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2013-2014 Annual Report

Table of Contents

Introduction

The National DNA Data Bank (NDDB) was established pursuant to the DNA Identification Act, 1998, c.37 and commenced operations in June 2000 under the stewardship of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on behalf of the Government of Canada. The DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee was created pursuant to the DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee Regulations; P.C. 2000-635 May 4, 2000 and functions as an independent body to assist the Commissioner of the RCMP in ensuring the NDDB operates in compliance with legislation and regulations. The Advisory Committee's role is also to provide the NDDB with strategic guidance and direction concerning scientific advancements, matters of law, legislative changes, privacy issues, and ethical practices.

The NDDB operates as a national police service available to all Canadian law enforcement agencies and is part of Forensic Science and Identification Services under the Specialized Policing Services (SPS) Business Line of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The NDDB contributes to the administration of justice and safety of Canadians by assisting in the early identification of those who commit serious crimes across all police jurisdictions in Canada while protecting innocent persons by eliminating suspicion and helping prevent wrongful conviction.

The NDDB is comprised of two indices which include the Convicted Offenders Index and the Crime Scene Index:

The Convicted Offenders Index (COI) is an electronic index that has been developed from DNA profiles collected from offenders convicted of designated primary and secondary offences identified in Section 487.04 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which includes certain offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and

The Crime Scene Index (CSI) is a separate electronic index composed of DNA profiles developed by Canada's operational forensic laboratories from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences addressed in the Act.

As of March 31st, 2014, the NDDB contained 382,906 DNA profiles which include 288,660 in the Convicted Offender Index and 94,246 in the Crime Scene Index. The following graph demonstrates the significant growth in entries to the NDDB since its inception.

Samples Received in the NDDB

Description of graph in tabular format follows.

Samples Received in the NDDB

Fiscal Year COI CSI
2000-01 6,217 1,593
2001-02 14,806 3,170
2002-03 19,059 4,001
2003-04 19,300 5,659
2004-05 19,808 6,511
2005-06 19,181 7,328
2006-07 19,424 6,318
2007-08 19,809 6,664
2008-09 33,761 6,931
2009-10 32,807 6,725
2010-09 30,978 9,339
2011-12 28,979 9,367
2012-13 27,688 10,157
2013-14 24,492 10,483

The NDDB assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes by:

  • Linking crimes together where there are no suspects (CSI to CSI match)
  • Helping to identify suspects (CSI to COI match and/or CSI to CSI match)
  • Eliminating/exonerating suspects (no match between crime scene DNA (CSI) and COI profile in the NDDB)
  • Determining whether a serial offender is involved

In the 2013/14 fiscal year, there were 3607 Offender hits (Convicted Offender to Crime Scene) and 314 Forensic Hits (Crime Scene to Crime Scene) for a total of 3921 hits that assisted police investigations. The overall growth in both Offender and Forensic hits since the NDDB's creation, as shown hereunder, has contributed significantly to public safety over the years.

Growth in Offender and Forensic Hits

Description of graph in tabular format follows.

Growth in Offender and Forensic Hits

Fiscal Year Offender Hits Forensic Hits
2000-01 12 5
2001-02 209 11
2002-03 477 33
2003-04 1,088 110
2004-05 1,499 224
2005-06 1,967 331
2006-07 1,989 379
2007-08 2,153 317
2008-09 2,864 376
2009-10 3,130 387
2010-11 3,656 305
2011-12 3,626 344
2012-13 3,833 352
2013-14 3,607 314

Crime scene samples are analyzed and the DNA profiles are uploaded to the NDDB by the three Canadian forensic laboratory systems:

  • The RCMP Forensic Science and Identification Services (RCMP, FS&IS with sites in Halifax, Ottawa, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver)
  • The Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in Toronto and Sault Ste Marie
  • The Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médicine légale (LSJML) de Montréal

The NDDB retains the electronic DNA profile information as well as the basic details such as the date, location of the submitting laboratory and a unique number identifier that allows information to be compared by the submitting laboratory in the event of a future match.

