Remarks to the House of Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-26
An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Presented by Sue O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
February 16, 2015
- Bonjour, Monsieur le président et chers membres du comité.
- Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss Bill C-26.
- I would like to begin by providing you an overview of my Office’s mandate.
- Created in 2007, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims in two main ways: individually, and collectively.
- We help victims individually by speaking with them every day, answering their questions and addressing their complaints.
- We help victims collectively by reviewing important issues and making recommendations to the Federal Government on how to improve its laws, policies or programs, to better support victims of crime.
- Bill C-26 seeks to make a number of changes to the Criminal Code and other legislation to address some issues related to sexual offences against children.
- These changes include;
Increasing minimum and maximum penalties for certain offences against children
Making it mandatory to impose consecutive sentences for these offences.
Increasing the reporting obligations of registered sex offenders who travel outside Canada, and
Creating a new national public database containing information on high risk child sex offenders.
- Over the years we have had several victims contact our office expressing frustration and concern with issues regarding offenders who have committed sexual offences against children. As with all victims of crime, they have a need to be informed, considered, protected and supported.
- We have heard from victims who are frustrated by the lack of meaningful information they are able to access about offenders being released into the community
- We have also, heard from victims who do not feel considered and protected at different stages of the criminal justice system, including at sentencing and in setting release conditions.
- As well, we have heard from victims about the need for supports throughout the criminal justice process, starting at time of crime, through the courts and through to post-conviction and conditional release. As you have heard from other witnesses, these needs can be life-long.
- Bill C-26 seeks to make information available to victims through a publicly available database of information on high-risk child sex offenders.
- Our office has found that most communities across the country have processes in place related to public interest notifications for high-risk offenders. In some provinces, these notifications are posted on public websites. The proposed public database should provide victims and communities more consistent access to information about high-risk child sex offenders.
- Legislative changes to sentencing and the sharing of information should also be supported by resources to assist victims report and recover from the crimes committed against them.
- As for sharing information between law enforcement officials, I support changes to the sex offender registry act that would allow police and the Canadian Border Services Agency to share more information in combating child victimization abroad.
- Under Bill C-26, the minimum and maximum sentences for sexual offences against children would increase and sentences for multiple victims would need to be served consecutively.
- We have heard from victims who support consecutive sentencing because it acknowledges and recognizes the harm done to each victim.
- Although sentencing may be an important issue for some victims, it alone does not address the concerns and needs of victims.
- When having conversations about such sensitive issues, it is important to keep in mind that every victim’s experiences and needs are unique.
- Cases of child sexual assault are complex and often involve someone known to the victim.
- I would like to emphasize the importance of having community resources and supports in place, not only for when a victim comes forward about the abuse, but also to deal with the lifelong and sometimes intergenerational trauma that can come with this type of victimization.
- In closing, I would like to thank the Committee for its consideration of Bill and for its work in examining this important issue.
- I believe that Bill C-26 provides measure to better inform and consider the needs of victims of crime.
- I thank you for your time and look forward to any questions you may have.