British Columbia to bar those guilty of serious crimes from changing names

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Canada’s westernmost province has says it will stop people who committed serious crimes from changing their names, following revelations that a child-killer tried to keep his new identity secret.

British Columbia’s health minister said on Monday his government would introduce legislation to amend the province’s name act.

“Allowing these individuals to hide their identity through a name change is extremely troubling to victims and their families and can result in safety concerns for members of the public,” said Adrian Dix. The new prohibition would apply to adults, as well as offenders under 18 but who are convicted and sentenced as adults.

“What it ensures really is more safety and reflects the views of families who are facing these circumstances,” he said.

The move comes after reporting that Allan Schoenborn, who killed his three children in 2008, had legally changed his name to Ken John Johnson and had applied for a publication ban on his new identity. That ban was rejected by the province’s review board.

Schoenborn was found not criminally responsible in 2010 because of a delusional disorder and was placed at a psychiatric hospital in the city of Port Coquitlam. The amendment tabled by Dix would still apply to people found not criminally responsible.

“What this legislation does is it says that people who have been found guilty of very serious offences – violence against other people, acts against children – will not be permitted to change their name,” said Dix. “The focus here is the offence and not the verdict.”

In April, conservative opposition leader Kevin Falcon proposed a private member’s bill that included similar provisions to the legislation introduced by BC’s New Democratic party-led government.

“This is a huge problem for the safety of communities,” he told reporters. “When government balances competing interests, I put the interests of community safety well above the interest of Allan Schoenborn to have his name changed so that he can move around the community unnoticed.”

Prominent Canadian killers Vince Li, Karla Homolka and Kelly Ellard and have all legally changed their names, but those names are known to the public.

“It’s obvious to all British Columbians that nobody should be able to evade accountability for their criminal activities by changing their name in this province,” the premier, David Eby, said in April.


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