Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has deceived the Canadian public. In regard to the 45,000 Canadian families currently on the sex offender registries, Mr. Harper disregards all empirical evidence and intentionally misleads the Canadian public in order to achieve his political ambitions.
Harper's actions has resulted in (A) legislation which is intended to deceive the public into believing that society will be safer but which will likely make our families even less safe; (B) the harassment, discrimination and, imposition of additional punishments upon, a small group of now law-abiding Canadian citizens and, finally, (C) the personal achievement of a politician to appear 'tough on crime' and having had 'protected families' while having done nothing to positively impact either.
Take fifteen minutes, review what is on this single page, and learn the truth about our Prime Minister, and his ineffective and potentially dangerous legislation.
SEX OFFENDER REGISTRIES- THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE:
The first sex offender registry was created in 1947 in California. Today, every state has such a registry. As of 2012 there were three-quarters of a million registered sex offenders in the U.S. This is a 23 percent increase over the previous five Years. The American authorities have started to realize is that here is little available research proving that sex offender registries are successful in curbing recidivism or making any real difference in public safety. A 2011 study in the Journal of Law and Economics observed that states which require registry of sex offenders had slightly higher rates of recidivism among sex offenders and no lower rates of sex crime. On average, sex offender registry laws may increase the overall number of sex crimes by preventing the reintegration of sex offenders into society. Indeed, former offenders have been subject to vigilantism- including murder, assault and harassment, loss of employment, housing and relationships. The registration process has also affected the families of these offenders:
Sex offender registries also impose unintended harms on the children of sex offenders (who, of course, have committed no crime at all). A 2009 study in the American Journal of Criminal Justice noted that the children of registered sex offenders suffered from pervasive stigmatization due to their parent’s sex offender status; the harassment, ridicule, and isolation these children received from their peers due to their parent’s status resulted in them having elevated rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Hence, the existence of publicly available sex offender registries—created pretty much for the sake of protecting children—is actually harming thousands of innocent kids by punishing them for acts they had nothing to do with
States also must face mounting financial costs from these registries. The sheer numbers of sex offenders on the registries in all 50 states are overwhelming to local police departments and, at times, to the public, who may not easily distinguish between those who must register because they have repeatedly raped children and those convicted of nonviolent or less serious crimes, like exposing themselves in public.
Keeping track, for instance, of the home addresses of the 80 offenders who live in Dubuque County, Iowa, keeps law enforcement officers there “plenty busy most every day,” a sheriff’s official there says.
The Economist writes that, "a study by Kristen Zgoba of the New Jersey Department of Corrections found that the state's system for registering sex offenders and warning their neighbours cost millions of dollars and had no discernible effect on the number of sex crimes." ttp://www.economist.com/node/14165460
Sex offender registries then, do not serve the goal of protecting society and cause more harm than good. This is one of the most important conclusions of sex offender research over the past decade. It is an argument heard again and again:
Despite the fact that the federal and many state governments have enacted registration
and community notification laws as a means to better protect communities
from sexual offending, limited empirical research has been conducted to examine
the impact of such legislation on public safety. Therefore, utilizing time-series
analyses, this study examined differences in sexual offense arrest rates before and
after the enactment of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act.
Results provide no support for the effectiveness of registration and community notification laws
in reducing sexual offending by: (a) rapists, (b) child molesters, (c) sexual recidivists, or
(d) first-time sex offenders. Analyses also showed that over 95% of all sexual offense
arrests were committed by first-time sex offenders, casting doubt on the ability of laws
that target repeat offenders to meaningfully reduce sexual offending.
...these findings suggest that SORN is not likely an effective deterrent for sex offender recidivism (which by itself is not a highly likely occurrence) and may produce an environment with specific collateral consequences that inhibit reintegration efforts post-prison release for sex offenders. Nevertheless, despite their common conclusions questioning the value and validity of SORN, such studies have yet to convince policymakers that SORN is a practice that is minimally effective, exceptionally costly, and is a potentially harmful public policy (see Sample & Kadleck, 2008).
