A bill introduced in Queen’s Park on Wednesday aims to prevent child sex offenders from changing their names.
Believe it or not, a convicted sex offender who targets children can easily change his or her name in Ontario.
MPP Laurie Scott, who represents Haliburton-Kawartha Lake-Brock, and MPP Laura Smith, who represents Thornhill, both support the bill to make the changes.
“It was shocking,” Scott said when she first learned about the breach.
“We must stop criminals’ ability to cut ties with their criminal past and start a new life.”
She said current laws allow the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to have a fresh start, which is often not possible for their victims as they continually struggle with the trauma of what happened to them. While anyone who changes their name will still end up on the public record when published in the Ontario Gazettethis is a government publication that few people look at.
The Ford government promised to close this loophole nearly four years ago when Prime Minister Doug Ford responded to a story posted on X, formerly Twitter, on January 28, 2020.
“Brian, I agree, this is horrible. “I’m looking into it,” Ford said at the time.
Weeks later, the entire government was preoccupied with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and attempts to change the law fell by the wayside. Now Scott and Smith pick up where a previous bill from former PC Rep. Christina Mitas left off.
“This prevents the Karla Homolkas of the world from becoming Leanne Teale,” Smith said.
Homolka is the most notorious child abuser in Canada to change his name, but she’s not the only one. Over the years, the Sun has documented many cases of convicts changing their names, even in prison, and then finding new victims.
Too many have abused the system in the past to be able to abuse more children.
James Dean Barnett was convicted of child molestation in the 1980s, served only a few months in prison, then years later changed his name to Tyler Giles and found a new group of children to exploit. David Donald Shumey served time in a Las Vegas prison for molesting young girls, but changed his name to David Donald Stryker when he returned to live in Regina, Saskatchewan after his sentence expired.
Saskatchewan has since changed rules to prevent such name changes, as has Alberta.
“The right to change your name should not be abused,” Smith said while discussing the bill before its introduction.
Preventing these name changes is not just a punitive measure to punish criminals, it is also about public safety. Convicts who change their names can prey on unsuspecting new victims and their families, who have no way of knowing about the troubling past that their new neighbor brings with them.
“You can’t put the rights of these convicted criminals ahead of the rights of the victims,” Smith said.
“It’s another layer of protection,” Scott added.
The two MPPs pointed to federal statistics showing that recidivism rates for some categories of child molesters are as high as 35%.
The bill is supported by victim advocacy groups and police associations in Ottawa, Niagara and Smith’s Falls.
Frankly, it should get the support of the opposition parties to be passed as soon as possible.