archive of original WKT website 2001-02

Patricia PearsonNational PostThursday, November 14, 2002
Last week, provincial justice ministers conferred in Calgary about setting up a national sex-offender registry.
Good. The proposed Registration of Sex Offenders Information Act would go some way to protecting our citizenry by making the movement of convicted sex offenders transparent.
No rapist could slip out of jail after serving his paltry sentence and then disappear into the crowd, lurking there until he felt another predatory urge. The police would know where he lived, and would be notified if he moved, or changed his name.
Yet, the effectiveness of such an Act would be based entirely on the ability to enforce it, and that, in turn, would be based on a difficult blend of competence, resources and a willingness to take sex assault seriously.
Policing the pedophiles, but not the men who prey upon adult women — including the prostitutes who disappeared for years from Vancouver’s East Side before Robert Pickton was charged with murdering 15 of them — would fall way short of understanding how violent and traumatic this crime is.
Only a fraction of rapists are actually caught and convicted, which also undermines the ideals of a registry.
This past year has been eye-ng for me in terms of how brutally common sexual assault is in Canada, and how ineptly and sometimes indifferently it is handled.
Investigating the unsolved sex murder of a friend’s sister, which became a three-part series in this paper called “Who Killed Theresa?” was an object lesson in the manifold obstacles to developing a meaningful registry.
While the justice ministers were jawing over this issue in Calgary, John Allore was presenting some of our findings in his sister Theresa’s murder case to two investigators at the Sûreté du Québec. The SQ had previously reacted to the National Post series by agreeing to review the files of Ms. Allore and two other murdered females in the Eastern Townships: Manon Dubé and Louise Camirand, whose deaths — we had argued — were connected.
But then the SQ announced that our evidence was not “new,” and that they would do no further investigation. John Allore was obliged to file complaints with every level of bureaucracy he could think of in Quebec, as well as enlisting the assistance of two private investigators and of provincial Liberal leader Jean Charest.
I began interviewing women who had been stalked or assaulted in the area at the same time that the three victims died, and collaborated with a superb journalist for Radio-Canada, so that we could present the case on TV to the French-speaking citizenry on his show Justice.
At this point, the SQ phoned John Allore for the very first time, and agreed to meet with him and to solve these crimes. With the resources available to the SQ, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel with viable suspects emerging from the shadows.
What proved to be critical in our quest, however, were the 13 women who overcame their sense of privacy and provided us with accounts of assault that matched either our suspect or the very small geographic area in which Dubé, Camirand and Allore were killed. We were even able to procure a licence plate number, which the SQ is now tracing.
Only one of these 13 cases ever resulted in a conviction. In the other 12, the victims had been threatened into silence by their assailants, or kept quiet because they had escaped before harm came to them. Several did go to the police, only to have their allegations looked into lamely and then shelved.
All were aware that if they did procure a conviction, the sentence would be negligible and the assailant could seek revenge. (The one man who was convicted got out in under two years, and killed a waitress.) For years, some of these women have felt bitter regret that they could not prevent their attackers from striking again. Anxiety that the lack of resolution in their cases might have led to the deaths of Louise Camirand, Theresa Allore and Manon Dubé inspired them to contact us. At least, that was one source of inspiration. The second was that they felt confident that John Allore, unlike the police, was trying to do something serious.
Canadian women should not have to feel this way. A sex-offender registry can only “register” as many offenders as the police are willing to catch, in effective collaboration with their victims.
I am very heartened to hear from sources that the Sûreté du Québec held a meeting last week to discuss ways to be more sensitive to the public. This is, I think, John Allore’s most triumphant accomplishment on behalf of his sister Theresa. Consciousness-raising within law enforcement will surely play as crucial a part in protecting us from sex crimes as a computer data base sitting on desks.

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