Some states have began to implement changes in their sex offender registration processes- keeping them in-line with what the evidence is clearly stating:
A diverse smattering of groups — from law enforcement officials to victims advocates — have argued that the current registry, which requires most offenders to register for life, is too much of a blunt instrument.
“They’re all lumped into one category and they all get a life sentence,” said Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City.
Phillips, a retired highway patrolman, is sponsoring a bill that would keep minor offenses off the registry and allow nearly a third of the roughly 14,000 people on the registry to petition for removal from the list within the next 20 years.
A more far-reaching proposal, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, would give all offenders on the list a chance to petition for removal from the list eventually. How long they have to wait would be determined by individual “risk assessment reports” done by mental health professionals.
SEX OFFENDER REGISTRIES- THE CANADIAN EXPERIENCE:
The Canadian experience with sex offender registries is no different, in terms of results, that that of the United Sates.
The Ontario sex offender registry has been operational for more than a decade. Although the registry enjoys a 98 percent compliance rate (one of the highest in the world. An OPP annual report attributed that compliance to the fact that the list is not accessible to the public.), there is "no evidence in demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing sexual crimes or helping investigators to solve them".
A 2007 report by the Ontario Auditor-General concluded that
“even though sex offender registries have existed for many years and can consume significant public resources, we found surprisingly little evidence that demonstrates their effectiveness in actually reducing sexual crimes or helping investigators solve them, and few attempts to demonstrate such effectiveness.”
STEPHEN HARPER - REPEATING THE AMERICAN MISTAKES:
Stephen Harper is proud to proclaim that he has 'cracked down on sex offenders' since 2006. As Prime Minister he has had the most current research, and some of the world's best researchers on sexual offending, at his fingertips. However, The Harper Conservatives have neither examined the current research, nor have they attempted to learn anything from their American counterparts. Let's look beyond the rhetoric and examine what Mr. Harper has actually achieved:
MADE INCLUSION ON THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY AUTOMATIC
The registry was designed for high risk offenders as it was believed that tracking them after they served their sentence would somehow serve to "make society safer". The government however could not explain, or more likely simply chose not to explain, why the registry was not effective in either solving, or preventing, sexual crimes. Harper recently made inclusion on registry automatic because, so the argument went, if everyone is thrown on it they'll eventually catch someone. This flawed logic flew in the face of what the government knew about the Ontario sex offender registry- that it was a registry which had automatic inclusion for over a decade and yet it still never solved a crime.
The result of Harper's disregard for evidence is that thousands of more registrants will be added to the list- regardless of their risk level and regardless of the fact that it will eventually cost many times more and make the registry even less effective. All Harper had to do was examine the American research; it was obvious that, the U.S. registries, having been in effect for decades longer than the Canadians ones, had reached the conclusion that automatic inclusion onto the sex offender registry was a serious mistake:
"law enforcement agencies complain that bloated registries drain resources and hamper effective monitoring of more dangerous sex offenders, and countless examples exist of non-dangerous minor offenders whose lives have been deeply impacted or ruined by overly broad classification of sex offenders. However, the political will of the legislature is still being driven by public misconceptions, as several states consider imposing stricter requirements on sex offenders."
MADE IT HARDER OR EVEN IMPOSSIBLE FOR SEX OFFENDERS TO SECURE PARDONS
Harper absolutely disregarded the evidence submitted by Public Safety Canada:
"Very few sex offenders were granted a pardon and the vast majority who are pardoned did not reoffend sexually. Thus, automatic denial of pardons to sex offenders would unnecessarily curtail the liberties of the many ex-offenders who remain crime-free."
This statistic is a sign that the majority of people who receive pardons are deserving Canadian citizens.
Amongst other things, preventing attainment of a pardon, restricts the opportunity for former offenders to attain employment, insurance and to travel abroad- all of which prevents rehabilitation and potentially increases recidivism http://opposecanadianpardonchanges.webs.com/impactofbillc23b.htm
This bill will change our country’s entire approach to crime at every stage of the justice system. It represents a huge step backwards; rather than prioritizing public safety, it emphasizes retribution above all else. It’s an approach that will make us less safe, less secure, and ultimately, less Canadian.”
