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BY KATIE SCHNEIDER ,CALGARY SUN
CALGARY – The public needs to know when sexual predators are living in their midst, says an advocate for child abuse victims in the wake of a convicted pedophile relocating to Airdrie, Alta.
Former pastor Kenneth Richard Cooke, 77, is now living in Airdrie after serving time in the U.S. for aggravated sex abuse charge stemming from allegations he fondled a four-year-old girl he claimed pursued him.
Cooke is on the publicly listed Illinois sex offender registry, but it’s not known if he was placed on Canada’s national sex offender registry — which is not public — once he returned.
As of 2010, under new legislation, Canadians convicted abroad for sex offences become included in this country’s registry when they return and are required to report to police within a week of arriving.
But to Little Warriors founder and child sex abuse survivor Glori Meldrum, who is calling for the national registry to be made public, Canadians deserve to know when sex predators are close to home.
“It should be my right to be able to protect my kids and know if I have a sex offender as a neighbour,” she said.
“Here they release these dangerous monsters into our community and lots of us have children, but we’re not allowed to know?”
She said sex offenders, for the most part, are not in jail as most victims don’t go to the police.
“It’s such a process going through the court system, disclosing, and often it can be family,” she said.
“I only put a little bit of weight into the registry because there are so many sex offenders just roaming out there, but … we should have the right to protect our own kids.
“Why is it that they are protected?”
Julian Fantino, associate minister of defence and the former top cop in Toronto, said it’s not really a question of an offender’s privacy, he believes in some cases going public is not needed.
He said there needs to be some justification for doing so.
“It’s done on the basis of threat assessment,” he said during a stop in Calgary.
“In some cases, what one would do is you may assign a special unit to conduct surveillance on the individual or if it’s a more significant public safety concern threat issue, you may decide to go public with it.”
“But I wouldn’t be advocating for an across-the-board, blanket public disclosure of these things.”
Just over 2,000 of the 26,500 individuals on the national sex offender registry live in Alberta.
The fact, Cooke recently began volunteering for an adult ministry at Airdrie Alliance Church — which is now investigating — is also upsetting, Meldrum said.