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Government Response to the 2008-09 Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Annual Report

FOREWORD

I am pleased to release the Government's Response to the 2008-09 Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Annual Report.

As Minister of Justice, I share the commitment expressed by the Ombudsman to ensure that victims of crime are treated with the respect they deserve and given the support they need. This Government has made responding to the needs of victims of crime a priority since it was first elected in 2006, and we will continue to do so.

I look forward to continuing the productive working relationship between the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and the Government of Canada in addressing victim issues and improving the lives of all Canadians.

INTRODUCTION

The Federal Victims Strategy

The Federal Victims Strategy (Strategy) is a Government initiative led by the Department of Justice. The Strategy involves the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, as well as the Department of Public Safety Canada and its agencies, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. The Department of Justice also maintains regular contact with the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) to keep abreast of issues of concern to the Ombudsman.

The objective of the Strategy is to give victims a more effective voice in the criminal justice and corrections systems. To meet this objective, the Government committed $52 million over four years to the Strategy in 2007. Budget 2010 proposed $6.6 million over two years for new activities consistent with the Strategy. Budget 2011 renewed the Strategy and its funding.

The Government of Canada supports victims of crime and victim issues and is working with partners to ensure that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice and corrections systems.

RESPONSES TO RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE REPORT

  • Providing Support to Victims of Crime

    Current Status

    The Government has committed to providing enhanced EI benefits to parents of murdered or missing children, and parents of gravely ill children. This will be a significant improvement upon the current system. While the EI system does not currently provide benefits specifically directed to persons affected by crime, those that contribute to the EI program are already eligible for up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits if unable to work due to health reasons, including stress caused by injury or loss of a loved one, if they meet the entrance requirement of 600 insurable hours of employment. In limited circumstances, family members of victims of crime may also be eligible for up to six weeks of compassionate care benefits.

  • Accelerated Parole for Offenders Convicted of Child Sexual Exploitation

    Current Status

    Child sexual exploitation offences are serious crimes perpetrated against one of Canada's most vulnerable populations, children. There had been a number of calls to abolish accelerated parole review for offenders convicted of child sexual exploitation. The Government introduced legislation, the Abolition of Early Parole Act (Bill C-59) which came into force on March 28, 2011, eliminating accelerated parole reviews. The Government has delivered on this recommendation of the Ombudsman.

  • Funding for Child Advocacy Centres

    Current Status

    In October of 2010, the Minister of Justice announced funding totalling $5.25 million over five years for the creation and enhancement of child advocacy centres across Canada. The funding is available through the Victims Fund at the Department of Justice.

    Professional services offered by CACs may include coordinated interviews by law enforcement and Crown Attorneys, examination of the child by a paediatrician or child psychologist, and trauma counseling. The goal of a CAC is to minimize the number of interviews and questions directed at the child, thereby minimizing any additional system-induced trauma. This reduction in trauma enables children to provide stronger evidence, which can lead to an increase in charges laid, guilty please, convictions and appropriate sentences.

    CACs help children and their families navigate the justice system in a number of ways. These include providing the child with a safe and comfortable environment in which to be interviewed by criminal justice professionals, minimizing the number of interviews for the child and ultimately leading to better communications between agencies supporting young victims. The use of video taping technology at CACs has proven an effective method for gathering valuable information to help the child and the justice system. CACs may also provide education and training to justice professionals on the best practices for interviewing child victims and witnesses.

    In February of 2011, the Department of Justice co-hosted a Knowledge Exchange which brought together experts on child advocacy centres from across Canada and the United States. This Exchange provided organizations seeking to enhance or establish child advocacy centres with an excellent opportunity to share and develop best practices for providing services to child victims of crime and non-offending family members.

    The Department of Justice's support of new and existing child advocacy centres across Canada is an example of the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to victims of crime.

  • Making Offenders Accountable for Harm Done to Victims

    Current Status

    IThe victim surcharge is an additional penalty automatically imposed on offenders at the time of sentencing for all offences under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The surcharge amount is 15% of any fine imposed or, if no fine is imposed, $50 for a summary conviction offence or $100 for an indictable offence and judges have the discretion to increase these amounts. The surcharge can be waived only if the offender establishes undue hardship.

    Revenue from the surcharge is collected by the provinces and territories and used to fund programs to assist victims of crime in the province of territory where the offence took place.

    In addition to federal victim surcharge revenue, all provinces have also enacted provincial surcharges applicable to provincial offences, which provide an additional revenue source for victim services.

    In the March 3, 2010 Speech from the Throne, the Government committed to introduce legislation to make the victim surcharge mandatory to better fund victim services. The Government remains committed to enacting amendments to the Criminal Code to ensure mandatory imposition of the victim surcharge.

  • 2009-2010 Annual Report – Updates on Previous Recommendations

    Current Status

    The victim surcharge is an additional penalty automatically imposed on offenders at the time of sentencing for all offences under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The surcharge amount is 15% of any fine imposed or, if no fine is imposed, $50 for a summary conviction offence or $100 for an indictable offence and judges have the discretion to increase these amounts. The surcharge can be waived only if the offender establishes undue hardship.

    Revenue from the surcharge is collected by the provinces and territories and used to fund programs to assist victims of crime in the province of territory where the offence took place.

    In addition to federal victim surcharge revenue, all provinces have also enacted provincial surcharges applicable to provincial offences, which provide an additional revenue source for victim services.

    In the March 3, 2010 Speech from the Throne, the Government committed to introduce legislation to make the victim surcharge mandatory to better fund victim services. The Government remains committed to enacting amendments to the Criminal Code to ensure mandatory imposition of the victim surcharge.

  • Notifying Victims of Deportation Status of Offenders

    Current Status

    Citizenship and Immigration Canada is aware of the Ombudsman's recommendations. The Department of Justice will continue to liaise with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency on this issue.

CONCLUSION

The Department of Justice, in collaboration with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and the Department of Public Safety Canada and its agencies, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada, will continue to work with the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to help ensure that victims of crime have an effective voice in the criminal justice and corrections system.