This via Steve Sullivan, about reforming the DNA bank law.

What’s with CanWest’s title? “Could cost millions?” – this is what’s important here?

Thank god for Vic Toews…

Changes to DNA bank law could cost millions
CanWest News Service
Wed 23 Mar 2005

OTTAWA – Canada could soon see a massive expansion of its DNA data bank, at a potential cost of millions of dollars, under a deal to amend the federal government’s DNA data bank bill that the Liberals and opposition parties are trying to clinch by early April.

Justice critics for all parties said in interviews Tuesday the minority government bowed to opposition pressure by agreeing in principle, behind-the-scenes, to change the proposed law. Possible amendments include retroactively forcing offenders now in prison, who were convicted of a single murder or sexual assault or manslaughter, to provide blood, hair and saliva samples to the DNA data bank.

That change alone, which was on a longer list of demands by the Conservatives, could substantially expand the size of the data bank. It is only one of several amendments that had been under intensive discussion this month as the government tries to win support for its proposed law, which is currently before the House Commons justice committee.

As the bill stands, it would add 28 Criminal-Code offences to the list of crimes for which courts can order offenders to surrender blood, saliva or hair samples. Those offences include luring children on the Internet and making, possessing or distributing child pornography.

If the proposed retroactivity measure is passed and implemented before Parliament rises next June, prison authorities would be able to seize DNA samples from notorious killers such as Karla Homolka, whose manslaughter sentence for the sex slayings of Ontario teenagers Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French ends July 5, 2005.

Another key change proposed by the government, under pressure from the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois, is that more crimes be added to the list of “primary offences” for which judges virtually automatically grant an order to seize DNA samples. The government is also talking about dramatically expanding the list of less serious “secondary” offences, for which judges have the discretion to grant a DNA sample, by including all the indictable offences for which a person is at risk of a penalty of more than five years in prison.

The government’s proposal doesn’t quite satisfy the Conservatives’ even more sweeping demand that all offences, even relatively minor crimes, should be designated as secondary offences, which would require an offender to supply a DNA sample to the data bank unless the offender could show that his or her privacy was more important than public safety.

The Liberals’ proposal may go too far for the the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, but the Liberals could pass their bill with the support of the Conservatives.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler’s parliamentary secretary, MP Paul Macklin, told CanWest News Service he hopes to reach some agreement with the opposition, and table amendments, in the first week of April, when the DNA bill is expected to be up for clause-by-clause approval by the Commons justice committee.

“There could be a very large addition to the data bank, looking at some of the proposals that have been suggested by the members of the opposition and arebeing considered by the government,” he acknowledged.

Macklin is awaiting justice officials’ financial estimates as to the potential impact of a major expansion of the data bank.

“I want to make sure that members of the opposition are equally aware of the cost implications of any suggestions that are being brought forward so that we will be able to see the cause and effect, because it would lead to potentially some supplemental estimates (to the budget) having to be brought forward in order to support that,” he said.

If the government accedes to demands to start stockpiling the DNA of missing persons by creating a missing person’s index in the data bank, which is under discussion, Macklin says the cost could easily be in the millions.

“In the lesser process, I think it would not be near as extensive as that. But if we took all of the suggestions that have been brought forward, and we immediately adopted all of them, it could run into the tens of millions of dollars.”

Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said he considers the government’s movement in changing the bill a victory for his party, but added the proposals now on the table do not go far enough.

Bloc Quebecois justice critic Richard Marceau said the Bloc might support the Liberal’s proposal to expand the secondary and primary offences, but he wants to see any draft amendments first.

NDP justice critic Joe Comartin said the government agreed in principle with the NDP to change the bill so that mentally ill offenders found to be not criminal responsible for their actions in committing a serious primary offence should not automatically be required to provide DNA samples. He said the government is also considering his proposal that DNA samples taken from mentally ill offenders should be taken by medical professionals, rather than police.


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