-Canadian Bar Association
INCREASED MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM PENALTIES FOR CHILD PREDATORS
Does Canada need harsher penalties for sexual offenders? Canadian research has shown for years that we do not. In fact, Canadian research has conclusively shown that more punishment does not lead to less crime:
"...the paramount fact [is] that there is absolutely no cogent theoretical or empirical rationale for criminal justice sanctions to suppress criminal behaviour in the first place. At best, most criminal justice sanctions are threats. To those who believe that criminal justice sanctions in general or threats in particular are effective punishers or negative reinforcers, we advise they consult the relevant behaviour modification literature or any experimental learning text for supportive evidence . There is none."
Steven Harper had the audacity to criticize the Federal Liberal and NDP parties for "Appallingly...[voting] against these important changes." It's good to see that there are some politicians on Parliament Hill who do their research.
RAISED AGE OF CONSENT FROM 14 TO 16 TO 'PROTECT FROM SEXUAL PREDATORS'
First, Harper's argument defies logic- individuals having consensual relations with someone of legal majority cannot be considered a 'predator.'
Second, raising age of consent failed to protect youth at risk:
“The gist of our finding is that the two reasons that the government gave for changing the law may not be supporting the law,” . "Rather than increasing the age of consent, the government should have focused on better ways to raise awareness about the existing law and enforce it better."
It's obvious that, contradictory to his statements, Harper's legislation will have little or no impact on preventing sexual offending or reoffending. The questions one must ask then is, where is the proposal of legislation focusing on those areas which are proven to be successful- treatment, research, rehabilitation, PREVENTION? Not a word from Mr. Harper. He talks a great deal about making 'society safer', but takes no effective action toward such a goal.
Now, let's take a close look at his next proposal.
HARPER'S PROPOSED LEGISLATION- October 2013:
Firstly, Harper promises to 'introduce legislation to establish a publicly accessible national database that contains information on high-risk child sex offenders'. We know, from the history of sex offender registries within the United States, that public registries lead to harassment and murder of former offenders and reduces compliance and increases recidivism rates http://ontarioregistryandgps.webs.com/canadianregistries.htm)
Police already keep close tabs on the worst offenders http://canadiansforajustsociety.webs.com/6existingprotections.htm. If there is more than can be done, let's carefully consider the effective options. An online registry however, has no proven effectiveness.
Secondly, Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Steven Harper proposes that "Convicted sex offenders who want to travel outside the country will have to alert Canadian authorities before they leave and Canadian officials will, in turn, warn the destination countries if the legislation is passed." Harper insists this will "keep our streets and communities safe for families... and protect innocent kids beyond our borders." One of Mr. Harper's supporters stated that " ..these predators (former sex offenders] go overseas to find the weakest link and the most vulnerable children."
Mr. Harper knew that what he was saying was an outright lie, contrary to the research conducted by experts in the field- many within the federal government itself. Unfortunately for Canadians however, the media and Harper's right-wing supporters have parroted the Prime Minister's words and did so in media outlets across the country. Very few individuals took the time to examine the veracity of Mr. Harper's statements during his press conference:
In reality Harper's proposed legislation has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with preventing crime. It will have very little effect on community safety and may actually make communities less safe. Harper knows this, since most of the research which disproves his statement come directly from government researchers.
The basis of Harper's argument is that individuals on the sex offender registry are a continuing threat against both Canadians and those living abroad. He refers to those on the registry as 'Predators". Mr. Harper is intentionally misleading the public. How else are we to explain the research which counters Mr. Harper's argument - much of it derived from the research conducted by Public Safety Canada- the Canadian federal department responsible for "ensuring public safety in Canada" (you can also examine our Supplemental Resources for an extensive list of American resources which have reached similar conclusions)?
Let's take a look at what Harper is not to telling Canadians:
MAJORITY OF REGISTRANTS ARE FIRST TIME OFFENDERS AND NEVER RE-OFFEND
The registry has failed for the simple reason that most individuals are first-time offenders. According to a study conducted by researchers at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Albany, 95% of those arrested for sex offenses in New York State have no previous conviction for a sex offense and are thus not listed on a sex offender registry.
