Canada opens National DNA Data Bank

" faster sample processing at significantly less cost than most data banks in the world"

(Ottawa, July 5, 2000) ó Canada today officially introduced its new National DNA Data Bank. The DNA Data Bank, which will be housed at RCMP headquarters, gives Canada's police community a powerful new tool for criminal investigations.

"This is a major step forward for law enforcement in Canada," said Canada's Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay. "The Data Bank puts Canada among a handful of countries to have such a national system in place. It will help ensure that those guilty of serious crimes will be apprehended more quickly while excluding the innocent from suspicion."

The Data Bank will include DNA profiles from young offenders as well as adult civilian and military offenders who are convicted of serious crimes. It will also include a crime scene index, which will contain DNA profiles from unsolved crime scenes. The information can be cross-referenced to find a match in the system.

"History has shown that everywhere a data bank has opened in the world, cold crimes have been solved," said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curt Allen. "Together with our partners in Canada's police community, we can and will solve the most heinous of crimes and help keep our streets safer."

Canada's National DNA Data Bank will rely on new robotic technology as well as a state-of-the-art computer sample inventory and tracking system. The DNA Data Bank, together with Anjura Technology of Ottawa, has developed a proprietary coding system that catalogues and barcodes every sample entering the lab, and follows the sample through each lab process. In addition, sample matching will be conducted in a secure manner using a unique network and software program called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) developed by the FBI and the US Department of Justice, and provided to the National DNA Data Bank for law enforcement purposes. CODIS has become the world standard for recording data bank DNA profile matching information and will ensure reliable and accurate transmission of match information. The result of these innovations will be a Data Bank that can process more samples in less time and at a significant reduced cost.

"This combination of the best available technologies will help make Canada's DNA Data Bank one of the most effective, for law enforcement investigations," said Dr. Ron Fourney, officer in charge of the National DNA Data Bank. "We anticipate that this could easily represent a fifty percent cost reduction in sample processing compared to similar data banks in the world."

Dr. Fourney has already been contacted by colleagues in a number of other countries who want to know more about the technologies used in Canada's DNA Data Bank.

About 2,000 peace officers in police jurisdictions across Canada have been trained to collect the DNA samples that will be forwarded to the Data Bank for testing. Only a minute amount of DNA - sufficient to cover the head of a pin - is required to identify a person.

Every effort has been made to balance the right to privacy with the need for police officers to collect evidence.

Canada's National DNA Data Bank was created by an Act of Parliament. The bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Canada's Solicitor General, Lawrence MacAulay. The legislation was proclaimed and went into effect on June 30, 2000.

What is DNA?

Deoxyribononucleic acid (DNA) is a long, double-stranded molecule that looks similar to a twisted rope ladder or double helix.

Sometimes referred to as the blueprint of life, DNA is the fundamental building block for a personís entire genetic makeup. When sperm and egg unite, equal amounts of DNA from each parent combine. This combined DNA determines that personís characteristics.

DNA is found in virtually every cell in the human body. A personís DNA is the same in every cell. For example, the DNA in a manís blood is the same as the DNA in his skin cells, semen, saliva, and the roots of his hair.

DNA is a powerful tool for identifying individuals because it is highly discriminating. Each personís DNA is unique to them. Identical twins are the only exception as they share the same DNA.

Using modern technology, a personís 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 in much the same way as fingerprints are used to identify a person.

A known DNA profile, drawn from an identified biological sample, can be compared to another unknown DNA profile drawn from a different biological sample. If the profiles match, the two samples come from the same person. If the profiles do not match, the samples come from different people.

DNA collected from a crime scene can either link a suspect to the evidence, or eliminate a suspect. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives. Evidence from one crime scene can be compared with evidence from another to link to the same perpetrator whether the crime took place locally, across the country, or around the world.

The DNA molecule is also very stable. This means usable DNA can often be found on evidence that is decades old.

The stability of the DNA molecule when combined with the discriminating features of each individualís DNA, and the accuracy of current DNA analysis techniques, make DNA evidence a valuable and reliable forensic tool.

source: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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