National DNA Data Bank
The Canadian police community had, for some time, called for the creation of a DNA data bank to assist police investigations. The government responded by assenting to the DNA Identification Act on December 10, 1998. This legislation allowed a DNA data bank to be created and amended the Criminal Code to provide a mechanism for a judge to order persons convicted of designated offences to provide blood, buccal or hair samples from which DNA profiles will be derived. The legislation became official on June 30, 2000.
The use of forensic DNA analysis in solving crime is proving to be as revolutionary as the introduction of fingerprint evidence in court more than a century ago. Remarkably, Canadian police have been using forensic DNA evidence for little more than a decade, yet it has emerged as one of the most powerful tools available to law enforcement agencies for the administration of justice. DNA analysis is the next generation of human identification in the science of police investigations and is considered a major enhancement for the safety of all Canadians.
The value of DNA to police investigations is enormous. Biological samples collected from a crime scene can either link a suspect to the scene, or rule the suspect out as the donor of the DNA. Evidence from different crime scenes can be compared to link the same perpetrator to multiple offences, whether the crimes took place locally, across the country, or halfway around the world. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives.
Deoxyribononucleic acid (DNA) is a long, double-stranded molecule that looks like a twisted rope ladder or double helix. Sometimes referred to as the blueprint of life, DNA is the fundamental building block for your entire genetic makeup. When sperm and egg unite, equal amounts of DNA from your mother and father come together. DNA is found in virtually every tissue in the human body. The DNA in your blood is the same as the DNA in your skin cells, saliva, and the roots of your hair. Highly discriminating, DNA is a powerful tool for identifying individuals. With the exception of identical twins, each person's DNA is unique to them.
Using modern technology, your DNA can be extracted from a small biological sample, such as a few drops of blood. This sample can be analyzed, creating a DNA profile that can be used to identify you. A DNA profile, drawn from a known biological sample, can be compared to an unknown DNA profile drawn from a different biological sample. If the profiles match, the two samples come from the same person. If the profiles don't match, the samples come from different people.
The DNA molecule is very stable and can withstand significant environmental challenge which enables forensic scientists to obtain new information from very old biological evidence or establish important data from badly degraded samples. The stability of the molecule, combined with the discriminating features of each individual's DNA and the accuracy of current DNA analysis techniques, makes this human identification technology a vital component of most police investigations.
The National DNA Data Bank respects considerations of genetic privacy and follows strict guidelines as specified in the DNA Identification Act. The biological samples collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes. For more information on this subject, see the "Privacy and Security" section of this web-site.
The National DNA Data Bank contributes to the administration of justice and the safety of Canadians by ensuring that those who commit serious crimes are identified more quickly across all police jurisdictions in Canada while innocent people are eliminated from suspicion. It assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes by:
- Linking crimes together where there are no suspects; ·
- Helping to identify suspects;
- Eliminating suspects where there is no match between crime scene DNA and a DNA profile in the National DNA Data Bank; and,
- Determining whether a serial offender is involved
The National DNA Data Bank is responsible for two principal indices:
- The Convicted Offender Index (COI) is the 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; and,
- The Crime Scene Index (CSI) is a separate electronic index composed of DNA profiles obtained from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences addressed in the Act.
To date, several thousands of DNA samples from convicted offenders have been processed and added to the National DNA Data Bank, along with samples received from various crime scenes across the country. Thousands of police officers from every province and territory in Canada have been trained to collect DNA samples that are then forwarded to the National DNA Data Bank for analysis.
The National DNA Data Bank is a shining example of the increasing importance of science and technology in modern law enforcement. Our complex, globalized world has created a whole new set of challenges for police. To stay ahead of the criminals, we must make better use of cutting edge science, such as forensic DNA.
An idea that first surfaced more than a decade ago, the National DNA Data Bank has overcome major scientific and legislative hurdles along the way. One by one, each challenge has been met successfully. The final product is a forensic tool providing key evidence in criminal cases that have exonerated the innocent and brought suspected offenders before the courts.
The National DNA Data Bank conforms with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 and is recognized as an accredited testing laboratory for specific tests listed in the scope of accreditation approved by the Standards Council of Canada.
Canadians can be proud of the National DNA Data Bank and the certainty that its highly qualified staff will help to solve hundreds of crimes in coming years, as the scientific know-how and technological tools continue to improve.
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