The majority of those who had offended sexually never reoffend; most of those that do reoffend do not reoffend sexually:
"Most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time. This may be the most important finding of this study as this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs. After 15 years, 73% of sexual offenders had not been charged with, or convicted of, another sexual offence.The decreasing rate of offending with age suggests that the rates observed after 15 to 20 years are likely to approximate the rates that would be observed if offenders were followed for the rest of their lives."
This statement is supported by the fact that the vast majority of those who have received pardons have never reoffend (http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/prdnd-sxffndr/index-eng.aspx).
OFFENDERS AND VICTIMS USUALLY KNOW EACH OTHER
Registries are designed to deal with situations where the victim does not know the offender, e.g. child abductions. However, such abductions are extremely rare. The Conservatives are enhancing the perception of sexual predators lurking in the bushes by the playground but it is simply not true.
Statistics show that in 84 per cent of sexual crimes involving children or youth, the victim and the offender (often friends or family members) know each other. The Americans have learned the hard way, in situations like this, registries, public notification, and the use of GPS is of little benefit and often does more harm than good. Canadians politicians however, seem determined to follow in the doomed footsteps of their American counterparts.
WHO'S ON THE REGISTRY:
Individuals on the sex offender registry are not the "Predators" Harper would like Canadians to believe they are. Harper implies that rapists and killers like Paul Bernado, Michael Briere, Min Chen and Michael Rafferty are on the registry. No, these individuals had no criminal record before committing their heinous crimes. These people are sexually sadistic killers and are, thankfully, very rare. They were never on a registry and, because they will never be released, never will be.
82 percent of sex offenders are non-violent, first-time offenders and, most of whom serve their sentences, complete treatments and will never reoffend. Almost one third of all sex offences in Canada are committed by persons under 21 years of age. Do Canadians believe, as Harper does, that individuals such as these should never have the opportunity to pay their debt to society or to be reintegrated into the community? Do we truly believe that any measures the government decides to take against 'sex offenders', such as the following individuals, are justifiable?
“Boy, 14, charged after video of sex with 15-year-old girl put online”
“15-year-old boy accused of using his mom’s iPod to text child pornography material to an ex-girlfriend” http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/06/11/calgary-teen-charged-with-harrassment-making-child-pornography-after-sexting-incident
"Canadian charged over cartoon porn placed on sex offender registry".
As a point of clarity: "A history of viewing child porn is not itself a strong indicator of who is going to sexually abuse children," -CAMH Report.
An 18-year-old Guelph charged with child porn, after he allegedly posted a "provocative" photo of his 17 year-old girlfriend as his BlackBerry profile picture.
"A 17-year-old boy from western Manitoba has been convicted of sexual assault for having consensual sex with a 13-year-old during a game of Truth or Dare".
"The friendship between teacher and student blossomed into an infatuation"
If individuals break the law, including the individuals above, they should be punished under the law. However, after serving their sentence, determined to be low risk, and having become law-abiding citizens they should not be subject to continued harassment and punishment.
With individuals like this on the registry, is it any surprise that studies have consistently shown that sex offenders, as a whole, have a far lower rate of re-offending than any other crime type? Mr. Harper however, would likely prefer that you did not know that, considering the fact he chose to fill the registry with even far more low-risk offenders, by passing a law two years ago that made inclusion on the registry automatic.
HARPER CAN DETERMINE AN INDIVIDUAL'S RISK LEVEL- BUT CHOOSES NOT TO
The following is the result of three studies published by Canada's Public Safety Department:
"The variation in recidivism rates suggests that not all sex offenders should be treated the same."
"Rather than considering all sexual offenders as continuous, lifelong threats, society will be better served when legislation and policies consider the cost/benefit break point after which resources spent tracking and supervising low-risk sexual offenders are better re-directed toward the management of high-risk sexual offenders, crime prevention, and victim services."
"The risk measures developed in the current study showed sufficient accuracy that their use in the routine supervision of sexual offenders is recommended."
