Over the years, the CRCVC has worked to advance victims’ rights in a number of areas, influencing several positive legislative reforms and important policy changes affecting crime victims. The following are a few examples of our success:
- The CRCVC has been involved in work to bring about numerous recent pieces of legislation in Canada, including: Amendments to the CCRA under The Safe Streets and Communities Act including enshrining victim participation in conditional release board hearings, and keeping victims better informed about the behaviour and handling of offenders; Federal income support for parents of murdered or missing children; The elimination of the faint-hope clause; Consecutive sentences for multiple murderers; Legislation to strengthen the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank by automatically including convicted sex offenders in the registry and making DNA sampling for convicted sex offenders mandatory; and the doubling of Victim Surcharge amounts and to make them mandatory for all offenders convicted of a criminal offence.
- OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL OMBUDSMAN FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME – On April 23, 2007, former CRCVC President Steve Sullivan was named Canada’s first Ombudsman for crime victims, a position and office the CRCVC long called for. The Ombudsman will be responsible for helping victims tap into existing federal programs for crime victims, promote the needs of victims within the justice system and government, review complaints and identify emerging victims’ issues. The Office of the Federal Ombudsman can also issue reports, along with recommendations, to the ministers of justice or public safety, and request a government response. The Ombudsman will operate at arm’s length from the federal departments responsible for victim issues, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Safety.
- FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR CANADIANS VICTIMIZED ABROAD – Following interventions with a number of Canadians impacted by terrorism and mass violence outside of Canada, CRCVC voiced the need to develop specialized consular training to better serve crime victims and create a program at the federal level to provide financial assistance to Canadians who are victimized outside of Canada. On April 1, 2007, a funding program was announced at the federal level (Victims Fund) to provide emergency financial assistance to individual Canadians who are victims of specified serious violent crimes in a foreign jurisdiction for emergency situations of undue hardship where no other source of financial assistance is available.
- FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR VICTIMS TO ATTEND PAROLE BOARD HEARINGS & THE CREATION OF A NATIONAL OFFICE FOR VICTIMS – As of November 1, 2005, victims of crime in Canada will now be able to apply for financial assistance to attend the Parole Board of Canada hearings of the offender who harmed them. In addition, a new National Office for Victims has been established to provide information and support to victims.The CRCVC pushed for such a fund to pay for travel given the fact that some hearings take place thousands of kilometres from where the victim lives. While victims may have had the right to attend and speak at federal parole hearings, until now, many could not afford to travel to these hearings to exercise their rights. We are also very pleased about the creation of the National Office for Victims to voice their complaints and frustration with the federal corrections system. We believe this office is an important component in supporting crime victims.
- PASSAGE OF BILL C-13, LEGISLATION TO STRENGTHEN THE DNA DATA BANK – Amidst parliamentary chaos in May 2000, the CRCVC, along with the help of three women who have suffered incredible loss, successfully pushed Bill C-13 through the House of Commons and the Senate. The amendments to the legislation will allow courts to make DNA data bank orders for a much wider range of offences – potentially, for any offence punishable by a sentence of five years or more. The Bill also expands the retroactive provisions of the legislation so that all persons convicted before June 30, 2000, of murder, manslaughter or a sexual offence, and who are still under sentence, will be included in the National DNA Data Bank. Some of the other amendments to the Criminal Code under Bill C-13 include:
- making it mandatory for a court to make a DNA data bank order for those persons convicted of the very worst and most violent offences, for example, murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault;
- authorizing courts to make DNA orders for persons who have been found to have committed a designated offence, but who have also been found “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder”;
- adding Internet luring of a child, child pornography and criminal organization offences to the list of “primary designated offences”; and,
- providing a mechanism that will result in the review of DNA data bank orders that may have been made without legal authority.
- EXPANSION OF INFORMATION PROVIDED TO VICTIMS – The CRCVC has voiced the need for an expansion of the type of information provided to victims of offenders serving federal sentences. Information about programming (or lack thereof) will allow victims to better judge the risk an offender may still present to them, if any. Advance notifications of transfers, reasons behind transfers and access to recordings of the most recent National Parole Board hearings are crucial pieces of information for victims to access. In the past, the denial of such information under the pretense of protecting an offender’s privacy was seen as unacceptable. Accordingly, the government has introduced Bill C-46, which will amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA)to:
- Enshrine in law the right of victims to present a statement at National Parole Board hearings.
- Revise the definition of victim to ensure that guardians/caregivers of dependants of victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated can get the information that victims are permitted under the law.
- Provide victims with access to a recording of the most recent hearing held by the NPB regarding the offender who harmed them.
- Expand the type of information that can be provided to victims to include information on offender program participation and the reason(s) for offender transfers, with advance notice of transfers to minimum security institutions, whenever possible.
In Ontario, the government has introduced Bill 190, which amends both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to provide next of kin with the disclosure of personal information about a deceased loved one for compassionate reasons (as long as the access request does not constitute an unjustified invasion of personal privacy). The CRCVC has worked vigorously to have such amendments introduced, and believe all other provinces/territories and the federal government should amend their access to information laws similarly.