Ontario pushes feds to expand DNA databank

TORONTO — Two Ontario politicians want the federal government to drastically expand its criminal DNA databank, but the relevant technology questions remain unanswered.

Attorney General David Young and Public Safety

and Security Minister Bob Runciman will present their argument at the justice ministers’ meeting in Calgary in November.

“”(We) have some very serious concerns about how the national DNA Databank operated by the federal government is working, or, perhaps more accurately, is not working,”” Young said at a press conference Thursday morning.

Young called databanks the “”most powerful crime fighting tool to emerge in some considerable time,”” but legal loopholes are preventing the databank in Ottawa from reaching its potential.

The federal DNA databank has two parts. This includes a crime scene index that stores DNA profiles from unsolved cases, and a convicted offenders index that stores sample information from individuals convicted of serious crimes — called primary offences — such as murder or sexual assault. The databank was created following the proclamation of the 2000 DNA Identifcation Act.

Young argued the scope is too narrow. He said anyone convicted of the following should have to submit to DNA sampling as well: stalking, extortion, threatening, trespassing at night, overcoming resistance by choking or giving drugs, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, all weapons offences, drug trafficking, and organized crime participation, to name a few.

“”Trespass, break and enter are precursors to more violent crimes in many instances. If we have that DNA data available we will be able to take these people off the streets,”” Young said. “”This is primarily about protecting women and children.””

Young said “”thousands and thousands”” of people would be added to the two-year-old databank if their amendments are passed. Whether the RCMP-maintained databank could handle the influx is unknown. No one at the press conference knew the answer, while the RCMP couldn’t contact technical staff before press time.

Both are confident, however, the amended act would withstand any privacy or Charter challenge.

“”The reality is there has been no successful Charter challenge with reference to the limited number of offence that are covered,”” Young said.

“”There may be privacy challenges, there may be Charter challenges, there may be other hurdles that have to be overcome, but I think we should face those head-on,”” Runciman added.

As of last month, 27,756 offender profiles and 6,385 crimes scene profiles have been stored in the databank. There have been 25 crime scene to crime scene matches.

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