As we head into the 11th annual Victims and Survivors or Crime Week in Canada (May 29 – June 4, 2016), it is important to reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of responding to and serving victims of crime. Across the country, there are hundreds of programs that now provide shelter, support and assistance to persons harmed by crime and violence. Service providers work diligently to help their clients achieve safety, information, healing and autonomy. Working in this field is an honour because we are moved, inspired and transformed every day by our clients.
It is equally important to continue to raise awareness of victim and survivor issues. Victims still face challenges in reporting crime, navigating the criminal justice system and trying to access the support they need to recover. Recent high profile cases of sexual assault have shown us that even when victims want to participate in legal processes, there are significant challenges in successfully prosecuting these cases. A survivor recently said, “That’s why people don’t come forward, it’s because at every turn you are doubted, and you are questioned, and you are told that you are liar, and you are told that you are out for fame, or out for money, at every turn there is a disincentive to participate in the legal process.” The voice of survivors can truly be powerful in changing the social, political and legal contexts in which we deal with the endemic problem of sexual assault.
As the Minister of Justice begins her review of the entire criminal justice system, we’ve outlined the gaps that we continue to hear about from victims across Canada, despite the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights being one year old and providing enshrined rights for victims. You can read our letter to the Minister here and reach out to the office to share your experiences with the justice system at any time: 1-877-232-2610.