Edmonton

Alberta to close loophole that allows sex offenders to legally change name

The province intends to modify the Vital Statistics Act so that name-change applicants over the age of 18 would be required to submit to a criminal record check.

Anyone wanting to change name would have to submit to a criminal record check

This social media campaign photo symbolizes an abused girl or child. (Shutterstock)

The Alberta government has introduced new legislation to prevent convicted sex offenders from legally changing their names.

The province intends to modify the Vital Statistics Act so that name-change applicants over the age of 18 would be required to submit to a criminal record check.

Anyone convicted of a designated sexual offence under the Criminal Code would be banned for life from completing a legal name change in Alberta.

Designated offences would include sexual exploitation, incest, aggravated sexual assault, child pornography, among others.

The change is meant to protect victims and prevent recidivism, Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish said during a news conference Wednesday.

"One case, one offence, one family that has to deal with the devastation of these heinous acts by a convicted sex offender is too many," Glubish said. 

"It's unacceptable that we don't have a check and balance in the system. It's unacceptable that we have this loophole."

The province doesn't track how many sex offenders have applied to legally change their names.

Cheryl Diebel, CEO of the Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton, said she was surprised to learn from the province in February that the loophole existed.

"Barely a week later … we had a file that came across our desk, where in fact a convicted offender had changed their name legally," Diebel said.  

"Unfortunately this does happen, and it can happen here in Alberta."

The move will help victims feel safer and keep offenders more accountable, she said. 

"Certainly 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."

The Alberta government is also campaigning other provinces and territories to enact similar laws, Glubish said. Saskatchewan has already made the change. 

"I am calling on every single province and territory in this county to join us in implementing these protections to ensure that there is no place in Canada where a convicted sex offender can hide from their past," Glubish said. 

About 4,000 Alberta residents complete a legal name change each year, according to the province.
 

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