OTTAWA (LifeSiteNews) — The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has put its support behind a Senate bill that would allow those convicted of non-violent crimes to have samples of their DNA taken and stored in a government database.
Bill S-231, titled, An Act To Amend The Criminal Code, is sponsored by Quebec Senator Claude Carignan and is in its second reading. If passed, this bill would give police a larger scope in which they could legally collect an offender’s DNA, expanding beyond just violent offenders to include those convicted of any crime punishable by five years or more in prison, such as drunk driving, breaking and entering and theft over $5,000.
As it stands now, Canada already has in place the 2000 DNA Identification Act, which allows for DNA sampling of criminals convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, sexual assault, or hijacking.
Currently, over half a million DNA profiles are stored by government officials, which have produced some 73,000 matches to date to help ID suspects, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the Police Chiefs argue that the Senate’s Bill S-231 would help stop wrongful convictions.
“The National DNA Databank is under-utilized,” said the Police Chiefs, adding that they feel current laws are “restrictive” and that the bill is “an opportunity make the databank more effective for law enforcement.”
The Police Chiefs mentioned a case from 1992 that they say would have benefited from Bill S-231. In that case, Guy Paul Morin, a Queensville, Ontario, factory worker was wrongfully convicted of murdering a 9-year-old schoolgirl named Christine Jessop.
Years later, DNA testing ended up exonerating Morin, and also identified her likely killer, Calvin Hoover, a family friend who died by suicide.
The Police Chiefs wrote that if Bill S-231 would have been in effect in 2007, “Mr. Hoover’s DNA would have been added to the National DNA Databank when he was convicted of impaired driving,” and it would have led to him being identified as Jessop’s killer much earlier.
While it could be argued that the collection of DNA samples from those convicted of a criminal offence is laudable and morally acceptable, many remain concerned that the continual expansion of the power of law enforcement poses a threat to individual privacy.
This became of particular concern for Canadians when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to quash the Freedom Convoy protest in 2021, which allowed the RCMP to instruct banks to freeze the accounts of citizens connected to the protest without a court order.
Later in 2021, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) also threw their support behind the expansion of government power for public security reasons, calling on the “urgent” need to create an “Office of Biometrics and Identity Management” to allow the government to track and monitor the personal information of travelers, including medical information such as vaccination status.
In other countries such as Spain, powers have been expanded even further to soon allow police to use automatic facial recognition software to look for and identify suspects from a database.