Government Response to the 2009-2010 Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Annual Report
I am please to release the Government's Response to the 2009-10 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. Sine this Government was first elected in 2006, it has made responding to the needs of victims of crime a priority. This commitment has been proven time and again through the concrete measures that this Government has taken to ensure that victims of crime have an effective voice in the criminal justice system. I am confident that the Ombudsman will see that the Government has made progress on a number of important victim issues.
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.
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
Privacy Laws and Victim Referrals
Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice are currently consulting with the RCMP, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, as well as provinces and territories to examine options that will address the issues surrounding the sharing of victim information with victim service organizations.
In August 2010, the RCMP released a bulletin to its members with the goal of addressing this issue in the short term. The bulletin directed that, with the consent of the victim, or, when in the opinion of the investigator, exceptional circumstances existed and victim services were required, basic victim contact information would be passed to victim service workers to permit victims to be contacted regarding available victims services.
As of July 28, 2011, the RCMP implemented a new National Victim Assistance Policy incorporating different models of referrals to victim service organizations. As a result, in August 2011, the RCMP rescinded the 2010 bulletin. Negotiations continue between the RCMP and various jurisdictions to develop memoranda to facilitate the transfer of information.
While this issue presents challenges due to privacy legislation and varied models of victim services across jurisdictions, work continues to develop a long-term, consistent and effective response.
Victims of Hate Crime
The Government agrees that hate crimes impact upon the particular community to which the victim of a hate crime belongs. The Government will carefully consider whether to amend the Criminal Code to allow for community impact statements in the specific context of prosecuting hate crimes.
The OFOVC is correct in pointing out that the legislation regarding white collar crimes, which has since been enacted as the Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act, S.C. 2011, C.6 and which received Royal Assent on March 23, 2011 but has not yet come into force, provides that a court may consider a community impact statement in cases of fraud. However, while no similar provision currently exists in relation to hate crimes, this does not prevent a court from considering a community impact statement where a hate crime has been committed. For example, in 2006, a disabled Sudanese refugee was brutally assaulted in Kitchener, Ontario. The assault was racially motivated. Once of his assaulters later pled guilty to assault causing bodily harm. When determining sentence, the trial judge considered a community impact statement that was filed with the court. See R v. Bradley, 2007 CarswellOnt 999 (Ontario Court of Justice, June 12, 2007).
The OFOVC also recommends that services available to victims of hate crimes and hate incidents be substantially enhanced and expanded, including making hate crime victims a priority for victim services. The responsibility for providing direct services to victims and witnesses of crime rests primarily with the provinces and territories. In general, victims of hate crime would receive the services available to all victims of crime. In addition, provinces establish the priorities for meeting the needs of victims of crime in accordance with their capacity to provide services and other factors. For example, in Ontario, the Victim / Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) provides information, assistance and support to victims and witnesses of crime to increase their understanding of, and participation in, the criminal court process. Services are provided on a priority basis and one of those priorities is hate crime.
Missing Persons Index
In June of 2009, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security tabled its report on the DNA Identification Act. The Government accepted the recommendations of the Standing Committee in principle and recognized that the use of SNA in the justice system has contributed significantly to the safety and security of Canadians by identifying perpetrators of crimes and exonerating those who have been wrongly suspected of committing crimes.
In June 2010, the Senate Standing Committee on legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled its report,
"Public Protection, Privacy and the Search for Balance: A Statutory Review of the DNA Identification Act". The report found that progress is being made in this area in spite of the challenging jurisdictional, Charter, logistical and financial issues that must be addressed.
The Government continues to work towards a model which will address these challenges as well as the concerns of families of missing persons.
Sexual Violence in the Military
The Minister of National Defence continues to support the role of victims in the military justice system. The Government has attempted, on a number of occasions, to bring forward proposed legislation to reform the military justice system by providing a greater voice to victims through the introduction of victim impact statements at courts martial:
Bill C-41 An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts— 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. This Bill was introduced in April 2006 and died on the Order Paper after the Standing Committee Report was submitted.
Bill C-45 An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts— 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. This Bill was introduced in March 2008 and died on the Order Paper (after First Reading) in September 2008.
Bill C-7 An Act to amend the National Defence Act — 39th Parliament, 1st Session. This Bill was introduced in June 2010 and died on the Order Paper (after First Reading) in March 2011.
The Canadian Forces Military Police have a well-developed and comprehensive victim assistance program in place for instances where offences involving sexual violence are reported to and investigated by the Military Police.
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 implement the Federal Victims Strategy to ensure that victims of crime have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system.
As the Minister of Justice, I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to improve the lives of victims in Canada.