Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House today on second reading of Bill S-10, an act to amend the National Defence Act, the DNA Identification Act and the criminal code.
The bill follows up on an earlier piece of legislation, the DNA Identification Act, which received royal assent in December 1998. That act provides for the creation of a national DNA databank which will contain DNA profiles of convicted offenders and unsolved crime scenes.
As members of the House will recall, parliament endorsed a post-conviction scheme for the databank because it will ensure that all charter requirements are met. Bill S-10 does not change this important feature or the other key elements of the DNA Identification Act. It does fine-tune the legislation to create a more comprehensive and effective national DNA databank.
Bill S-10 also proposes some practical changes to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the databank. The data bank is scheduled to be up and running by the end of June this year.
We therefore urge hon. members of the House to give Bill S-10 prompt consideration so that we can move quickly to introducing this powerful investigative tool to improve public safety for all Canadians.
I want to share with members how Bill S-10 was developed, how it will work, its benefits and how the bill was improved as a result of its passage through the Senate.
The bill addresses a number of proposals that were recommended by the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs when it reviewed the original databank legislation. At that time the Senate committee proposed ways to better protect privacy interests and promote the databank's operations in an open and accountable manner.
Bill S-10 amends the National Defence Act, the DNA Identification Act to include the national DNA bank profiles from offenders who are subject to the military's code of service discipline and who are convicted of serious and violent offences. This amendment will ensure that we have a more complete databank that is not limited to civilian offenders.
For the purposes of the National Defence Act, a designated offence includes all the current criminal code designated offences as well as those service offences that are similar in nature to the criminal code offences.
Military judges will be authorized to impose databank orders on persons subject to the code of service discipline after they are convicted of a designated offence. The DNA profiles obtained from these offenders will then be entered into the databank's convicted offenders index.
The National Defence Act is also being amended to authorize military judges to issue DNA warrants for military police investigations of designated offences committed within or outside Canada by someone who is subject to the code of service discipline. This will assist military police in conducting more efficient and effective police investigations.
I want to emphasize that the proposed amendments to the National Defence Act mirror the current provisions in the criminal code. They include the same constitutional and privacy safeguards.
To enable parliament to monitor the ongoing operation of the databank, Bill S-10 includes new accountability measures. The RCMP commissioner will have to submit an annual report on the operations of the national DNA databank to the solicitor general. The solicitor general will then report to both Houses of parliament. Through this report, parliament will regularly receive valuable information about the databank's operations and will be able to assess whether it is meeting its intended objectives.
The parliamentary review provision in the DNA Identification Act has also been amended to give a Senate committee the same authority as a House of Commons committee to independently review the act.
The statement of principles in the DNA Identification Act is also being expanded to clarify that bodily samples and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes. Bill S-10 makes it clear that such misuse is prohibited.
To ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the data bank, Bill S-10 also makes some practical changes to the criminal code. These changes were identified during recent consultations with the provinces and territories in planning for implementation of the databank.
Federal and provincial heads of prosecution noted that the current law is unclear as to when a court does not have to make a databank order. Therefore, the criminal code is being clarified. Bill S-10 will require that the only time the court is not required to make a databank order is if the prosecutor advises that the person's DNA profile is already in the data bank.
To deal with offenders who may be transferred out of a province before a databank order can be executed, provincial court judges will be able to endorse an order that was granted in another province.
Two criminal code provisions that have not yet been proclaimed are also being repealed. These provisions would require a peace officer to inform a person specified in a DNA warrant or data bank order that he or she may express a preference on what type of DNA sample to give, and for the peace officer to take that preference into account.
These provisions could cause uncertainty when a person's preference conflicts with a judge's discretion in the the DNA warrant or order. Uncertainty cannot be allowed to enter into this important process. Giving a person a choice on what type of sample to provide is also unnecessary in law.
The criminal code provision allowing a person to consent to the use of his or her existing DNA results for the databank is also being repealed. This is because Canadian forensic labs do not support sending to the databank bodily substances or DNA profiles obtained from the criminal investigations. Re-using an old DNA profile is not feasible because there is no way of verifying whether it actually belongs to the person specified in the databank order.
Bill S-10 contains another important change to the criminal code and the National Defence Act to promote the accuracy and integrity of the national DNA databank. Peace officers, or persons acting under their direction, will be required to take fingerprints at the same time that DNA samples are collected for the databank. This will enable the police to verify the identity of the person specified in the DNA databank order.
By comparing the person's fingerprints with those contained in the RCMP's automated fingerprint identification system, the police will know whether they are taking a sample from the right person. Fingerprints are also useful in verifying the identity of a person when a match occurs in the databank. Not only will this measure enhance the reliability of the databank but it will also protect a person who has the same name as an offender specified in the databank order. To ensure the complete privacy of fingerprints, the bill makes it clear that they may only be taken for databank purposes.
As a result of the improvements proposed in Bill S-10, Canada will have a more complete and effective databank that will better protect the public from repeat violent offenders. The legislation includes practical changes to ensure that the data bank can be successfully implemented and that parliament can oversee its operations over time.
All provinces and territories, the police, victims and the public are looking forward to the databank's timely implementation. It will be an important milestone and a long awaited tool to improve public safety.
I would therefore urge the hon. members of the House to support Bill S-10 so that we may proceed quickly in ensuring that its proposals are passed by the time the databank is implemented.