Strengthening the National Sex Offender Registry and empowering victims of crime – Government of Canada introduces legislation
April 26, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Government of Canada
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The Government of Canada is unwavering in its commitment to keeping our communities safe and ensuring that victims of crime are treated with respect and dignity.
Sexual crimes are amongst the most heinous, and can have devastating impacts on victims and survivors. Eliminating sexual violence, which disproportionately affects women and children, is a top priority for our Government. It is essential that police have the tools they need to investigate sexual offences and bring perpetrators to justice. We are also committed to ensuring that victims receive the information and support they need to navigate the criminal justice system in a way that respects their privacy and preserves their dignity.
That is why the Government of Canada is taking action to address the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v Ndhlovu, which struck down parts of the Criminal Code that relate to the National Sex Offender Registry.
Today, the Government Representative in the Senate, Senator Marc Gold, introduced legislation on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to change the law relating to the National Sex Offender Registry and to make the criminal justice system more responsive to the needs of victims.
The proposed changes would:
- ensure that the National Sex Offender Registry can continue to be an effective tool to prevent and investigate sexual crimes while being consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- respond directly to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ndhlovu by changing the registration criteria for sexual offenders. The Bill proposes that:
- serious child sexual offenders would be registered automatically.
- repeat sexual offenders would be registered automatically.
- all other sexual offenders must be registered unless they can demonstrate that they pose no risk to the community.
- strengthen our national response to sexual offending by:
- adding offences, including the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and extortion, to list of offences that may result in registration on the National Sex Offender Registry.
- give law enforcement additional enforcement and compliance tools.
- empower victims and improve the law on publication bans by:
- requiring judges to ask prosecutors if they have sought victim input on whether to impose a publication ban.
- clarifying the process for modifying or revoking a ban.
- require judges to ask if victims want to receive ongoing information about their case after sentencing, and ensure that their wishes, if known, are entered into the record of the proceedings.
These changes would ensure that sexual offenders continue to be registered in almost all cases, while responding directly to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ndhlovu by giving judges the discretion to exempt certain offenders, such as, those who do not pose a risk of reoffending.
These changes will reinforce public safety across the country and work to ensure that all people in Canada, particularly survivors of sexual assault and their families, can feel safe and have confidence in our criminal justice system.
“The Canadian public deserve a justice system that protects them, treats victims with dignity and respect, and upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This Bill meets all these objectives. It will strengthen the National Sex Offender Registry in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v Ndhlovu. We also listened to victims and are taking important steps to make the criminal justice more responsive to their needs.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., K.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“The Government of Canada is committed to prioritizing a strengthened sex offender regime that respects the intent of the legislation, while balancing the need for public safety and offender privacy and reintegration. The proposed changes to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act will uphold public safety by providing police services and sex offenders who are subject to the Act with clarity on how reporting and notification obligations apply.”
The Honourable Marco Mendicino
Minister of Public Safety
“We know that survivors of sexual assault bear long-term mental and emotional consequences, and often the litigation process is a re-traumatizing experience. The changes proposed today respond to the Supreme Court’s decision, fills in the gaps in the National Sex Offender Registry, and gives victims more choices in how their case is handled. These changes are ultimately about making sure offenders are held accountable, while centering the needs and voices of survivors.”
The Honourable Marci Ien
Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth
On October 28, 2022, in the case of R v Ndhlovu, the Supreme Court of Canada found that two Criminal Code provisions relating to the National Sex Offender Registry were inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and struck them down:
- the first was the automatic registration of all individuals convicted, or found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, of designated sexual offences.
- the second was the mandatory lifetime registration for individuals convicted of more than one sexual offence in the same prosecution.
The Court gave Parliament one year to respond to the decision regarding automatic registration. This means that without legislative action, the Registry will cease to be an effective tool because it will no longer be possible for the courts to order sexual offenders to register and comply with the Registry after October 28, 2023.
Under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, all victims in Canada have the right to information.
The proposed changes to publications bans and victims’ right to access information about their case respond to calls from victims and stakeholders, as well as to recommendations 4 and 11 of the Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights titled “Improving Support for Victims of Crime”, released on December 7, 2022.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Office of the Minister of Public Safety
Public Safety Canada
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