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What is Canada’s National Sex Offender Registry?

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On a summer day in 1988, 11-year-old Christopher Stephenson was kidnapped at knifepoint from a Brampton, Ontario mall, repeatedly sexually assaulted over 24 hours, and then killed by a convicted pedophile who was on statutory release. The pedophile, Joseph Fredericks, was found guilty of first-degree murder and received jailhouse justice when another inmate killed him two years into his life sentence.

While that bit of justice may have brightened Christopher’s parents’ hearts, they are likely more heartened knowing that their son’s death was not entirely in vain. With a push by the parents to figure out why the police could not quickly identify Fredericks — who had an extensive record of sexual assaults and other child sex crimes — as a potential suspect, a coroner’s inquest was held in 1992.

Among the recommendations raised by the inquest was creating a national registry of convicted, high-risk sex offenders to provide law enforcement officers quick access to their names, addresses, and other pertinent information. The inquest concluded that had such a registry existed the day Christopher was kidnapped, police may have been able to question Fredericks while the boy was still alive. On December 15, 2004, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act was enacted into law, creating the National Sex Offender Registry.

How the National Sex Offender Registry Works

Under management by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) is a database of known sex offenders that law enforcement agencies can access to prevent and investigate sexual offences. Police primarily use the registry to identify possible suspects in their investigation of sexual crimes. Law enforcement’s ability to monitor the location of convicted sex offenders provides the registry with one of its preventative aspects. The RCMP has also begun using it to prevent potential sex offenders from possibly committing sex crimes in other countries. In early 2019, the RCMP notified Dominican Republic authorities that a known, high-risk child sex offender was travelling to Sosua Bay, a recognized destination for transnational child sex offenders. In response, Dominican Republic border officers denied the person entry into their country, eliminating the potential risk.

Canada’s Criminal Code lists more than 27 designated sex offences that carry mandatory sex offender registration upon conviction.

  • Any sexual offence against a child
  • Making an agreement or arrangement in relation to sexual offence against a child
  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm
  • Aggravated sexual assault with a firearm
  • Aggravated sexual assault with the use of a restricted firearm, prohibited firearm or a firearm in connection with a criminal organization.
  • Sexual interference
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Sexual exploitation of a person with a disability
  • Child pornography
  • Accessing child pornography
  • Parent or guardian procuring sexual activity
  • Making sexually explicit materials available to a child
  • Luring a child
  • Removal of a child from Canada
  • Exposure
  • Trafficking a person under age 18
  • Materially benefitting from a trafficked person under age 18
  • Materially benefitting from sexual services provided by person under age 18
  • Withholding or destroying documents in relation to trafficking person under age 18
  • Procuring sexual services from a person under age 18
  • Bestiality
  • Compelling the commission of bestiality
  • Bestiality in the presence of a child
  • Incest

Judicial discretion allows judges to order sex offender registration to those convicted of 17 other criminal offences if the prosecution proves that the crime was committed with the intent to commit any of the 27 designated sexual offences. For example, if you are convicted of trespassing at night, and the prosecution proves you intended to commit sexual assault or some other sexual crime, the judge can order registration.

NSOR Reporting Requirements

Those ordered to register as a sexual offender must comply with NSOR reporting requirements for a minimum of 10 years and will be listed on the registry for life. Reporting requirements mandate that offenders must register with their local police jurisdiction within seven days of completing any custodial sentencing or after conviction if not sentenced to prison or jail time. Registration involves providing police with more than 80 pieces of personal information, including:

  • Details about the related sex offence(s).
  • Name.
  • Residential address.
  • Other addresses as applicable.
  • Telephone numbers.
  • Copies of valid identification.
  • Current photos.
  • Employment and/or educational enrollment information.
  • Physical descriptors, including height, weight, build, gender, race, scars, tattoos, and any distinguishing features.
  • Vehicle ownership and/or use details, including registration and license numbers.
  • Passport information.

Depending on reporting requirements, offenders must check in with police annually to update personal information for a period of 10 years, 20 years, or for life. They must also report any change of address or name change within seven days. Some offenders, such as those involving child sex crimes, must pre-report any travel away from home of more than a week’s duration.

Non-compliance penalties include fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of up to two years.

Consult with the Criminal Defence Experts at Mass Tsang

If you are convicted of a sexual offence in Canada, you will most likely be required to register as a sex offender. Consider that sexual assault charges can arise from something as apparently benign as an unwanted kiss or touch. Potential incarceration, fines, probation, and other sanctions may be harsh, but the onerous and long-term conditions of being a registered sex offender make it even more crucial to consult a skilled sexual assault lawyer if charged with a sexual offence. You cannot afford to defend the charges on your own. To ensure a successful outcome for your sexual assault charges, secure the expertise of skilled criminal defence lawyers, such as those at Mass Tsang. We have decades of success helping defendants secure positive legal outcomes and keeping them off the National Sex Offender Registry. To learn more, contact us for a free consultation if you or a loved one is facing sex-related criminal charges in the Greater Toronto Area.

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