The Vital Statistics Amendment Act, 2021, would prohibit anyone who is designated as a dangerous, long-term or high-risk offender from completing a legal change of name, and would also prohibit another person from requesting a change on their behalf.
The proposed amendments build on changes made to the Vital Statistics Act in 2020 that made individuals convicted of designated sexual offences ineligible to complete legal changes of name.
“We know that violent and dangerous offenders can apply for parole and potentially be released, and Albertans need to know that in such cases, those offenders will not be able to hide under a new name. These changes will provide peace of mind to Albertans and especially to survivors, who live with their trauma for the rest of their lives.”
Under the changes proposed, those designated as dangerous or long-term offenders would be banned for life from applying for a legal change of name, even if the designation is eventually removed.
“Having been a victim of a violent sexual assault, I speak to the very fact the accused got three years and I got life and that lifetime was spent looking over my shoulder; but at least I knew who I was looking for. Adding or allowing another layer to the rights of the accused only reiterates with victims that we have no voice. We as victims and survivors need to know we have the right to protection and the right to information.”
“Public Safety is paramount for our communities and those with a dangerous offender, long-term offender, or high-risk offender designation should not have the ability to change their name or hide. This is significant given the horrendous crimes they have committed on the victims who survive and endure trauma for the remainder of their lives. This change is to protect everyone in our neighbourhoods.”
- Each year, about 4,000 Albertans complete a legal change of name, which changes the person’s name on their Alberta birth record as well as other supporting identity documents like driver’s licences and passports.
- The Vital Statistics registrar will continue to have the authority to refuse to register a name on the grounds that it may be objectionable.
- Anyone applying for a legal change of name in Alberta must provide fingerprints and a criminal record or police check as part of the application process, a measure introduced in June 2020.
- A dangerous offender is an offender who has been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a serious personal injury offence, such as aggravated assault, arson, manslaughter, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping.
- The dangerous offender designation is used for those who, according to the Criminal Code, exhibit “a pattern of repetitive behaviour” and “a pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour” that is unlikely to change. The Crown must apply for and prove the need for a convicted criminal to be designated as such.
- Long-term offender status is for those convicted of a pattern of sexual offences and those who the Crown has proven are likely to reoffend. As with the dangerous offender designation, the Crown must apply to have a convicted criminal designated as a long-term offender.
- A high-risk offender is an individual recently paroled from prison who law enforcement considers a risk to the public and likely to reoffend.
- In addition to the changes related to legal changes of name, additional administrative amendments to the act are also proposed.