The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime will continue to intervene on behalf of crime victims to attempt to solve problems they may encounter in their dealings with the criminal justice system. We will also advocate for:
Victims’ Rights & Standing for Victims of Crime
Even with the coming into force of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in 2015, an imbalance exists between the protection of rights afforded to those accused or convicted of crime in Canada and those people who are harmed by it. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides constitutional protections to persons accused of crime, whereas the rights provided to victims are legislatively-based. Crime victims in Canada must be guaranteed a certain standard of treatment, as per the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985) including redress for pain, loss and injury and dignity, respect and participation at all stages of the criminal justice process.
Victim participation is not a new concept; originally, victims were an integral part of our criminal justice system because they were the ones to bring the prosecution of the offender. The CRCVC believes standing for victims of crime is important because it allows the victim to step out of the witness role and have a role that is more substantial. When their personal interests and safety are affected, they should be able to present their views and concerns, and have the right to legal representation so they are treated with courtesy, dignity, and respect and able to enforce their rights. Victim participation or standing means a victim would be given formal or party status within the criminal court to defend their interests, just as the prosecutor pursues the interests of the state and the defence counsel pursues the interests of the accused.
Improving the corrections and parole systems in Canada
– Replace Statutory Release with Earned Parole. It has been well documented by corrections research that the conditional releases with the highest success rates are those that rely on the judgments of professionals and are based on proper risk assessments that focus on public safety, where the lowest success rates are for those releases by law, including statutory release.
– All conditional release decisions for first- and second-degree murderers that are not made by the parole board, should be made available to victims in writing and include information about the risk assessment process.
– Federal corrections should provide registered victims with the reasons why an offender’s parole has been suspended when it occurs. Not knowing the reasons why an offender has been returned to custody leaves victims living with worry, stress and in fear for their safety in some cases.
Expansion of information for victims
One of the most important issues for crime victims in their recovery is access to information. Currently, the crime victim’s ability to access the information they want is very limited. Some victims want access to Crown files in cases of plea bargains where there was no trial, but cannot access them. Other victims may want to see pictures from the crime scene, but such information is restricted.
Crime victims must not be prevented from accessing information about the crime; especially in favour of protecting the privacy rights of the person who harmed them.
Public safety must be a priority of government. There is a real danger presented by the release of high-risk offenders who have served their entire sentences, as they remain a risk to commit serious, violent sexual offences against children and others. A mechanism is needed to effective deal with these offenders so that Canadian society is no longer forced to simply open the prison doors and wait for the next victim.
Responding to victimization abroad
Canada must develop a national office to respond to Canadians harmed by crime abroad including victims of terrorism and their family members. When victims return home to Canada, they require comprehensive assistance to facilitate the normalization of their lives and this is a gap that currently exists. Victims are often turned away from many victim services programs in the community where they live because the crime did not take place there. Victims should be guaranteed all aspects of aftercare to meet their physical, emotional/psychological and financial needs.
Reducing victimization through crime prevention
Working with families impacted by homicide and other serious, violent crimes on a daily basis, we see the clear need to reduce violent victimization in Canada. In 2008, crime in Canada cost an estimated $99.6 billion, a majority of which, $68.2 billion or 68%, was borne by the victims. Victim costs include the value of damaged or stolen property, pain and suffering, loss of income and productivity, and healthcare services.
Reducing criminal victimization must be a national priority. We call for the implementation of crime prevention strategies and social development programs such as: providing enriched, subsidized child care for all citizens; affordable/transitional housing programs; public health nurses to work in at-risk communities, anti-bullying, antiviolence and respect for gender/diversity programs in schools; programs to ensure literacy; protecting children from family violence; after school programs; job training/skills development programs; anti-substance abuse programs in schools; access to mental health and addictions programs for those in need; etc…
Creation of a national program for financial assistance for victims of violent crime
The responsibility of providing financial assistance to persons victimized by violent crime currently rests with the provinces. This system is inequitable because programs do not exist in all of the provinces and territories and where programs do exist, they offer very differing levels of assistance. A national program of financial assistance would create standardized levels of assistance and ensure that all Canadians have equal access to financial support in their recovery and healing following violent victimization. Across Canada, we provided only $146 million in compensation to 19,000 applicants (78% approved) yet victim services served 460,000 victims – with only $161 million for direct services to victims (2011/12 Victim Services Survey).
Financial support for non-government organizations who serve crime victims
Federal funding is needed to allow non-government agencies working to support and empower innocent Canadians harmed by violent crime to continue to operate. Sustaining funding is needed (at the same level as provided to groups working on behalf of criminal offenders) for victim serving organizations in order to allow them to continue offering vital advocacy, support/counselling programs and information resources to their clients.