Public sex offender registry coming soon, says Peter MacKay

Names and addresses for high-risk sex offenders could soon become public as the federal government announced a new bill Friday aimed at combating sexual predators.

Registry among 9 new measures proposed under bill advocating tougher penalties for sexual predators act

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay was in Calgary Friday to announce details of legislation to protect children against sexual abuse. (CBC)

Names and addresses for some sex offenders could soon become public as the federal government announced a new bill Friday aimed at combating sexual predators.

A public, high-risk child sex offender registry is just one of the nine proposals highlighted in the proposed "tougher penalties for sexual predators act."

Justice Minister Peter MacKay made the announcement at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary Friday. He said a child's right to safety trumps an offender's right to privacy.

"This isn't to encourage vigilantism," MacKay said. "It's to encourage protecting children from past proven behaviours."

Canada does currently have a sex offender registry but the names and personal information of those on the list are not public. 

Under the new proposal, personal information about high-risk child sex offenders for whom a public notification was issued will be available to the public.

Among the other proposals in the bill — which was formally introduced in the House of Commons Feb. 26 — are plans to share more information about offenders with the United States.

It's not clear what the criteria would be for that information-sharing to take place but MacKay says the decision would likely be made on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with police.

As well, the legislation proposes making it legal for spouses of those facing child pornography charges to be compelled to testify against their partner.

'It's our job,' says advocate Sheldon Kennedy

The changes represent a step in the right direction for hockey icon and sexual abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHLer and sexual abuse victim, says new legislation announced Friday was a longtime coming. (CBC)

"These kids are vulnerable," he said. "It's our job as adults and as systems and as people that have influence over children to make a difference."

Kennedy was abused by his coach during his junior hockey career and received accolades for speaking out about it and working to end the negative stigma surrounding abuse victims.

A child advocacy centre in Calgary was named after him last year. It is a not-for-profit organization located on the University of Calgary campus that helps victims of child abuse.

He went on to co-found an organization called the Respect Group, which has created a range of programs to combat bullying and abuse in sports organizations, schools and workplaces.

Kennedy, who briefly played for the Calgary Flames in the 1990s, makes public and media appearances across Canada and regularly expresses his support for the Harper government's criminal justice agenda.

The one-time NHL player brought to light the sex crimes of his former junior hockey coach Graham James in 1997.

James has been convicted for sex assaults against four junior hockey players.

He was recently convicted on a second set of charges and sentenced to five years behind bars. James will get out of prison under statutory release in the summer of 2015.

Tougher Penalties for Sexual Predators Act 

The legislation, tabled in the House of Commons Feb. 26, proposes the following:

  • Requiring those receiving separate sentences at the same time for contact child sexual offences against multiple children to serve their sentences consecutively — one after another.
  • Requiring those sentenced at the same time for child pornography offences and contact child sexual offences to serve their sentences consecutively.
  • Increasing maximum and minimum prison sentences for certain child sexual offences.
  • Increasing penalties for violations of release conditions and supervision orders.
  • Ensuring that a crime committed while on house arrest, parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence is an aggravating factor at sentencing.
  • Ensuring that spousal testimony is available in child pornography cases.
  • Requiring sex offenders to provide more information regarding travel abroad.
  • Enabling information sharing on certain registered sex offenders between officials responsible for the National Sex Offender Registry and at the Canada Border Services Agency.
  • Establishing a publicly-accessible database of high-risk child sex offenders who have been the subject of a public notification in a provincial/territorial jurisdiction.

Source: Department of Justice