Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure today of speaking in favour of Bill C-18 and in favour of sending Bill C-18 to the committee for further study.
The National DNA Data Bank is a great Canadian success story. It has assisted the police in their investigations of thousands of serious crimes. It is making an invaluable contribution to the safety of all Canadians. This bill can only increase that success.
Much of what I will say will be familiar to those who were involved in the debate on former bill C-13 in the last Parliament, and in particular, to members who were on the standing committee during its hearings into the bill because, as the minister stated, this bill paves the way for the proclamation of former Bill C-13. Nevertheless, it is important to outline for all members the way the legislation and the DNA system work.
The National DNA Data Bank carries out four principal functions and assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes by one, linking crimes together where there are no suspects. The DNA data bank would advise the police forces involved so that they can compare notes on their respective investigations.
Two, it helps to identify suspects. When the DNA data bank provides a match between a crime scene profile and a convicted offender profile, the police agency is advised and it can focus its investigations on that identified offender.
Three, it assists by in fact eliminating suspects where there is no match between crime scene DNA and a profile in the data bank. This is often overlooked in debate about the DNA registry or amendments to the legislation impacting on the DNA registry, but a DNA registry has been used to eliminate suspects and in fact exonerate people. A lack of a match tells the police that none of the 100,000 convicted offenders whose DNA is in the data bank was involved.
Last, the DNA data bank is used to determine whether a serial offender is involved. The DNA bank would advise the police force that several crimes appear to have been committed by the same person. This is a very important fact indeed when police are assessing a certain criminal act as it is certainly helpful in their investigation to know whether it is someone who is acting in a repetitive or serial way.
As David Griffin, an executive officer of the Canadian Police Association, told the standing committee during hearings on former Bill C-13:
DNA analysis has proven to be a breakthrough technology in policing and the administration of justice. It is a science that assists in detecting and convicting offenders and acquitting the innocent. In serious police investigations, the cost savings in reducing the time spent on investigations and in identifying and confirming or eliminating suspects can be extraordinary. This is particularly important in crimes such as child abductions by strangers, where precious hours can be critical to finding the victim alive.
DNA orders can only be made against an offender for a limited number of offences. Judges retain a discretion to refuse to make an order in all but the most serious cases. The use of the information is strictly limited to the investigation of criminal offences. That again is an important fact that is often overlooked by those who would criticize the national DNA data bank, that it is only used for the investigation of criminal offences.
Bill C-18 does not change the fundamentals of the Criminal Code DNA provisions and the DNA Identification Act. The five year parliamentary review that is yet to begin is the proper form for considering more far-reaching changes. This bill is limited to technical improvements to the existing system.
The minister has already spoken of the ringing endorsement of the present legislation by the Supreme Court in the Rodgers case. Members can be assured that this bill is consistent with the charter. Moreover, the strong protections for privacy which are built into the scheme are also unchanged.
Canada has probably the strongest protections against the misuse of our DNA profiles, stronger in fact than any other country. In particular, the legislation provides that bodily samples collected pursuant to a DNA data bank authorization for inclusion in the National DNA Data Bank may only be used for forensic DNA analysis. Unused portions of bodily samples are required to be safely stored at the National DNA Data Bank.
Further, it is a criminal offence to use bodily samples or results of forensic DNA analysis obtained under a DNA data bank authorization other than for the transmission to the National DNA Data Bank. A breach of that provision is a hybrid offence that is subject to a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment when prosecuted by indictment.
Use of DNA profiles and bodily samples at the National DNA Data Bank is strictly limited to the narrow purposes of comparing offender profiles with crime scene profiles. Any use of stored information or bodily samples or communication of information that they may contain is strictly limited to the narrow identification purposes of the act. Again, this is something that is often lost on those who are critical of the data bank. In fact, any breach of those provisions is a criminal offence subject to a maximum of two years' imprisonment.
Communication of information as to whether a person's DNA profile is contained in the offenders index may only be made to appropriate law enforcement agencies or laboratories for investigative purposes or to authorized users of the RCMP automated conviction records retrieval system.
Although the seized bodily samples are retained for safekeeping in the DNA data bank after analysis, they may only be used for further forensic DNA analysis where significant technological advances have been made since the time the original DNA profile was derived. The results of such subsequent DNA analysis and any residue of the bodily sample are subject to the same rigid controls as the original profile and the original sample.
The sharing of DNA profiles with foreign governments and international organizations is only allowed for legitimate law enforcement purposes and only pursuant to specific agreements that must include safeguards to protect the privacy of the personal information disclosed.
I repeat that these legal protections are untouched by Bill C-18. All of those protections that protect the rights of Canadians against any possible misuse of the DNA data bank or any use outside of aiding our police in the protection of Canadians and society as a whole is unchanged and untouched by Bill C-18. In practice, they are buttressed by the procedural safeguards developed by the National DNA Data Bank.
