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.