If some sex crimes are of such low significance that it’s considered a civil rights violation to put convicts’ addresses in a database for police eyes only, Parliament should re-examine its approach to sex-related offences as a whole.
The recent Supreme Court decision in which it was declared unconstitutional to order all sex offenders onto a national registry upon conviction highlights a problem, not with the registry itself, but with the ever-widening scope of what constitutes a sex crime. It’s a sign that Parliament should return to deciding the rules governing sexual offences in Canada rather than leaving it to the judiciary.
In R. v. Ndhlovu, the court said that automatically requiring offenders to register violated their constitutional rights — specifically, the right to life, liberty and security. The majority was concerned about burdening people with a low risk of re-offending by automatically placing them on the national registry. The justices thought it was onerous to maintain up-to-date information in a non-public police database and that the law didn’t take into consideration convicts’ individual circumstances or their likelihood of re-offending.
Given that only one-fifth to one-quarter of sex crime convicts commit another offence, the court might have a point. But perhaps this is because the court has lowered the bar for what constitutes a sex crime to such an extent that it’s more than just rapists or child predators who can be convicted of sexual assault.
Indeed, the dilution of the seriousness of sex crimes is a problem of the Supreme Court’s own making. Rulings over the years have lowered the bar on sex crimes to the point where a conviction just doesn’t carry the significance it used to.