National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee

The National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee was formalized under the authority of the DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee Regulations. The Committee members are recommended by the Commissioner of the RCMP and appointed by the Minister of Public Safety for a five year term that can be renewed. There are currently eight Members of the Committee who have varied backgrounds including law, science, privacy, law enforcement, and ethics. Members of the 2013-2014 Committee are:

Garry LOEPPKY, O.O.M. (Chairperson) D/Commissioner (Rtd), served with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 34 years. Throughout his career, D/Commissioner Loeppky was responsible for coordinating and leading major investigations on both a domestic and international level. He worked with numerous foreign law enforcement organizations and has lectured in a number of countries including Canada, Australia, United States and Europe.

Gisèle CÔTÉ-HARPER O.C., Q.C. (Vice-chairperson) Barrister and Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Laval, Sainte-Foy, Quebec. Madame Coté-Harper is recognized nationally and internationally as a legal expert on Human Rights issues and is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Dr. Frederick BIEBER, Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Bieber is a medical geneticist and specialist in bio-medical ethics. He has an extensive background in genetics research and has been involved with DNA related projects with academic and law enforcement agencies throughout his career.

Dr. William S. DAVIDSON, Medical Genetics Specialist and Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. Dr. Davidson has published widely in the area of molecular evolution, population genetics, genomics, and human genetics.

Dr. Ron FOURNEY O.O.M. Director, Science and Strategic Partnerships, Forensic Science and Identification Services, RCMP. Dr. Fourney is a research scientist and a founding member of the RCMP DNA program. He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of forensic DNA typing for Canada.

Dr. Anjali MAZUMDER, Research Fellow in the Department of Statistics at the University of Warwick. Dr. Mazumder has published widely in the fields of forensic DNA identification and value of evidence analysis using probabilistic expert systems and best practices in forensic science. She holds a Doctorate in Statistics from the University of Oxford.

Derrill PREVETT, Q.C. Retired Crown Counsel, Criminal Justice Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General. Mr. Prevett has prosecuted complex homicide cases where DNA was used as the sole evidence identifying the perpetrators. He also served on national committees where he was responsible for ensuring consistent implementation of DNA legislation and making recommendations to Parliament regarding the NDDB.

Chantal BERNIER, Assistant Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Ms. Bernier was appointed by Order-in-Council as Assistant Privacy Commissioner (Privacy Act) on December 08, 2008. She holds a Masters in Public International Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

At the December 2013 meeting, Ms Chantal Bernier announced that due to her selection as the Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada, she would be stepping down from the Committee as the representative of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Ms. Bernier had served on the Advisory Committee since 2009 and her presence and wise counsel will be missed. Ms. Patricia Kosseim, Senior General Counsel and Director General, Legal Services, Policy and Research, has since been accepted by the Minister of Public Safety as the representative of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, and will attend her first meeting in May 2014.

Derrill Prevett was welcomed as a new member in December 2013, his legal expertise in forensic DNA will greatly benefit the Committee.

Gisèle Côté-Harper was nominated and accepted by the Committee as the new Vice-chairperson of the Advisory. She has been a member of the Committee since its inception in 2000 and brings a wealth of experience to the position.

All seats on the Committee are now occupied and are not set to expire before the end of 2016.

DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee Terms of Reference (TOR)

The TOR, originally drafted pursuant to the creation of the NDDB Advisory Committee in 2000, were reviewed in the past year to ensure they remain relevant as the science of DNA evolves. Consequently, minor modifications to the TOR were unanimously supported by the Committee and approved by the RCMP Commissioner in January 2014.

