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- What are victims' rights in Canada?
Victims' rights in Canada
In Canada, there are both federal and provincial laws that apply to victims.
In federal legislation, victims' rights are recognized in the Criminal Code and in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
Under section 722 of the Criminal Code, a victim of crime can file and read a Victim Impact Statement at the time of sentencing an offender. A Victim Impact Statement is a written statement made by the victim that describes the harm done to the victim and, more generally, the effect that the crime has had on his or her life. The Victim Impact Statement is given to the judge who will take it into account when considering the sentence the offender will receive.
Corrections and Conditional Release Act
When enacted in 1992, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) marked the first time that victims were formally recognized in any federal legislation governing the correctional and conditional release system.
While the CCRA is largely focused on offenders, it does permit victims to receive certain information about offenders. Paragraphs 26(1)(a) and 142(1)(a) require the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to disclose the following information to a victim:
- the offender's name,
- the offence for which the offender was convicted and the court that convicted the offender,
- the date of commencement and length of the sentence that the offender is serving, and
- eligibility dates and review dates applicable to the offender in respect of escorted and unescorted temporary absences or parole.
In addition to these rights, the CCRA also provides the opportunity for further information to be shared with the offender - but it does not require it. Specifically, paragraphs 26(1)(b) and 142(1)(b) permit the CSC and the PBC to disclose additional information on a case-by-case basis, if they determine the release of the information is justified on the grounds that the interest of the victim in such disclosure outweighs any invasion of the offender's privacy that could result from the disclosure.
This information may include:
- the offender's age;
- the location of the penitentiary in which the sentence is being served;
- the date, if any, on which the offender is to be released on temporary absence, work release, parole or statutory release;
- the date of any hearing for the purposes of a detention review;
- any of the conditions attached to the offender's temporary absence, work release, parole or statutory release;
- the destination of the offender on any temporary absence, work release, parole or statutory release, and whether the offender will be in the vicinity of the victim while travelling to that destination;
- whether the offender is in custody and, if not, the reason that the offender is not in custody; and
- whether or not the offender has appealed a decision of the PBC and the outcome of that appeal.
Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime
In addition to these rights, all federal, provincial and territorial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime in 1988 and then a renewed version in 2003.
The Statement provides a comprehensive and valuable overview of how victims should be treated, particularly during the criminal justice process. However because it is not law, it does not provide victims with additional rights beyond those outlined above.
In honour of the United Nations' Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, and with concern for the harmful impact of criminal victimization on individuals and on society, and in recognition that all persons have the full protection of rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other provincial Charters governing rights and freedoms; that the rights of victims and offenders need to be balanced; and of the shared jurisdiction of federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice agree that the following principles should guide the treatment of victims, particularly during the criminal justice process.
The following principles are intended to promote fair treatment of victims and should be reflected in federal/provincial/territorial laws, policies and procedures:
- Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.
- The privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.
- All reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims.
- The safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.
- Information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim's role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes.
- Victims should be given information, in accordance with prevailing law, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress and final outcome of the proceedings; and the status of the offender in the correctional system.
- Information should be provided to victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them, and means of obtaining financial reparation.
- The views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with prevailing law, policies and procedures.
- The needs, concerns and diversity of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services, and in related education and training.
- Information should be provided to victims about available options to raise their concerns when they believe that these principles have not been followed.