Saanich anticipates spending more money on DNA testing in the future after changes to the funding formula for this criminal investigation tool, according to Saanich’s 2016-2020 financial plan.
No cost figures are available, “but are dependent on the number of examinations required, and are anticipated to increase as technology makes testing a more viable investigative tool,” it reads.
According to the 2016 budget, Saanich has to shoulder an estimated $56,000 in additional costs for DNA testing following the changes which came into effect Jan. 1, 2016.
RCMP Forensic Sciences and Identification Services lab falls under the National Police Services, a federally funded agency under the stewardship of the RCMP, which provides DNA testing services.
In 2004, the provinces and Ottawa agreed to a funding agreement for the service under which B.C. has historically contributed $1.36 million, according to a provincial backgrounder. According to the same backgrounder, the federal government told B.C. that it would no longer continue to provide DNA testing services at historical levels and “would require reimbursement based on actual costs.”
After negotiations between Ottawa and Victoria, the two sides agreed to a new funding formula that will see the province cap its historical contribution at $1.36 million.
With DNA testing costs set to reach $4.4 million by 2020, municipalities with populations of more than 5,000 people across B.C. will have to find an additional $3.3 million, according to previously published reports. The province will continue to fund DNA testing costs for municipalities of less than 5,000.
When the new funding formula became public, Saanich joined a number of communities opposing the changes.
While a small item in the city’s police budget of almost $31 million, the issue itself has become a sore point between the province and municipalities as yet another example of provincial downloading.
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities passed a resolution this September that urged the province to reverse its cuts. Provincial officials including Justice Minister Suzanne Anton and Solicitor General Mike Morris have previously told municipal governments to take up their concerns with the federal government.
It is not yet clear how these funding changes will impact Saanich.
While acting Sgt. Jereme Leslie would not disclose the number and types of investigations that use DNA testing, “as speaking to that could jeopardize future/ongoing investigations,” he says the funding change “does not impact our ability to perform DNA testing.”