Correctional Service of Canada Review
On April 20, 2007, the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety announced the appointment of an independent panel to review the operations of the Correctional Service of Canada as part of the Government's commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities. The Ombudsman provided a written submission and met with the Review Panel. The Ombudsman recommended:
- More information about offenders for victims of crime
- Serious consideration of Aboriginal victims' voices
- Greater care in sharing victim information with offenders to ensure utmost safety
The Review Panel released its report in October 2007 and said it had,
"reviewed CSC's proposed implementation plan to ensure that it was responding to the Government's initiatives to support victims of crime and develop the human resource infrastructure required to deliver timely, accurate information to meet the needs of victims. An important part of the review was consultation with the recently appointed Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Steve Sullivan."
Internet-Facilitated Child Exploitation
The Ombudsman participated in two government consultations to highlight the need for legislative reform that would enhance law enforcement abilities to identify victims seen in child sexual abuse images found online. Unlike other countries, Canada does not have legislation requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to assist police to identify and rescue victims of Internet-facilitated sexual exploitation. Children are left vulnerable to future abuse if police cannot identify Internet users.
In the fall of 2007, the Department of Public Safety released a consultation document entitled Customer Name and Address Information Consultation, and the Ombudsman provided a written brief and met with the Panel. The Ombudsman recommended that the Minister of Public Safety introduce legislation requiring ISPs to provide customer name and address information to law enforcement agencies investigating Internet facilitated child sexual abuse cases.
ii) The Minister of Industry released a consultation document in response to the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The Ombudsman noted that PIPEDA permits organizations, such as ISPs, to disclose personal information without consent — but they are not required to. The Ombudsman recommended that the Minister of Industry proceed immediately to amend PIPEDA to require ISPs to provide the names and addresses of customers in investigations involving the abuse of children. The Minister made a commitment to amend PIPEDA to clarify that ISPs can legally share the information.
Restitution for Victims
In 2003, crime in Canada cost an estimated $70 billion — and the majority of those costs - $47 billion, or 67% — was borne by victims. A sentencing option called restitution – which promotes a sense of responsibility in offenders and their acknowledgement of the harm done to victims — is underutilized and poorly enforced in Canada. The Ombudsman has called on the federal government to review potential restitution options so that more offenders are held accountable to more victims. The Ombudsman has also made a concurrent recommendation that members of the judiciary become better informed about the challenges victims of crime face and the importance of both restitution and victim fine surcharges. The Ministers of Justice and Public Safety established a working group to examine the Ombudsman's recommendations.
National Sex Offender Registry
The National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) was created in 2004 to assist police investigations of child abductions and sexual offences. The Ombudsman's office expressed concerns to the Minister of Public Safety about its effectiveness and made several recommendations in order to strengthen its capacity as a useful tool for law enforcement to prevent crimes, protect children, and identify suspects. Currently, in order to access the NSOR, law enforcement personnel must first determine if a specific crime is of a sexual nature. However, time is of the essence in many cases (for instance, in child abductions by strangers) and it is unreasonable to expect that this determination be made before the NSOR is accessed. The Ombudsman believes that access to the registry be enhanced so that frontline law enforcement personnel can access it on a timely and proactive basis, without having to wait for a formal determination whether the crime was sexually motivated. The Ombudsman recommended that the legislation governing the NSOR be reviewed by the relevant Parliamentary Committee in order to improve its capacity as a public safety tool. The Minister of Public Safety requested that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security review the legislation. The Ombudsman also noted that the Correctional Service of Canada did not always alert the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when registered sex offenders were released from prison. The Minister of Public Safety provided assurance that the Government was taking appropriate steps to improve the NSOR and that there is now an administrative agreement between the Correctional Service of Canada and the RCMP to share information on the release of sex offenders.