Guests of the National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee

December 5-6, 2013 Meeting

  • Greg Yost, Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Shawn Scromeda, Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Julie Mugford, Public Safety Canada
  • D/Commr. Peter Henschel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (SPS)
  • A/Commr. François Bidal, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (FS&IS)
  • Dave Morissette, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (FS&IS)
  • C/Supt. Charles Walker, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (FS&IS)
  • Jeff Modler, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (FS&IS), (Canadian SWGDAM representative)

This report covers the period from April 2013 to March 2014. During this period, the National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee met in Ottawa for a two day meeting in December 2013. The Committee also met via teleconference in July 2013. The meetings included updates on the operations and performance of the Data Bank including statistical updates, ongoing activities such as training, and initiatives including new technology and business continuity planning for the NDDB. Updates were also provided from a Canadian SWGDAM (Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods) representative in terms of their activities affecting the NDDB. The meeting in Ottawa also included updates from Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice on initiatives in their respective areas which impact the NDDB.

Key issues and highlights of the presentations and their potential impact on the NDDB are further elaborated in this report.

Meeting Cost

The total expense for the meeting held on December 5 – 6, 2013 was $19,217.81.

NDDB Year End Summary

Since the creation of the NDDB in 2000, the number of Offender Hits (Convicted Offender to Crime Scene) and Forensic Hits (Crime Scene to Crime Scene) has continued to grow dramatically. In 2013/14 fiscal year there were more Offender Hits and Crime Scene Hits than there were in the combined first five years of the operation of the NDDB. Dedicated staff and employees, ranging from those in the NDDB to scientists in the laboratories and front line police officers, all contribute to the effective utilization of science in promoting and enhancing public safety by detecting and solving of crime.

One important area of interest for the Advisory Committee relates to the commitment to training for the collection of biological samples from convicted offenders since maintaining the integrity and efficiency of the program requires highly trained professional personnel. In 2013/14 fiscal year, training was provided to police and court personnel in New Brunswick, Alberta, British Columbia, RCMP Depot Division, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan. It is encouraging to note that despite fiscal restraint, the commitment to training continues.

The Advisory Committee has also noted that the NDDB continues to develop new processes and adopt advanced technologies that will position it to meet future demands. In April 2014, following significant validation, implementation and training, the NDDB will introduce a new DNA sample tracking process integrated with advanced technologies that will ensure the Data Bank keeps pace with ever-changing demands and expectations.

During the past year the NDDB completed the validation of two new DNA kits. These kits increase the number of genetic markers for comparison purposes and will enhance the ability to distinguish between close biological relatives which share similar DNA profiles. In addition, a modified DNA analysis workflow has been developed which will significantly reduce laboratory processing time. The NDDB is in the final stages of testing the STaCS DB Enterprise sample tracking and control software. It is anticipated that the new technologies and STaCS software will be introduced into the convicted offender sample processing workflow in May 2014. This will enable the NDDB to be well placed for the implementation of future new forensic DNA technologies that may be more sensitive and/or discriminating.

Another important improvement which aligns with good business practices and Government of Canada priorities is the creation and development of a business continuity plan for the NDDB. A backup site for the NDDB's national CODIS operations has been set up and will be used to serve forensic laboratories in the event that the Ottawa site should become unavailable.

To track the value of DNA, a NDDB client survey form is sent to investigating police agencies when an offender or crime scene match is confirmed. Approximately 18% of these forms are returned to the NDDB. Based on these surveys, the NDDB provided value to 83.5% of police investigations for which a response was received. Also, 39% of these surveys indicated that the NDDB had identified a suspect that was not previously considered as a potential suspect in an investigation and 9.5% of the surveys reported that the NDDB had contributed to an investigation by eliminating a suspect.

In support of the Government of Canada's effort to return to a balanced budget, the RCMP Forensic Science Operations (FSO) has initiated the consolidation of its laboratory from six to three delivery sites by March 2015. The laboratory sites located in Regina and Winnipeg were closed according to schedule on March 31, 2014 and the Halifax closure is on track for March 31, 2015. None of the three smaller sites being consolidated offered full DNA services. In addition, all scientists and technologists positions from the consolidated sites have been retained and will be relocated to the remaining sites located in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa. The consolidation will result in increased efficiencies, more effective utilization of resources, while reducing overhead costs. The Lab consolidation project has had little to no impact on the ongoing interactions with the NDDB or with police clients regarding DNA services. From a NDDB perspective, the RCMP forensic laboratories have uploaded more DNA profiles into the crime scene index during fiscal year 2013-2014 than the previous two years.

