OTTAWA, Ont. — It’s hard to feel sorry for people convicted of sexual offences, especially those who’ve committed offences against minors, defined as persons aged under 18 years old under US federal law.
But do you feel sorry for the family man who was charged after consensual sex with a 14-year-old when he was 18, more than 20 years ago, and who has a clean record ever since? That man, who has held several US waivers already, now has to shell out up to $6,000, if not more, just to renew his waiver for a year or two, thanks to the new requirements.
“It’s just not fair,” says one waivers consultant, who asked not to be named for fear their clients could suffer repercussions come waiver renewal time. The individual mentioned above is one of those clients. “This guy has a family and he’s already had waivers. He can’t afford to do this and it may cost him his job.”
Truck News confirmed with several waivers experts that clients of waiver consultants across Canada began receiving letters this spring about new waiver requirements for anyone charged and convicted of sex offences.
Basically, anyone convicted of any sexual or child-related offence is being asked to get classified as high- or low-risk as part of their waiver application, even if they’ve already received waivers in the past. The requirement is the upshot of recent US federal legislation that aims to protect minors and increase registration and classification of sex offenders in the US. Canadians who have one or more sexual offences on their criminal records must now undergo medical reviews and provide psychiatric assessments proving their low-risk status as part of their application process.
According to waiver consultants, that can be complicated and costly. First an applicant must obtain a medical review checklist from a Canadian physician designated by US Homeland Security for $500.
Then their own physician must fill out the checklist and send it back to the designated physician. If the designated physician deems the applicant must be referred on for further assessment, the applicant must pay another $500 to be referred and have their checklist forwarded to a forensic psychiatrist, also designated by US Homeland Security. According to waiver consultants, designated physicians are few and far between (waiver experts identified a Dr. Howard Seiden located in Toronto as one of two designated physicians in Ontario) and there is only one forensic psychiatrist designated by US Homeland Security in all of Canada — a Dr. Michael Applebaum, located in Hamilton, Ont.
Waivers experts say the wait time for an assessment by Dr. Applebaum can be up to four months and cost between $2,500 and $4,000. The costs incurred by the new requirements are not covered by medical insurance, they say.
Calls to both doctors went unanswered. Indeed, it appears designated Canadian physicians are prohibited from commenting on the matter. According to a text message received from the telephone number of Dr. Applebaum, “…unfortunately I am not authorized to talk to the media in any form. You may get the answers to your questions from the American consulate.”
Canadian trucking lobbyists aren’t keen to comment either. And of course, truckers are loathe to identify themselves as “victims” of the new waiver requirements, for fear they’ll lose their jobs and be stigmatized.
But waiver consultants are concerned the new requirements will have a significant impact on their clients, many of whom are truck drivers and many of whom committed offences, which they deem to be minor, long ago.
“Not everybody who’s ever had a sexual offence charge laid against them is high risk or a serious offender. There’s a grey area,” points out Andrew Tanenbaum, program director for Pardons Canada. “But the Department of Homeland Security is making a black or white distinction.”
A distinction that truck drivers and their employers may not be able to afford, adds Michael Ashby, communications director for the National Pardon centre: “Not everyone can afford to take the exam as costs can go beyond $5,000.”
So do only the rich perverts get in? That’s one way of looking at it, according to waiver consultants. Still, others argue that complying with US law is just the price of doing business in the US.
“In the States right now, there’s a more heightened awareness about the impact of sexual crimes, especially on children,” says Margaret Irwin, American Trucking Associations director of Customs, immigration and cross-border operations. “Cases involving children are popping up more and more, and we’re hearing a lot more from victims about what they went through. So the US government is just tightening the noose.”
Irwin also points out that US drivers convicted of certain crimes have long faced high costs when requesting permission to drive into Canada.
“Getting a ‘rehabilitated’ from the Canadian government so you could drive into Canada was costing US truckers $1,500-$2,000 four or five years ago,” points out Irwin.
So who do you feel sorry for?
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