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Legislative Report (3 August 2006)

Legislative Report

3 August 2006

Public Website on High-Risk Offenders

It was every parent’s worst nightmare – a 10 year-old Saskatchewan boy was abducted on July 29 by notorious sex offender Peter Whitmore. Also in the company of Whitmore was a 14-year-old boy from Winnipeg who had been reported missing by his family on July 22. For 48 hours, the entire nation was gripped by a story that seemed too horrific to be true. Thankfully, this tragic situation came to a peaceful end on Tuesday August 1 and both boys have been reunited with their families.

A great many thanks are owed to the citizens of Whitewood and Kipling, police, emergency services personnel, the media and everyone else who kept a close watch out for Whitmore and the boys following the first ever Amber Alert issued in Saskatchewan. A special thank you to Pat Beaujot, the Kipling area farmer who decided to check out an abandoned farm house on his neighbour’s property – a move that resulted in the safe return of both boys and the arrest of Peter Whitmore.

Now that the boys are both safe and sound, it’s time to take a serious look at what we can do to make sure that incidents like this are prevented in the future. The Official Opposition Saskatchewan Party believes there are changes that can be made at both the provincial and federal levels that will strengthen the protection of children and families.

At the federal level, the Saskatchewan Party is calling for tougher sentences and stricter release conditions for high risk sexual offenders. The most time Peter Whitmore ever spent incarcerated for sex crimes against children was 56 months. That’s just shy of four years. To put this in perspective, earlier this summer an Illinois man who traveled to Rosetown to meet up with a 12-year-old boy was sentenced to 15-years under the U.S. justice system and will face strict probation.

The Saskatchewan Party has written to Federal Justice Minister Vic Toews asking his government to increase the length of sentences for sexual assaults against children and ensure that such offenders receive mandatory minimum sentences for their crimes. In addition to tougher sentences, we have asked the federal government to undertake a review of the National Sex Offender Registry to ensure that it is meeting the needs of police forces and members of the public. This review must include an opportunity for victims and their families to make their voices heard and ensure that public safety remains the top priority of the registry.

Finally, we are asking the federal government to review of Section 810 of the Criminal Code and implement changes that would require a period of supervision longer than one year. Section 810 enables a court to apply parole like conditions to a convict once he or she has been released from prison after serving a full sentence. Right now, the maximum time for such conditions is one year. Clearly, this must be extended.

The Official Opposition is also lobbying the provincial government to create a public website that features information, including pictures and descriptions, of high-risk offenders who are going to be released into or are moving into a Saskatchewan community. Such websites exist in Alberta and Manitoba. We believe such a site would be a valuable tool for parents and families. We would encourage the government to work hand-in-hand with police forces and the Public Disclosure Committee to make this website a reality.

The Official Opposition is supportive of our province’s participation in the National Sex Offender Registry, as well as the Amber Alert Program, but we think there is always more we could be doing. Anytime when the safety of children could be at risk, we need to ensure that parents and families have access to as many tools as possible and that’s why we are calling on the province to develop a public website of high risk offenders.

If you think such a website is a good idea, send a letter or e-mail to Premier Lorne Calvert and NDP Justice Minister Frank Quennell.

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Glen.

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