National DNA Data Bank celebrates 20 years of service to law enforcement and criminal justice communities

Ottawa, Ontario – Twenty years ago, DNA was a relatively new tool and like all areas of forensic science, it has evolved over time. Today, forensic science, including DNA analysis, plays a significant role in crime scene investigations and has proven to be a powerful tool for the administration of justice.

While DNA made its first appearance in Canadian courtrooms in the late 1980s, it was not until 2000 that legislation led to the creation of the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB). This meant that for the first time, it was now possible to collect and store the DNA profiles of convicted offenders and of unknown DNA from crime scenes. The main goals of the NDDB are to link crime scenes across jurisdictions, help identify or eliminate a suspect, and determine whether a serial offender has been involved in certain crimes whether the crimes took place locally, across the country, or halfway around the world. Since its creation, investigators at all levels have worked with their provincial and national forensic laboratories to collect biological evidence from crime scenes and create DNA profiles for the NDDB.

RCMP-DNA
RCMP-DNA

On June 30, 2020, both the law enforcement and criminal justice communities recognize the important contributions of the NDDB, operated by the RCMP, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

When the NDDB first started its operations, it had the slow and steady task of building the database. Today, the NDDB stores over half a million DNA profiles of sexual and dangerous offenders and others in Canada who have been convicted of certain offences. Between offender hits (matching a crime scene to an offender) and forensic hits (matching a crime scene to another crime scene), the NDDB has produced more than 62,000 hits. Today it averages approximately 31 offender hits and forensic hits each day.

In 2018, new legislation allowed the NDDB to expand its role to not only support criminal investigations, but also humanitarian investigations, specifically those involving missing people and unidentified human remains. The National Missing Person’s DNA Program Footnote1 is intended to support victim identification and provide loved ones with some answers. With the assistance of the program, the remains of six victims have been identified so far.

Quotes

“Over the last 20 years, the RCMP’s National DNA Data Bank has been an invaluable tool in helping advance police investigations across the country. It has helped bring violent offenders to justice and brought closure to the families of victims. It supports the efficient administration of justice and has been invaluable in investigating difficult-to-solve crimes. With the inclusion of the humanitarian index in 2018, it also provides support in missing persons investigations. I am proud of the Data Bank and of the RCMP’s role in making it available to investigators.” – The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

“The National DNA Databank is a powerful tool that provides trusted evidence in support of criminal and humanitarian investigations. This year marks an opportunity to reflect on the partnerships and contributions coordinated by the NDDB and to take a moment to recognize the important work that the NDDB provides to all Canadians in support of public safety.” – Stephen White, RCMP Deputy Commissioner, Specialized Policing Services, RCMP

Quick facts

In 1989, a blood sample the size of a quarter was needed to develop a DNA profile. Today, a sample the size of about 10 per cent of what would fit on the head of a pin is all that is required

NDDB employees work with barcodes and have no information about the specifics of the investigation or the personal identification of the convicted offender. This respects privacy and ensures the system produces hits based on science

Total number of DNA profiles in the Convicted Offender Index: 402,960

Total number of DNA profiles in the Crime Scene Index: 175,596

Total number of hits reported: 70,203

Oldest case involving a crime scene sample: 1964

Most number of hits to a single convicted offender DNA profile: 63

Oldest case assisted through a hit made by the NDDB: 1976, a homicide in British Columbia

Canada RCMP



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