DNA Data Bank

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The federal DNA Data Bank retains the DNA of Canadian youth convicted of crimes as minor as petty theft. For example, a 12-year-old who grabs a baseball hat off a playmate and runs away with it could be found guilty of robbery and be required to surrender his or her DNA to the state.

An Ontario judge has pointed out that even when the data bank destroys DNA profiles from young offenders, it keeps a portion of the original biological material that was seized. The data bank sends DNA profiles to scores of countries upon request as part of a little known INTERPOL exchange arrangement. Will the government arrange to put a halt to this terrible abuse?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)):Honourable senators, I do not know the basis for the question. The honourable senator has made reference to an Ontario court judge. I find some of that hard to believe.

I will have to take the question as notice. I am not exactly sure the extent to which information in the DNA Data Bank is used, kept or dispersed. I will be happy to refer Senator Munson’s question to the appropriate department for a response.

Senator Munson: Please do not accuse me of reading The Globe and Mail, but —

Senator LeBreton: I did not.

Senator Munson: No, but that is part of the answer to most questions in this chamber. That is where the story came from — The Globe and Mail. That is what the honourable senator likes to do all the time: the terrible Globe and Mail, all the news that is fit to print.

The quote comes from Judge Marion Cohen of the Ontario court. Her other comment is that “This mandatory procedure is unfair and unreasonable.” That will help the Leader of the Government in the Senate in her investigation of this terrible abuse.

By way of supplementary question, Isabelle Trudel, a senior data bank official, has stated that only 535 of 21,169 DNA

profiles seized from youths have been destroyed because the retention period had ended. The same judge suggested that “these figures are evidence of a failure to comply with the provisions of the DNA Identification Act. . . .” Will this government stop this abuse of young offenders?

Senator LeBreton: I will not personally get into the debate about young offenders. I have had my own personal experience with them. I do not know the basis of the story. Senator Munson was the one who said it was in The Globe and Mail.

In terms of young offenders, the honourable senator mentions a youngster stealing a baseball cap. I find that a little bit of a stretch. In any event, I will take the honourable senator’s question as notice.

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, facts are very important when we ask questions, so let me provide the quote that I paraphrased:

“Under this legislation, a 12-year-old who grabs a baseball hat off a playmate and runs away with it can be found guilty of robbery and be required, pursuant to a mandatory order, to surrender his or her DNA to the state,” Judge Cohen said. “This mandatory procedure is unfair and unreasonable.”

I sincerely hope this helps the leader with her investigation and in answering what I believe are fundamental questions. By the way, it is about the human rights of a young offender.

Senator LeBreton: Yes, Senator Munson, and to think nothing of the human rights of the victims of some those young offenders.

I cannot comment on what a judge may have said, but the example of a young person snatching a baseball cap off of someone’s head and being charged under the Young Offenders Act, I find to be a real stretch. I cannot imagine that is anything other than a hypothetical case.

I will take Senator Munson’s question as notice.