Nova Scotia

PC bill would prevent registered sex offenders from being able to change their names

The bill is the second piece of opposition legislation the Liberal government in Nova Scotia has said this week that it will support.

Legislation appears poised to pass after Nova Scotia government signals its support

A bill from the Progressive Conservatives would prohibit anyone on the national sex offender registry from being able to legally change their name. (Robert Short/CBC)

A bill from the Progressive Conservatives targeting certain convicted sex offenders is one step closer to becoming law in Nova Scotia after government MLAs signalled plans Wednesday to support it.

The legislation features amendments to the Change of Name Act and would prohibit anyone convicted of a crime that requires them to register on the national sex offender registry from being able to legally change their name in Nova Scotia.

Tory justice critic Kim Masland, the MLA for Queens-Shelburne, said the inspiration for the bill comes from a similar change recently made in Saskatchewan. The government there amended its law in January after several people convicted of sex offences related to children changed their names.

"I saw that and thought, 'Wow, do we have that type of safeguard here in our province,' [and] I found out we didn't," she said in an interview at Province House in Halifax, a few hours after the bill cleared second reading.

Queens-Shelburne MLA Kim Masland said the inspiration for her bill was a similar change the Saskatchewan government recently made. (CBC)

Masland said allowing people on the registry to change their names amounts to letting them hide their past. She was pleased the government is willing to support what she called "a common sense bill."

"This is a bill that is going to protect our communities, it's going to protect our most vulnerable, our children. I just could not see how members of the House could not support this bill going forward."

Government House leader Geoff MacLellan, the MLA for Glace Bay, said Masland's bill was particularly timely for him because of a recent case close to home involving a convicted sex offender, although not one who has apparently changed his name.

Cape Breton Regional Police arrested Christopher French on Wednesday for violating his conditions, just two days after they issued a news release saying French had been released from Dorchester Penitentiary and planned to return to the community.

French has spent time in prison for, among other things, crimes against senior women and young girls. He was deemed a high risk to reoffend in a sexual manner when he was released.

Government House leader Geoff MacLellan said there was no reason to hold up two opposition bills 'that make perfect sense.' (Robert Short/CBC)

Masland's bill was "a very simplistic piece of legislation that we can support," MacLellan said in an interview.

"From a personal perspective, certainly for those of us with families, with children who would be impacted by a crime of this egregious nature, this is, again, an easy one for us to support."

The support for the Tory bill came on the same day the government signaled it would back a bill from the NDP that would institute a no-protest zone around the entrance of health-care facilities that provide abortion services.

Opposition bills, particular ones of significance, don't often pass in majority government settings.

MacLellan said the circumstances of Wednesday came down to the substance of the two pieces of legislation.

"It's not symbolic of anything other than these are two bills that make perfect sense at this point and there should be no reason why we would hold them up."