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August 1, 2011 permalink
When he becomes provincial premier PC leader Tim Hudak wants to put GPS tracking devices on Ontario's registered sex offenders. Canadians are offended by men who murder little girls for pleasure and psychiatrists and foster parents who rape their wards. But there are other people on the registers as well, people who snapped photos of a baby in the bath or a mother breastfeeding. Michele Mandel reports on a man required to register because he kissed a girl who was under age. If Hudak's suggestion catches on, soon Ontario's registered child abusers will be wearing those trackers too. That list contains few child killers, but many people who lost their children for frivolous reasons.
The sex offender who isn't a monster
He is not the monster you think he is.
By law, he is considered a sex offender and must report annually to have his name and address filed on Ontario’s registry. As it stands now, though, only police officers can find him there.
All that could change come October. But he doesn’t want his kids to know his past, or his friends or his employers. Not when he is on that registry, he insists, for just kissing a girl who was underage.
So is it fair that this father of two should now have his identity revealed and a GPS receiver slapped on his ankle for the rest of his life? Because that is what Conservative Leader Tom Hudak is proposing in one of his get-tough-on-crime campaign pledges: Opening the provincial sex offender registry to the public and making all 14,000 registered offenders wear a GPS tracking device.
It’s one of those plans that seems easy to champion. Who doesn’t want to protect children? And what a feel-good, easy, if expensive — $50 million is the conservative estimate — way to shield them from the bogeymen in their midst.
But would it really make our kids any safer? And what kind of net does that cast?
“I’m very aware of what situation this places myself and my family in,” says the convicted sex offender in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun and posted on a new website called ontarioregistryandgps.webs.com. “If we stay in Ontario I and my family will be subject to constant insults, threats, possible violence and loss of friends and employment.”
He says his name is “Michael”, that he’s 32, a married professional with two children. “Seven years ago I kissed an underage girl and was charged with sexual interference. I received a conditional sentence and placed on the registry. To this day that same woman and I remain friends.”
Is this the kind of person we want to out publicly? Or waste money tracking? I hardly think so.
But that’s one of the many problems with Hudak’s idea. It’s a sweeping proposal that targets everyone on that registry, from minor offenders like Michael to the worst serial rapists.
Michael argues the registry’s usefulness is pretty dubious to start with. In its 2007 annual report, the Ontario auditor general said that after 10 years “there is little evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of registries in reducing sexual crimes or helping investigators to solve them.”
That may be so but police still view them as a valuable tool. Especially in child abduction cases, where time is critical, a registry provides a ready-made list of potential suspects with up-to-date addresses. When Holly Jones was kidnapped in 2003, Toronto detectives could immediately interview the 200 pedophiles who were registered as living in her neighbourhood. And with 97% compliability in Ontario, investigators could be pretty certain they were reaching all the convicted sex predators in her area.
Ironically, though, her killer wasn’t on the registry — he was a first-time offender.
Still, police here argue that our registry is accurate and reliable precisely because it is not open to the public. Faced with public humiliation and neighbourhood vigilantism, many American sex offenders choose to go underground rather than register on a public database. Their law enforcement colleagues to the south have lost track of thousands as a result.
As for GPS tracking devices, shouldn’t that be an idea considered only for the worst of the worst on the registry? We hardly have the police resources to keep track of the whereabouts of 14,000 offenders — most of whom don’t pose any danger whatsoever.
But that’s logic talking, not emotion. The electorate doesn’t have much sympathy for sex offenders and most voters aren’t too concerned about the lack of reasoning behind Hudak’s proposals. Which has Michael worried.
“So, Mr. Hudak, where does that leave us?” he asks. “If you win the provincial election in 10 weeks my wife and I will be forced to quit our jobs, sell our home and uproot our children and ourselves from the only schools, friends and family we’ve ever known.”
And not one child will be any safer because of it.
Source: Toronto Sun