Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system Giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

The Conservative government introduced a 68-page Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in Parliament today, promising it will transform the way victims are treated by the justice system.

The bill will put “victims in a better place, their more rightful place, which is at the heart of the system,” Justice Minister Peter MacKay promised in the fall. “They’re not just another Crown witness. They want a more effective voice.” He said the bill would ensure victims have a right to be included throughout the process, “from the time of the offence to the final disposition of the sentence.”

The legislation would create the following statutory rights for victims of crime:

  • Right to information: Victims would have the right to general information about the criminal justice system and available victim services and programs, as well as specific information about the progress of the case, including information relating to the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of the person who harmed them.
  • Right to protection: Victims would have the right to have their security and privacy considered at all stages of the criminal justice process, to have reasonable and necessary measures to protect them from intimidation and retaliation, and to request their identity be protected from public disclosure.
  • Right to participation: Victims would have a right to convey their views about decisions to be made by criminal justice professionals and have them considered at various stages of the criminal justice process, and to present a victim impact statement.
  • Right to restitution: Victims would have the right to have the court consider making a restitution order for all offences for which there are easy-to-calculate financial losses.

The Government says it will provide dedicated funding to support the implementation of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights through existing resources as well as the allocation of new federal resources.

The CRCVC applauds this legislation introduced in Canada today.  We are glad that victims will be provided an updated picture of an offender upon his/her release from prison, information about an offender’s deportation from Canada and an audiotape from parole hearings, issues our agency has long advocated for.  We are particularly pleased to see a complaints mechanism for victims in the legislation.

We had hoped the Bill would go further and agree with  Dr. Irvin Waller who says that too many victims aren’t accessing the supports available to them in their communities and to change this, we must: 1) make victim rights measurable; 2) inform victims of services and rights and 3) invest in effective victimization prevention.  It is not immediately clear how we will measure the implementation of the VBR across Canada.  The Bill does not specify who is responsible for providing information to victims about the criminal justice system, available services or how to access them (which a current issue with existing provincial/territorial Bills of Rights for victims) and it is silent about efforts to reduce victimization in Canada.  We view the VBR as an important tool to strengthen and update the rights of people who are hurt by crime.

ROMANCE FRAUD/SCAMS

This year, 1 in 900 Canadian men and women will be defrauded of an average of 15,000 Canadian dollars by romance fraud. The scammer will probably use dating websites to make an electronic connection with the victim but will quickly request changing to cellphone and email contact. The scammer will send photographs and a personal profile to appear to be someone legitimate looking for a relationship. All this information will be fictitious. Private telephone conversations usually occur late at night time, in order to physically tire out the victim, and will take place regularly for weeks to months. The victim will spend increasing periods of time “sharing information”. When the offending scammer has gathered the victim’s personal information, the conversations become more intimate with personal details and shared likes. Claims of attachment, adoration and love are used to convince a vulnerable victim that the relationship is real and serious. 

When the relationship is considered close, requests for small amounts of money are made by the scammer. Once the victim begins to send money, the scammer may describe sudden personal health problems and/or financial difficulties. The scammer will request increased sums of money be sent through the mail or wire service to another country. The scammer may request the victim to cash a cheque or offer to repay by cheque. The scammer’s cheque will be returned to the victim indicating insufficient funds. The money requested gradually increases with requests for assistance with urgent medical bills, money for an airplane ticket or assistance with payments in order to purchase the “house of their dreams”. The love struck victim may initially be unable to accept that the acquaintance is really a scammer until substantial money has been lost even though in most cases they have never met one another in person.

Safety tips
Prevent such romance scams by only using reputable dating websites. Use Google to check personal information given to you. Do not ever send money or give bank account or credit card numbers to people you meet online. Personal information and photographs should not be exchanged with online acquaintances. The sooner the victim identifies the signs of a romance scam, which almost always occur in the phases described above, the less money will be lost and the loss of the relationship will be less emotionally devastating. Take heed of the warning signs highlighted in the above scenario. Keep all emails, messages and receipts. Block anyone you do not wish to contact.

Take Action
If you or someone you know may be being scammed romantically, contact your local police to report what has happened to you, AS WELL AS the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Scammers can break you financially and emotionally. A good website to visit for more detailed information is www.romancescams.org.  Seek professional assistance and support, if needed.

Guest blog by: Dr. Steven Rubin
Victimology Graduate Certificate Program, Algonquin College

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime works to ensure the equitable treatment of crime victims by providing support and advocacy to survivors.

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