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There are no convictions for not reporting to the sex offenders registry in Nunavut: minister

Nunavut's Justice Minister says RCMP are working on a new way to monitor when registered sex offenders in the territory don't comply with the national Sex Offender Information Registration Act. 

'How is it that no sex offender has ever been charged for failing to comply?': MLA

Justice minister Jeannie Ehaloak says the identities of registered sex offenders are often kept private for the safety of victims, especially children. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

An MLA is questioning how sex offenders are monitored in the territory.

On Tuesday during a Legislative Assembly, Nunavut's Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said there have never been charges laid for sex offenders not meeting their reporting obligations to police.

The act requires registered sex offenders to report to RCMP at least once a year, or after they change their name, address or identification like a passport or drivers licence.

The Criminal Code says registered sex offenders have to make these reports for as long as 10 years — that's if the maximum prison term for that crime is less serious, at five years or less. More serious offences mandate they report to the sex offenders registry for up to 20 years or even for life.

For more serious indictable offences, the penalty for not reporting could mean up to a $10,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to two years. For a summary conviction it's the same maximum fine, or up to a six months sentence, or both.

But Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone says he finds it hard to believe there has never been a violation of these reporting obligations.

"How is it that no sex offender has ever been charged for failing to comply with their obligations? Are these individuals being monitored?" he asked in the assembly.

Iqaluit MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone wants the public to be informed when a high risk sex offender is released from custody. (Nick Murray/CBC)

The MLA also wanted to know if the public are told when a high risk offender is released from custody. His questions were based mostly around sexual abuse against minors.

"Children's safety is at risk," he said.

Minister says victims are told

Ehaloak says RCMP are working on a new way to monitor when registered sex offenders in the territory don't comply with the national Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

"This strategy will focus on investigating offenders who are non-complying, and laying the appropriate criminal charges," said Ehaloak.

Ehaloak said victims and families are notified when an offender is let go.

But the identity of those offenders, and the community they are in, is restricted information. "We have to protect the child as well," she said.

Offenders may also be ordered to stay away from places where children are, she said, like schools and playgrounds.

Those restrictions are the responsibility of a judge and they aren't part of the national sex offender registry program. During her answers, Ehaloak became emotional, at one point faltering mid-response.

"I struggle, because I know what you're talking about," she said to Arreak Lightstone. "And I wish there was more. I wish I could snap my fingers just like that so that we can protect all our children."

RCMP not allowed to say number of offenders in each community

Arreak-Lightstone's questions followed on a series of written questions he posed to the Justice department last year. 

In a response dated to February 2019 the government said there were then 307 child sex offenders registered as living in Nunavut. 

But RCMP aren't allowed to say how many are in each community. A national office in Ottawa does tell local RCMP when sex offenders are high risk. 

As of last year, there were four registered high risk sex offenders in Nunavut who are convicted with a sexual offence against a child, the department said. 

Ehaloak told the assembly she is purposefully unaware of their identity, because of the restriction of the sex offenders act.

Clarifications

  • A line in a previous version of this story was clarified to explain under which circumstance sex offenders have to report to police for 10 years.
    Mar 09, 2020 3:34 PM CT
  • A line in a previous version of this story was clarified to include the term "high risk" registered sex offenders.
    Mar 09, 2020 3:37 PM CT

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