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Public child sex offender database planned

OTTAWA - The federal government plans to create a publicly accessible database of high-risk child sex offenders as part of a bill that takes aim at those who prey on young people.

The legislation introduced Wednesday would also require registered sex offenders to provide more information when they travel abroad and permit more sharing of information between federal agencies.

In addition, the bill proposes making those convicted of child sex crimes against multiple children to serve their sentences consecutively.

"Make no mistake about it," said Justice Minister Peter MacKay. "If you sexually assault children in this country, you're going to jail."

The government promised in the October throne speech to get tougher on pedophiles, the latest in a series of Conservative justice measures to boost penalties or create new offences.

The legislation would increase sentences for certain child sex offences as well as penalties for violating conditions of supervision orders.

Spouses could be compelled to testify in child pornography cases.

The most contentious element of the package could be the plan for a public database, which some warn can lead to vigilante-style attacks against sex offenders released from prison.

Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney said the government would make no apologies for the approach.

"Parents have the right to know if there is a dangerous pedophile in their neighbourhood," he said.

The bill would allow the RCMP to begin discussions with provincial and municipal authorities to establish the national database using existing information on high-risk child sex offenders who have been the subject of a notice to the public.

"What this national database will do is to make sure that this information is available throughout the country in a standardized manner," Blaney said.

Under the bill, registered sex offenders will have to report every address or location at which they expect to stay, as well as specific travel dates for any trip of seven days or longer outside Canada, he said.

Better information sharing will allow the Canada Border Service Agency to flag high-risk offenders in their lookout system and help police ensure compliance with travel identification requirements, Blaney added.

MacKay said the sentencing provisions better reflect the serious nature of the crimes and the harm and hurt they cause.

"Each day, sadly in Canada, there are far too many children who become victims of sexual assault. These crimes cause unimaginable devastation in the lives of children, in the lives of their loved ones."

In 2012-13, more than 3,900 sexual offences occurred in Canada against children, an increase over the previous year, MacKay said.

"These are the reported statistics and many, we know, go unreported."

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