Sex offender legislation: Myths and realities

I have been communicating with the author from the following article concerning Bill C-23B as we are both opposed to the legislation as well as the conservative’s tough on crime agenda.

And Happy Holidays to everyone. Stay safe!
By Steven Yoon, Special to the Sun December 23, 2010

Sexual offending: It’s a topic that engenders intense emotions and considerable misinformation. The Conservative government is depending upon both as it attempts to garner public support by advancing its “tough on crime” agenda. If Canadians truly want to make society safer, it’s essential that our laws are based upon evidence amassed from reliable sources over the past decade.

It’s not a simple task to disregard one’s firmly entrenched beliefs, but that’s what we’re asking readers to do now. Please suspend your opinions for just a moment, read the rest of this commentary and then, after verifying the information we present, decide for yourselves. When was the last time a politician asked you to do the same?

The government has introduced two pieces of legislation that will affect the way in which former offenders are treated. Bill S-2: Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act will substantially increase restrictions on former sex offenders. The government says such changes are necessary to ensure public safety. The privacy commissioner of Canada, however, has concluded that, although sex-offender registries have been operational for almost 10 years, “There is little evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of registries in reducing sexual crimes or helping investigators to solve them.”

This is not surprising, since the government disregards research that proves the registries are not, and will not, be effective. About 95 per cent of sexual offences are committed by first-time offenders (those not on any registry); and the vast majority of those individuals on the registries never commit another crime. (The U.S. Department of Justice reported that only five per cent of sex offenders released in 1994 returned to prison for a new sex crime.)

On June 10, a 17-year-old boy from western Manitoba was convicted of sexual assault for having consensual sex with a 13-year-old during a game of Truth or Dare. If Bill S-2 comes into force, and inclusion is automatic, this boy will be placed on the Sex Offender Registry. The Conservatives would have you believe that the inclusion of this boy on the registry is essential to their goal of “protecting society.”

Bill C-23B: Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act arose from the fact that a single individual, Graham James, the hockey coach convicted of sexually abusing two of his players, received a pardon three years ago. A pardon ensures that a sexual offender’s criminal record doesn’t show up on checks of the Canadian Police Information Centre, unless the offender applies for a job involving children, the disabled or any vulnerable group of people. The National Parole Board has granted more than 400,000 pardons since 1970. Only four per cent of those pardons have been revoked, indicating that the majority of individuals granted a pardon went on to live as law-abiding citizens.

The government, however, wants former offenders to wait even longer before being eligible for a pardon — now, the waiting period is 10 years for an indictable sexual conviction to a minor — and wants to deny pardons outright for many of those who have offended sexually, even though research clearly indicates that former sex offenders have a far lower rate of re-offending than any other crime type.

The government also ignores research proving that thus obstructing the rehabilitation and reintegration of tens of thousands of Canadian citizens and their families may lead to increased recidivism.

If Bill C-23B passes, the 17-year-old Manitoba boy will never be eligible for a pardon.

Some federal politicians are depending upon society’s common misperceptions about sexual offences in order to advance their own political agenda.

It’s imperative that they not be allowed to continue in this course of action.

Steven Yoon is executive director of Canadians for a Just Society, a special-interest group that advocates evidence-based practices in developing legislation to prevent sexual offending and re-offending.

Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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