PEI

DNA testing by RCMP to catch Stratford burglar 'highly concerning'

The RCMP's request for some P.E.I. residents to voluntarily submit to DNA testing in an effort to catch a burglar is raising flags with some individuals and civil liberties experts.

Practice 'erodes privacy standards,' says Canadian Civil Liberties Association

RCMP are asking some male residents of Stratford to submit to DNA testing in their efforts to find an elusive burglar. (CBC)

The RCMP's request for some P.E.I. residents to voluntarily submit to DNA testing in an effort to catch a burglar is raising flags with some individuals and civil liberties experts.

RCMP have asked some male residents in Stratford to take a DNA test as part of an investigation into a string of burglaries in the area.

Swabbed samples are typically sent to a lab for genetic analysis to compare with DNA found at a crime scene. The idea is to identify suspects and rule out others.

But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association questions the effectiveness of random DNA sampling, saying the practice also raises ethical issues.

Sukanya Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says the practice of collecting DNA information from such a large sample raises ethical questions. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

"This sort of process of elimination, taking samples from everybody, it's highly concerning," said Sukanya Pillay, the association's executive director and general counsel.

"It erodes our own privacy standards and what our reasonable expectation of privacy is."

Not 'serial rapist or a murder case'

Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser also has a number of concerns when it comes to what he calls "the relatively indiscriminate collection of DNA information."

Fraser said the test reveals details people don't even know about themselves and individuals need to be cautious about handing that information over.

"And I'm also worried about the proportionality," he said.

"We're not talking about a serial rapist or a murder case. We're talking about a burglary case. And collecting this sort of information from such a large pool of individuals for what seems to be at least a relatively minor crime raises some additional flags for me."

Stratford resident Jim Paquet sees the DNA testing as an infringement on people's rights. (CBC)

RCMP have not said how many DNA samples they've collected or how many more they hope to get.

Some Stratford residents applaud the move, while others see it as an infringement on their rights.

"You don't want to keep giving your liberties away or you'll have none at the end of the day," said Jim Paquet.

Lucy MacRae said, "I think it's great. Anything they can do to apprehend him would be awesome."

Similar break-ins have been reported in Charlottetown and Cornwall. RCMP have set up a joint task force with city police.

Police advise people to keep doors and windows locked when they're not at home.

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