Bill would ban name changes for sex offenders
Those convicted of serious offences would not be able to hide behind new identity
The province will prevent sex offenders convicted of serious crimes from changing their names, arguing it will enhance the safety of Albertans.
On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said his government will close a loophole that allows those offenders — particularly those who prey on children — to change their names, thus endangering communities and escaping full accountability for their crimes.
“Clearly, more needs to be done to protect innocent adults and children from the violent sex predators among us and one way to do this is ensuring they can’t hide by changing their names,” said Kenney.
“There are literally thousands of paroled sex offenders living in Alberta and Canada today.”
Currently, those aged 12 and over seeking to change their names must submit electronic fingerprint confirmation to RCMP and provide other proof of identification.
But Kenney said that hasn’t prevented some of the worst sex offenders from legally changing their names, and that those convicts can apply to have their names removed from a registry tracking them that isn’t made public.
Under the proposed changes in Bill 28, anyone 18 or over who applies for a name change must provide RCMP with their criminal record. Anyone among that group with serious sexual convictions would be denied that request.
“Convicted sex offenders have committed irrevocable crimes leaving their victims scarred for life,” said Kenney.
He said a study done in 2004 for the federal government showed 24 per cent of sex criminals reoffended within 15 years, while the number for those molesting boys climbed to 35 per cent.
An Adult Crime Court Survey from around the same time provided to Statistics Canada states three per cent of child sexual exploitation offenders were convicted of similar offences after five years. There are about 4,000 legal name changes granted annually in Alberta.
It’s not known how many sexual offenders repeated those serious crimes under changed names, said Kenney.
“(That’s) by virtue of the fact we don’t have screening . ... We don’t have a legal framework to track those numbers,” said Kenney, adding individual instances of such offences are known.
Victims’ advocate Sheldon Kennedy pointed to his sexual assailant, hockey coach Graham James, as an example of a repeat offender who’s changed his name, in this case to Michael James.
“These individuals operate in our communities for years,” said Kennedy, co-founder of Respect Group Inc. “Any tool we can have or any loopholes we can close to stop the movement of these individuals ... is a critical step.”
Ensuring offenders are held fully accountable is another goal of the law, especially given victims suffer for years, said Cheryl Diebel, CEO of Zebra Child Protection Centre.
“We’ve talked a lot about the victim, but also the offender has a level of accountability and this is a step forward in that accountability process,” she said.
Saskatchewan has moved to adopt similar legislation and Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish said he’s pushing the rest of the provinces to adopt it to prevent sex offenders from hiding elsewhere.