By international agreement the DNA analysis process used by the data bank and other data banks in the world examines only a small segment of the entire human DNA blueprint. Scientists internationally have chosen 13 loci to analyze because there is a wide variation in those among the world's population. The DNA that is analyzed is often called anonymous DNA because apart from the ability to identify gender, there is no link to physical or medical attributes. Therefore, the profile generated by the DNA data bank will not reveal a person's hair, skin or eye colour.
The variations mean that except for identical twins, every person's DNA is unique. It is this power to identify a person beyond a shadow of a doubt that makes the DNA data bank and data collection such a valuable tool for law enforcement. It can identify an individual beyond a doubt.
The RCMP has developed internal procedures to ensure that there is no manipulation of the data. Upon receipt of a kit, the data bank separates the genetic material from the personal data. The biological sample and the identifying information are given the same unique bar code. The data bank keeps the biological sample and analyzes it. The personal information and full set of fingerprints of convicted offenders are sent to the Canadian Criminal Records Information Services, which retains them under strict security provisions. Therefore, the data bank has no idea whose sample it is analyzing or, in the case of a match, which convicted offender is linked to the crime scene.
It is important to emphasize that we have gone to great lengths to separate the information contained in the DNA sample and the information attributed to the person to whom that DNA belongs. It simply advises Canadian Criminal Records Information Services of the bar code and the service retrieves the identifying information and sends it to the laboratory that uploaded the profile to the crime scene index. It is of course not possible for unauthorized persons to enter the data bank or the Criminal Records Information Services to view or retrieve data.
The National DNA Data Bank's website has a wealth of information about how it actually operates and about the history and science behind it. I also hope that the members of the standing committee who have not had the opportunity to tour the National DNA Data Bank will arrange to do so. I know the staff would be most happy to show them how the system works and to answer all their questions. Certainly a tour of the data bank made it much easier for members who were considering former Bill C-13 to understand the submissions of the witnesses and to formulate their recommendations for amendments.
Finally, I remind the House that a National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee has been established by regulation. Its membership includes eminent scientists, specialists in privacy and human rights law, and a former justice of the Supreme Court. The committee's duties encompass any matter related to the establishment and operation of the DNA data bank.
Members will find much wisdom in the reports that the advisory committee has made over the years. Members of the advisory committee will, I trust, be witnesses when the parliamentary review of the legislation gets under way.
I now wish to turn to some of the specifics of Bill C-18. Fundamentally, the effectiveness of the National DNA Data Bank depends on three factors: one, the number of profiles from crime scenes; two, the number of profiles from convicted offenders; and three, the resources of the police to pursue leads generated by the data bank.
Upon passage of Bill C-18 and the proclamation of former Bill C-13, there will be many more offenders eligible for a DNA data bank order and the police will be able to upload many more crime scene profiles to the National DNA Data Bank. This will undoubtedly lead to more matches between crime scene samples and the convicted offender samples and more matches between crime scenes. That is ultimately the goal of the DNA data bank, to provide those matches.
As for the resources of the police, we earmarked $15 million over two years to increase the capacity of the National DNA Data Bank to process convicted offender samples and the capacity of the regional laboratories to process crime scene samples. Without these additional resources and without the changes proposed in Bill C-18, the proclamation of former Bill C-13 would be largely ineffective in achieving Parliament's purpose.
Former Bill C-13, however, contained flaws that required correction. The previous government introduced former Bill C-72 to correct problems in Bill C-13. That bill would have one, re-enacted the definition so as to make the various amendments fit together in a logical order; two, changed the forms to reflect the changes made in the procedures for obtaining an order in retroactive proceedings; three, ensured that the commissioner provided further information regarding a possible match only at the request of the laboratory or police; and finally, corrected a difference in the French and English versions of the section authorized in the international sharing of DNA profiles.
Former Bill C-72 contained many other changes to the drafting of Bill C-13 and two procedural changes requested by the provinces to reduce cost: a provision to permit retroactive hearings by video; and a simpler defective order procedure that would have eliminated the application to a court of appeal for the order to be quashed and substituted certification by the attorney general. These changes are reintroduced in Bill C-18 which is before us today. It contains, as the minister has said, many further clarifications and improvements that have been suggested by officials since former Bill C-72 was tabled.
Members should be aware that it will take several months for the provinces to be ready. They have to train their prosecutors, police, court administrators and clerical staff in the new procedures. Understandably, they will not begin that process until the bill has received royal assent.
We believe the House should move swiftly to send Bill C-18 to committee and it is therefore with pleasure that I urge the House to give Bill C-18 second reading.