A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) finds that Canada has fallen behind Australia and the United States in cracking down on its travelling child sex offenders, and calls on the RCMP to pro-actively enforce Canada’s so-called “child sex tourism” laws. The study is particularly timely with the recent extradition of an alleged Canadian child sex offender on child sex tourism charges in the U.S.
On Monday, John Wrenshall, a 62 year old Canadian man, was extradited to Newark, New Jersey to face charges alleging that he organized child sex tours in Thailand for American men. Media reports state that he had previously been convicted for sexually assaulting boys in Calgary, before moving to Bangkok. Wrenshall was ordered detained pending trial.
The UBC study published in the latest issue of the Canadian Criminal Law Review found that from 1995 to 2007, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) conducted 158 investigations into extraterritorial child sex offences by Australian nationals, resulting in 28 persons being charged and 19 convictions, with several cases still being prosecuted. Between 2003 and January 2008, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made 67 arrests under U.S. child sex tourism provisions, resulting in 47 convictions, with several pending cases. By comparison, Canada has only secured 3 convictions under its child sex tourism law, enacted in 1997.
“Canadian child sex offenders freely travel the globe in search of victims,” said the authour of the study, Benjamin Perrin, Assistant Professor of Law, and Faculty Fellow at the Liu Institute for Global Issues. “All too often Canada’s commitment to hold its citizens accountable for child sex crimes abroad rings hollow.”
Canada’s poor record in prosecuting offenders under its child sex tourism law has come under increasing international scrutiny. For example, in October 2008, the Report of the Canada-U.S. Consultation in Preparation for World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents found “the lack of enforcement of the law against child sex tourism is the most glaring law enforcement gap” in Canada’s response to child sexual exploitation.
The UBC study provides the first comprehensive legal analysis of Canada’s child sex tourism law in Section 7(4.1) of the Criminal Code. It found the law to be fully compliant with both Canadian constitutional law and international law. By cataloguing the treaties in place between Canada and child sex tourism destination countries, researchers found that all of the necessary tools are in place to hold Canadian citizens accountable for child sex crimes abroad. The only part missing is the effective implementation of those laws.
The UBC study recommends that the RCMP be mandated and resourced as the lead law enforcement agency to pro-actively enforce Canada’s extraterritorial child sex crime offences, including by expanding the RCMP National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) and liaison officer program, which places investigators in embassies and consulates around the world to combat transnational criminal activity.
“We’ve shared our findings and recommendations with the RCMP,” said Professor Perrin. “We have also offered to work with the RCMP to develop a concrete strategy to end the vacation of Canada’s travelling child sex offenders.”
A copy of the study, published in the June 2009 issue of the Canadian Criminal Law Review, can be obtained by emailing Sally Reay: firstname.lastname@example.org. The research was funded by the Maytree Foundation and Law Foundation of British Columbia.
For more information, please contact:
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law
Faculty Fellow, Liu Institute for Global Issues
University of British Columbia
Tel: (778) 928-9327
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