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Legislation proposed to close name change loophole for sex offenders

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Minister of Service, Nate Glubish, proposed changes to the Vital Statistics Act last week that would require anyone 18 years of age or older to submit to a criminal background check as part of an application for a name change.

The intent of this change is to ensure those convicted of designated sexual offences under the Criminal Code will be ineligible to complete a legal change of name in Alberta.

Those designated offences include sexual exploitation, incest, aggravated sexual assault, child pornography, and others. 

“Survivors from sexual violence have to live with the trauma of these offences for the rest of their lives. It only makes sense that their offenders should live under their names for their lives,” said Minister Glubish.

Glubish stated he was shocked to learn that this loophole existed, allowing convicted sex offenders to change their names. Most common sense Albertans and Canadians would agree that this shouldn’t be allowed to happen, Glubish said.

He added that now that people know this can happen, action is being taken to fix it. There is a lot of work to do but the changes will be debated in July, Glubish said. 

“I hope I can count on the support from every member in the chamber for this important legislation. I’m looking forward to the debate, to articulate why this is important and my goal would be to get this passed as soon as possible so we can make this change in Alberta,” Glubish said.

In addition to the changes, the Minister together with two Saskatchewan ministers issued a call to action to all provinces and territories to make these changes as well.

Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to implement a similar policy earlier this year. 

Implementing the same strong protections across the country would ensure that every jurisdiction in Canada has the same protection that will make communities and Canadians safer.

Glubish said he received a call last Friday from the Justice Minister of Ontario as well as one other Minister responsible for this file to discuss the issue.

“I think that was a really positive step forward, demonstrating some significant interest in the action we’re taking,’ Glubish said.

He noted he also had another call scheduled with a private member from the Ontario Caucus.

While this initiative is a step in the right direction, it would be more effective as part of a national approach, stated a release from the minister. In Alberta, this measure adds to existing requirements for applicants to provide a fingerprint confirmation letter from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for matching purposes on the national law enforcement database.

Glubish noted these changes go hand in hand with some other actions the government has taken previously. 

One example was the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act, which will allow people at risk of domestic violence to find out if their intimate partner has a violent or abusive past, once legislation comes into effect later in 2020. 

It will also allow police to proactively inform someone of their partner’s domestic violence history.

Alberta has the third highest domestic violence rates among Canadian provinces, according to the Government of Alberta website.

The site also said that half of all young women and girls who are victims of domestic violence homicide are murdered by someone with a prior conviction.

Glubish also noted that the Alberta government appointed a Human Trafficking Task Force to provide recommendations on how to best implement an action plan to combat human trafficking.

The taskforce will also provide guidance and recommendations on support for survivors and is lead by Canadian country star, Paul Brandt.

These new pieces of legislation demonstrate with real tangible actions that this government cares, Glubish stated. 

Child Advocacy Centres across Alberta support the amendments to the current legislation to prohibit convicted sex offenders from legally changing their names.

“As leaders in the field of child protection seeking to support the recovery of child and youth victims of crime, this legislation is imperative to provide protection to their well being to ensure safety from their offender,” stated a letter from combined Child Advocacy Centres.

Permitting convicted offenders to disguise their identities and past offences would increase possible revictimization, jeopardize public safety and unravel the advancement of work done to support the physical and emotional wellbeing of those impacted by sexual violence, the letter read.

Alberta’s Child Advocacy Centres have urged their counterparts across the country to join in this effort to make these changes, Glubish added.