"Policies based on the assumption that all sexual offenders re-offend at a high rate or that all sexual offenders pose the same recidivism risk may lead to over-supervising lower risk offenders"
The Harper government is obviously aware of its own research but has chosen to not to implement any of the above recommendations. There is rarely formal risk assessment conducted upon incarcerated persons before their release, nor is a risk assessment conducted before placing individuals on the registry and, there is never a risk assessment conducted, even years later, on those who have been placed on the registry.
GOVERNMENT IGNORES REQUESTS FOR REGISTRY EVALUATION
The federal governments knows the registry is a failure and yet continues to ignore requests for a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the registry. In 2009,
"We [Privacy Commissioner of Canada] .... recommended a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the legislation and the Registry by an independent third party. This has not happened; rather, the government has simply proposed an expansion of the existing regime"
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS:
Stephen Harper is quick to step in front of the cameras and announce to the world his criticism of other countries on their human rights records- Congo, Sri Lanka, China. However, when it comes to the rights of his own citizens the Prime Minister is the worst of the offenders:
Does any of these basic human rights matter to Mr. Harper? Evidently not.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT HARPER'S LEGISLATION
Harper's legislation has an impact not only upon registrants but has a very substantial effect upon society:
Firstly, the registry poses a direct risk to potential victims. The registry was created because it, supposedly :
"provides police with important and timely information that improves their ability to
investigate sex-related crimes as well as monitor and locate sex offenders in the community.
Of those victims who were murdered:
Let's examine the process which was initiated during the tragic Holly Jones case. When Holly was abducted police automatically gathered a list of former sex offenders in the surrounding neighborhood, went to each of their homes, knocked on doors, and crossed off names. None of the people on the list were actually viable suspects however. There was absolutely no indication whatsoever that anyone on that list had anything to do with that crime; and we found out later how true that was.
Experts acknowledge that the first few hours after an abduction is essential, and so it must be asked:
What if, the police had not wasted those first, most valuable hours, and their limited manpower, automatically checking a list of random, generally low-risk, former offenders who just happened to live in the area?
If police had concentrated their efforts and resources on actually investigating the crime, following viable leads, or perhaps only checking the homes of the very few high-risk individuals in the neighborhood, would Holly Jones still be alive? Is this historically ineffective process what we want the police to follow when the next child goes missing..?
When looking for a suspect in a child abduction or molestation, it’s natural for the police and public to focus first on convicted sex offenders. But more often than not the concern about sex offenders only distracts from the more likely suspects. Children need to be protected, and that means understanding where the real dangers lie.
Four weeks after the disappearance of Holly Jones the Ontario government announced that it would give Toronto police an extra $700,000 to monitor sex offenders. Security Minister Bob Runciman says Holly's murder was the catalyst for the additional resources! Unfortunately, these resources would have been wasted even if they were distributed a year before the disappearance of Holly Jones- Michael Briere, the individual responsible for the murder of Holly Jones, never had a criminal conviction and so would never have been on the sex offender registry.
Secondly, The tragic irony is that the panic over sex offenders distracts the public from the real danger, a far greater threat to children than sexual predators: parental abuse and neglect. While the Harper government has been initiating policies specifically directed to those events which garner the most media attention, the larger threats to society have been largely ignored. The vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders but instead by the victim’s own family, church clergy, and family friends. According to a 2003 report by the Department of Human Services, hundreds of thousands of children are abused and neglected each year by their parents and caregivers, and more than 1,500 American children died from that abuse in 2003—most of the victims under four years old. That is more than four children killed per day—not by convicted sexual offenders or Internet predators, but by those entrusted to care for them. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a stranger.
<> The federal government could have done something constructive In 1995 when it was reported that 8 out of 10 female students in Ontario said they had been sexually harassed at school. (“The Joke’s Over – Student to Student Sexual Harassment in Secondary Schools”, published by The Ontario Women’s Directorate, The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the Ministry of Education, (1995).)