The Advisory Committee maintains a leading edge approach with respect to international advancements in DNA. Many of its members are invited to present professional papers or facilitate DNA working groups at national and international meetings or conferences and this information is shared with the NDDB AC. This was particularly evident from attendance by two members at the Green Mountain DNA Conference in Vermont, held July 29 – 31, 2013. The purpose of the conference was to present new findings in the field of forensic DNA analysis as well as share best practices in the application of the technology in police investigations and discuss the legal and privacy challenges associated with the use of DNA evidence. A wide variety of subjects focusing on innovations in the field of DNA were presented and discussed.

One new approach, discussed at the Conference, involves direct to DNA testing. This method, now used by the Centre of Forensic Science in Ontario, eliminates serology examinations in rape investigations and results in a 30% cost saving and a reduction in turnaround times from 81 days to 41 days. This approach has also been used in forensic laboratories Quebec, Washington State, California, and Georgia with a high degree of success that provides key evidence quicker to ongoing investigations, conserves evidence for other analysis and reduces sexual assault case backlogs.

Information on the US Government Rapid DNA initiative was also presented. Accelerated Nuclear DNA Equipment (ANDE) is used to provide DNA results in one hour to ninety minutes. The equipment is designed to be portable, field deployable, and provide real time analysis at a lower cost per sample.

The Palm Bay Florida Police Department presented their pilot project which involves a DNA and LODIS (Local DNA Indexing System) model with the goal of developing rapid DNA Analysis. Police are enabled to process DNA samples at crime scenes making DNA an investigative and crime prevention tool in addition to its' evidentiary value at trial.

While innovative approaches in DNA continue to evolve at a rapid pace, the Committee will continue to monitor new technologies to ensure the NDDB remains current while ensuring compliance to the mandate and providing an optimal service to police and laboratory clients and partners.

Biometrics

Chief Supt. Chuck Walker, Director General, Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS) provided an update on CCRTIS business renewal activities. As the potential target date for the cessation of paper based fingerprint submissions is July 2014, the NDDB should be prepared to align with LiveScan, a new technology allowing the electronic submission of fingerprints, palm impressions and mug shots. Consultations between the NDDB and CCRTIS are ongoing to ensure a seamless transformation for any technology requirements or process which could impact the NDDB operations.

Taking DNA on Arrest

In June 2013 the US Supreme Court upheld a decision to take DNA from an arrested felon in the Maryland vs. King Case. The Committee is monitoring the impact in the U.S. of this decision with respect to the management and impact on the Data Bank. The Advisory Committee is also giving preliminary consideration to impacts to the NDDB should there be any legislative change proposed in the future in Canada.

Missing Persons Index

The 2014 Government of Canada Budget allocated $8.1M over five years beginning in 2016/17, with $1.3M ongoing to support the development and maintenance of a DNA based Missing Persons Index (MPI). The Advisory Committee supports the creation of the MPI and conducted considerable research in 2002 on the critical issues that need to be considered in its establishment. The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) and NDDB are currently working in conjunction with Strategic Policy and Integration Branch to develop the start-up and roll out strategy. The NDDB AC will be monitoring this process closely to assess any impacts on the NDDB.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Research Project on the Value of DNA

In the past, preliminary research has taken place to demonstrate the probative value of DNA in public safety with limited success. However, the Department of Justice, in conjunction with the OPP, has now undertaken a research project in this regard. The NDDB AC is keenly interested in this initiative and will be receiving updates on its' progress as the research proceeds.

