank's criminal indexes; informed consent; legislative jurisdiction; legal guarantees relating to analysis, retention, use, and destruction of biological samples and DNA profiles; and so on. Mr. Yost co-chaired that group.
The cost and funding formula subcommittee looked at factors that would affect costs and operations. More specifically, the subcommittee assessed the operational procedures you would need to put in place to provide law enforcement officials with access to a national MPI service. It also looked at how this would work in conjunction with existing procedures. The RCMP and Dr. Fourney have been very helpful with this work.
The FPT working group has been active in addressing and resolving a number of issues, many of which have arisen in the debates on Bill C-279. The discussions have coalesced around a number of elements. A national system operated by the RCMP as part of national police services and established largely by the federal government--this is similar to the national DNA data bank--would have the same advantage of having both high numbers of profiles and geographic impact. Provinces and territories could participate on a voluntary basis. In other words, they would be able to choose to gather DNA samples and upload the profiles according to established common criteria, for example, after exhausting other investigative or identification methods.
A missing person could be broadly defined in any legislation, but participants would use regulations and agreed upon guidelines to allow for local flexibility and best common practices.
The MPI would most likely have three separate indexes containing DNA profiles that could be cross-matched among themselves and potentially with existing criminal DNA indexes. The first of these would be human remains from unidentified human remains. The second would be personal effects of missing persons, voluntarily supplied, but using guidelines and verification practices. Third would be relatives of missing persons, voluntarily supplied, with measures to ensure active and informed consent.
Any advisory or oversight body would need to recognize differentiated federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction and roles.
If coroners identify human remains through a missing persons index, this finding could be used to establish death for provincial and territorial purposes and would deal with related issues, such as inheritance, insurance, and so on.
An assessment would need to be made of corresponding legislative changes respecting provincial and territorial police and coroner legislation that may be needed.
The working group has made significant progress with regard to jurisdictional issues and consent issues. This keys on both the consent given by any individual involved in a missing persons case and the jurisdictional responsibilities exercised by the originating province or territory. Again, almost all missing persons cases originate through a report to police or when found human remains are given into the control of a provincial or territorial coroner.
It is hoped that recommendations can be made for a legal framework for a national MPI that is flexible enough to deal with these important concerns, which have direct relevance to the prospect of cross-matching the MPI indexes with the existing criminal law indexes. Through informed consent, individuals could be able to control cross-checking of their profiles, provided for MPI purposes, with any of the existing criminal indexes in the national DNA data bank. The originating jurisdiction could also determine the degree of cross-matching it would permit.
Let me quickly note that there is other FPT work under way respecting missing women in particular. Established in February 2006, the mandate of the FPT missing women's working group is to consider issues associated with the effective identification, investigation, and prosecution of cases involving serial killers who target persons living a high-risk lifestyle, including but not limited to the sex trade. They are looking at strategies to protect persons who have a high likelihood of being victimized by these predators. The results of the working group will be in the form of recommendations to FPT deputy ministers responsible for justice. We liaise closely with this group where the potential use of DNA arises in discussions.
A word perhaps on the scale of the situation for missing persons in Canada. As I believe you may know, there are currently between 500 and 600 sets of unidentified human remains in Canada. While there are approximately 100,000 missing persons reports made to police each year, most cases are resolved quickly. For example, it is estimated that approximately 95% of missing persons are located, or the case is otherwise resolved, within 30 days. Approximately 6,000 ongoing missing persons cases are recorded on CPIC, and each year about 420 cases of people missing at least one year are added to this number. Therefore, we know there is a need to build a system that can deal with ongoing cases and with the existing historical group of 6,000 cases.
I should note that the indications are that the raw numbers of actual hits or matches from any MPI may be very low, especially in comparison to the number of matches we're getting for the national DNA data bank. As well, experience from the United States indicates the investigative value to law enforcement MPI matches may be somewhat smaller than is often assumed. However, in the humanitarian sense, any match to human remains or any help in advancing an MPI case is of great value to the family concerned and can assist law enforcement officials and coroners who are working with these families.
California is probably the best example in that its population is close to that of Canada. The California missing persons DNA program has resulted in very few cold hits in which unidentified remains were linked directly to a profile uploaded to the central system. The majority of other hits in the California system, which assists in the identification of about 71 unidentified persons, were what is called “warm identifications”, where DNA was used to confirm what was already suspected. Sixteen of the warm identifications were classified as homicides, 30 were unknown undetermined circumstances--many could be homicides--and 24 of the remaining identifications died of natural causes, suicide, vehicle accidents, etc.
In general terms, this endeavour would be similar to building the national DNA data bank. While the science and experience exists already, there are costs for development and implementation and a need to ensure the participation of the provinces and territories in using similar processes and techniques to conduct the DNA analysis and ensure privacy and security is protected. With this in mind, the working group has intensified its work on an operational model in costing and is trying to work toward final cost estimates to be part of the final presentation to FPT ministers.
I can illustrate for you some of the factors that will determine overall costs. Three of the major cost factors are related to the minimum number of days that could elapse after a person has been reported missing before DNA samples are collected and sent for analysis; the scientific process or processes selected to analyze DNA samples; and which forensic laboratory or laboratories to use, whether government run or private labs or a combination of both.
In March 2007, a business process mapping exercise was completed, which has produced a proposed structure and an operational model, identified jurisdictional responsibilities and coordination of operations between agencies, and provided information that will lead to a more precise cost model to assist in determining how to implement and run this initiative. These results in this timeline are consistent with the direction and timelines given to the working group by FPT deputy ministers at their January 2007 meeting in Toronto. The working group plans to present its findings to the FPT associate deputy minister committee on policing issues in Calgary on May 23, 2007, and make a final report to deputy ministers in June 2007 in Yellowknife. These deputy ministers would consider the report and its specific recommendations that would be presented to ministers at their fall 2007 meeting.
Again, while I cannot speak for the views of provincial and territorial partners, I can tell the committee that there has been very good participation, cooperation, and goodwill from jurisdictions throughout the process. There are considerable policy challenges and choices, but again, there is considerable goodwill and momentum.
Thank you. We'd be pleased to answer your questions.
April 24th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
The Chair Garry Breitkreuz
I'd like to call this meeting to order.
This is the 39th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Today we are dealing with Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).
We'd like to welcome our witnesses to the committee. We have Ms. Karen Sallows, the director of research and evaluation and strategic coordinator for the Department of Public Safety; Mr. Ronald Fourney, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Mr. Greg Yost, from the Department of Justice. Welcome to you all.
You are all welcome to make opening remarks.
My information is that Ms. Sallows is prepared to begin. Please go ahead.