Thirteen years later it’s evident that our government has done nothing to keep these children safe. In 2008 the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)'s Dr. David Wolfe released new research on school violence, sexual harassment and bullying . When surveyed on sexual pressures, four percent of males in grade 11 admitted trying to force someone to have sex with them, while 10 percent of males and 27 percent of females admitted being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to.Twenty-nine percent of grade nine girls and 33 percent of grade nine boys reported feeling unsafe at school in the past month. 16 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys reported being physically harmed (on or off school property), while ten percent of girls and 25 percent of boys admit to being the perpetrators of such violence. This happens every day in schools across the country and our government has done nothing
<> Why has Mr. Harper not created a list for those individuals that have horrendously beaten, disabled/disfigured, starved and murdered children. What about those that deal drugs to children, the arsonists, the drunk drivers that have maimed and killed others? Convicted terrorists? Those are people you wouldn't want living next door to you either, babysitting your children, yet those people have higher rates of reoffending and are not on any list. Welcome to the world of Mr. Harper, where looking tough on crime is better than having to put in the effort to actually deal with it.
Convicted hit-and-run driver Brent Parent A B.C. man with 64 traffic violations who hit and killed a man with his truck in a road rage incident was sentenced today to 5½ years in prison plus a 12-year driving ban.which killed 21-year-old Silas O'Brien in March 2008. O'Brien was hit by a vehicle around 2 a.m. PT on a rural road east of Vancouver. During the trial, O'Brien's friends testified they were first run off the road by another vehicle, which then RETURNED and ran down O'Brien as he stood in the road.
In August, 2013 it was reported:
Ali Mohamed Dirie, a member of the Toronto 18 terror group, served two years in prison for his role in the plot to blow up the Parliament buildings and Toronto landmarks, assassinate the prime minister and kidnap politicians.
“Toronto 18-member, Ali Dirie, is the best known example of a terrorist convict actively promoting terrorism behind bars,
”Shaikh said Dirie’s case should highlight the fact that Canada lacks “rehabilitation” programs for those convicted of terrorism.“The government says we have rehabilitation and de-radicalization programs. Really? That’s news to us,” he said.
Court and parole documents indicate that Dirie was considered a flight risk as well as someone at risk of engaging in terror activities again.
A long-term supervision order was not included in his sentence, so Correctional Services Canada was unable to monitor him following his release.
Within a year of his release, he was able to fly to Syria, where he reportedly joined an extremist group, then died there in 2011.
It is only by sheer luck that this man did not decide to resume his terrorist activities here in Canada. One can only wonder where there other members of the Terror 18 are now?
"The Wetaskiwin, Alta., woman convicted of infanticide for killing her newborn son, was given a three-year suspended sentence by an Edmonton judge.
Katrina Effert was 19 on April 13, 2005, when she secretly gave birth in her parents' home, strangled the baby boy with her underwear and threw the body over a fence into a neighbour's yard."
"Canadian Mother Strangles Newborn, Gets No Jail Time and Judge Defends Infanticide By Comparing It to Abortion"
"Baby Cohen brutally beaten days before death"
Thirdly, Mr. Harper is certainly aware of the fact that by instituting his legislation, which denies offenders reintegration into society, he is likely increasing recidivism rates- making society LESS safe
"..study after study has identified stress as one of the antecedents to sex offender relapse. Chronic torment and hostility from the public, fractured social relationships, lack of stable housing, and unemployment are likely to cause the registered offender heightened stress, anxiety and resentment, all of which may erode an offender’s self-restraint (Cohen & Jeglic, 2007). Lack of social support, in particular, and the accompanying stress on the offender has been identified as a key trigger in sex offense recidivism (Levensen & Cotter, 2005)." http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/forum/25/1-2springsummer2008/c_asora.html
Fourthly, In 2007 it was estimated that the cost maintaining the sex offender registry was 4 million dollars per year. This does not take into account the valuable man hours wasted by the police -Did you know that every year trained, experience police officers have to knock on the doors of every low-risk, law-abiding former offender simply for the purpose of verifying addresses? It would assuredly be better for society if those same resources ere used to investigate active crimes.
