By MPP Toby Barrett
Earlier this month, MPPs of all stripes got together to support legislation we could all agree on – strengthening provincial laws to protect people in Ontario from sex offenders.
Bill 163, An Act to amend Christopher’s Law, builds on the good work of the former PC government in 2000 to create Canada’s first sex offender registry.
The registry legislation was originally introduced by Bob Runciman on April 28, 1999, and was titled Christopher’s Law in honour of the of the11-year-old Brampton boy who was brutally murdered by a convicted pedophile out on federal parole. Local police at the time had no formal way of knowing that a dangerous sexual predator was in their community.
The original legislation followed a coroner’s inquest that made 71 recommendations – key among them the call for the establishment of a national sex offender registry which has been done.
The original legislation was designed to require convicted sex offenders residing in Ontario to register their names and addresses with police in their communities and update that information on an annual basis or any time their address changes. Christopher’s Law called for the information to be placed in the sex offender registry and be accessible to local police services who would also have the ability to release the information to the public.
While Christopher’s Law has given the police the ability to track the whereabouts of pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders, and to access information on sex offenders registered in other communities, an Auditor General’s report in 2007 indicated that more needed to be done.
The report held some very serious and very disappointing statistics. Among them: 365 provincial sex offenders who should have been registered were not; 360 federal sex offenders who should have been registered were not; and 364 non-compliant offenders-almost 70% – were in breach of the act in excess of two years.
Under Bill 163 amendments to Christopher’s Law are introduced that align it with the recent changes made to the National Sex Offender Registry.
• requiring offenders who have been convicted of a sex offence outside of Canada and who have been ordered to report to the national registry to also report to the Ontario registry.
• allowing the Ontario registry to maintain the records of registered offenders who receive a pardon under the Criminal Records Act.
Currently, Ontario is the only province with a sex offender registry – other provinces ask for access to the National Registry. Ontario’s Registry is managed by the Ministry’s Sex Offender Registry Unit within the Orillia Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters and has a compliance rate of 97% – one of the highest rates of any sex offender registry in North America.
Over the years, there’s been a great deal of support from victims’ organizations, the police community and the concerned public for Ontario’s sex offender registry. A number of these organizations – CAVEAT for example which is a national anti-violence group – the Police Association of Ontario, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the OPP association have all supported the registry.
This is an extremely important community safety issue for all Ontarians, but especially for women and young children.
We owe it to them, to the communities and to the victims and victims’ families to support this enact a law that will protect our communities and our children from sexual predators.