Biology Casework Analysis Agreements and CSI Submissions

Public Safety officials, in conjunction with the RCMP, continue to work collaboratively with Provinces/Territories for which the RCMP provide contract policing services, as well as with Ontario and Quebec, to ensure the sustainability of forensic DNA services in Canada.

Biology Casework Analysis Agreements (BCAA) are based on federal/provincial/territorial cost sharing agreements that help to defray the actual cost of the RCMP delivering biology analysis to contract jurisdictions. Under these Agreements, DNA samples are collected by the RCMP, or other police agencies, from crime scenes in contract jurisdictions and analyzed by the RCMP forensic laboratory for offences designated under the Criminal Code.

Although the agreements expired on March 31, 2014, following negotiations of a new cost sharing model that better reflects the current costs to deliver DNA analysis services, agreement in principle has been reached with the majority of contract jurisdictions and agreements are in the process of being signed.

DNA samples collected at crime scenes in Ontario and Quebec are analyzed in their provincial forensic laboratories. Following the federal budget announcement in 2010, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness officials established and have been managing the administration of the Biology Casework Analysis Contribution Program through the issuance of payments to the Ontario and Quebec governments to support their forensic laboratories. Under these agreements, Ontario and Quebec each receive $3.45 million per year to assist provincial laboratories. In exchange, each province submits DNA profiles taken from crime scenes in its jurisdiction to the Crime Scene Index (CSI) of the NDDB, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the NDDB as a criminal investigative tool. The agreements with Ontario and Quebec are set to expire on March 31, 2015.

Canadian Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM)

Canadian SWGDAM is responsible for researching, reviewing, and providing recommendations on issues related to evolving DNA science, policy, and technology. Christine Jolicoeur, Ph.D., Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de medicine légale, has been named the new Chairperson for the Canadian SWGDAM, and will attend Committee meetings to provide updates in the new year. The Committee would like to thank Jeff Modler, for his contributions to the NDDB AC during his time as the Chairman for the Canadian SWGDAM.

In the past year, Canadian SWGDAM accepted a number of recommendations from the CODIS Sub-Committee for further evaluation and possible inclusion into the NDDB DNA Acceptance Standards.

Familial Searching

Familial searching may be defined as the deliberate targeting and evaluation of DNA profiles within a data base that does not include the DNA profile from the subject of interest, but may include a relative who can be identified by looking at close but not perfect "matches". This typically involves the interrogation of a large DNA profile data base composed of known individuals with an unknown DNA profile developed from a crime scene. Canada and the NDDB currently do not engage in familial searching and would require a legislative change to perform this analysis as well as scientific and technical changes to how matches are made within the NDDB. While recognizing that there are legislative and privacy issues that must be addressed, it is important to note that more jurisdictions are embracing the use of familial searching to enhance public safety while also serving to exonerate the innocent. As indicated in previous reports, it has been shown that novel searching methods could allow for the expanded use of the NDDB to aid in the possible identification of criminal suspects who may be closely related to known offenders in the COI.

The Advisory Committee will continue to focus on the application of familial searching in other jurisdictions, assess the impacts, and examine options which might be acceptable from a Canadian perspective that provides police with an important investigational tool while safeguarding privacy.

Conclusions for 2013-2014

Despite significant advances in technology, ongoing organizational changes in the RCMP laboratory structure, and increasing expectation from the public and the courts on what the science can deliver in terms of public safety, we are confident that Canada has and is delivering a world class DNA program. We are assured the NDDB is fulfilling its role effectively, maintaining its emphasis on privacy, and operating appropriately within the provisions of the DNA Identification Act. The Advisory Committee is acutely aware of the rapid changes in the science and the demands those place on those administering the program, but we are confident that they possess the professionalism and competency to maintain the NDDB at a world class level.

It should be noted that the absence of A Base funding is a continual challenge to the NDDB's ability to maintain a full complement of staff, research and evaluate new technologies which ensure currency with international partners, while also providing a high level of training to enhance efficiency of the Data Bank. It also creates uncertainty within the program for the dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to provide a service for Canada and its citizens.