In 2007 there were 16,000 individuals on the registry. In 2010 that total climbed to 22,000. Currently, in 2013, there are 45,000 registrants. In 2016, given that Harper made inclusion on the registry now automatic, there will assuredly be more that 100,000 registrants. Given what we know about the effectiveness of the registry, this money and resources would be far better spent on programs that have been proven to be effective in reducing sexual offending and re-offending.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “The fact is we don’t understand [those individuals who have offended sexually], and we don’t particularly care to.” No, the simple fact is that Mr. Harper understands perfectly the realities of sexual offending, as he and his cabinet members are in possession of all of the empirical evidence. Mr. Harper and his party has made the decision to ignore that evidence and has chosen instead to exacerbating the public's sex-offender hysteria in order to advance his personal political agenda. Sadly for us all, his government has the ability to construct effective legislation that would prevent sexual offending and further reduce reoffending. However, that is not Mr. Harper's objective.
The issue is not whether children need to be protected, of course they do. The issue is whether the solutions proposed to ensure their safety actually alleviate the danger to them. Unfortunately, Instead of aggressively seeking solutions to the dangers that women and children face, both in the home and in our schools, the federal government introduces laws that will increase the severity of punishments after the crime was committed and the prescribed sentence completed. Targeting these former offenders, most of who will likely never re-offend, is a good way to look tough without actually doing anything. Separating former sex offenders from society and increasing their punishment does nothing to protect society. The vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders but instead, by a victim’s own family member and close family friends.
Conservatives refer to the individuals on the registry; those who have legally paid their debt to society and are now law-abiding, voting, tax-paying, Canadian citizens, as “these predators”. "The reality is the vast majority of registrants are not predatory, and don't pose a danger to strangers...," says Jeff Stein, a criminal defense attorney, and co-chair of the legislative committee for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. Such arguments, he says, fuel "the hysteria that all registrants are predators."
As Conservative politicians rush to impose harsher penalties on those who have offended sexually, critics -- legal and criminal analysts, and even some victims of sex crimes themselves -- state that the punitive new laws violate civil liberties and are ineffective. And while a technological fix like making a public registry of former felons may make the public feel safer, it will do nothing to protect the victims of most sex crimes. More importantly, preventing the rehabilitation of former offenders may lead to increased recidivism. Canadians would most likely prefer to see the tens of millions of dollars Ontario is about to spend monitoring ex-offenders be poured into counseling for victims of crimes and into programs that prevent offending and the potential for re-offending.
Public policies designed to prevent sexual violence must be duly considered and based on Empirical inquiry and evidence.
1. We ask that the federal government fulfill the recommendation of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the sex offender legislation and the Registry by an independent third party.2. Any proposed legislation enacted against sexual offenders must employ evidence based risk assessment procedures concordant with the level of threat that an offender poses to a community. Employ standardized reporting and risk level guidelines for all sex offenders making monitoring easier and more effective for law enforcement, corrections personnel, and the courts. Implement a four-tier risk level. Such risk levels, established prior to reentry into society and reassessed annually, must be proportionate not only to the gravity of the offence but also to the personal circumstances of the offender.
3. Any individual assessed as Predator should be subject to Dangerous Offender legislation until such time as his risk level is determined to be manageable.
4. Any legislation that restricts a person's liberty must for a set period, not for life. Every individual shall have the right to prove he is no longer a risk. To comply with the applicable human rights protections these provisions must have appeal and review of provisions included. Access to a review process by the offender is essential. Require or permit periodic individualized assessments of the risk to the community a former offender may pose before requiring initial or continued registration.
5. Collaborative efforts should exist between citizens, victim groups, offenders, and treatment providers to render management, probationary supervision, and rehabilitation services that promote community safety.
6. Educational efforts should be directed at the prevention of sexual abuse amongst teens and young adults through development of successful coping skills and through understanding of appropriate boundaries. Communities are entitled to the dissemination of actual and research-based information and education about sexual violence and sexual perpetrators.
7. Abolish measures which make it difficult for past offenders to reintegrate successfully into the community. Encourage support groups for sex offenders, including help with finding housing, employment and effective treatment, before their release and afterward.
8. Treatment, not harsher conditions is imperative to preventing recidivism. Provide separate sex offender correctional facilities and mandatory therapy prior to, and after, release.