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OFOVC Update

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Greetings from the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC).

In addition to helping victims to address their complaints and inquiries, we continue with our efforts to raise awareness of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR). We are assisting victims to navigate the new complaints mechanisms within federal departments, agencies and bodies. We have also been actively participating in federal government consultations, focusing on providing a victims’ perspective to help policymakers understand and accommodate the needs of victims in the policy making process.

Over the past few months, the OFOVC has completed several exciting projects. We are currently in the planning stages for several more.

RECENT MILESTONES

Extension of Sue O’Sullivan’s term as Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

One of the high points of 2016 was the August reappointment of Sue O’Sullivan as Ombudsman for a further twelve months. As passionate about her work as ever, the Ombudsman remains dedicated to realizing her goal that Canada adopts the best practices and solutions for victims of crime. The Ombudsman continues to be active in the media and internationally to ensure that victims’ issues are recognized and valued.

OFOVC submissions to federal consultations on policy development

The Office prepared six submissions to help inform policy development related to victims’ issues.

  • Measures under consideration for inclusion in the prescribed regulations related to security inadmissibility

    In June 2016, the OFOVC made a submission to the Canada Border Services Agency public consultation on Measures under consideration for inclusion in the prescribed regulations related to security inadmissibility. Despite changes brought about by the CVBR, victims continue to voice concerns both about their safety and their exclusion from participation in Immigration Review Board hearings in relation to offenders who are foreign nationals who may be subject to removal from Canada due to the nature of their offences. The Ombudsman recommended that victims be provided with pertinent information about: the transfer, release and/or deportation of the offender; any hearings related to admissibility or detention, and any conditions attached to an offender’s release; notification in the event that an offender is unlawfully at large; and that victims be permitted to attend IRB hearings on specific issues, including participation through delivering a statement on the impact of their victimization by the offender.

    Read the full submission here

  • Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation

    In August 2016, our Office made a submission to the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation entitled, “Victim-Centred Considerations for the Development of a Framework to Legalize, Regulate and Restrict Access to Marijuana”. Our submission focused on impaired driving; associations between marijuana use and experiences of victimization; child neglect, maltreatment and abuse in a post-legalization context; and the potential for victimization related to ongoing illicit marijuana-related activities. The Ombudsman made five recommendations related to: ensuring that measures are in place to prevent and address marijuana-impaired driving; better understanding associations between victimization and marijuana use; enhancing and standardizing data related to marijuana use and victimization; educating Canadians about the risks associated with cannabis use in relation to engaging in acts that victimize others; and ensuring that funds from marijuana revenues are available to support prevention and treatment initiatives that are trauma- and victim-informed.

    Read the full submission here

  • Institutional Agribusiness Consultation

    In August, the OFOVC also made a submission to the Correctional Service Canada’s (CSC) Institutional Agribusiness Consultation entitled, “Applying a Victim’s Lens to the Proposed Renewal of Federal Prison Farm Employment Programming”. Our submission highlighted that, in the event that the farm programs are renewed, the CSC would have the opportunity to ensure that registered victims were informed of their offender’s participation in the program, and were able to access their statutory right to information about their offender’s Correctional Plan, and progress against it. From the victim’s perspective, the offender’s rehabilitation is of key importance, given that most offenders will eventually be released. If employment is identified as one of the factors in an offender’s correctional plan, providing relevant information to the victim may help to reassure them that the offender is making progress in rehabilitation. The Ombudsman also raised a concern that registered victims of crime may experience difficulties or delays in accessing information to which they are entitled by law.

    Read the full submission here.

  • Gender-based violence

    In September 2016, the OFOVC made a submission to Status of Women Canada entitled, “Supporting Victims of Gender-based Violence in the Criminal Justice System”. The Ombudsman made recommendations about addressing gaps and strengthening GBV victims’ rights within the criminal justice system, including in the military and immigration systems, and considering GBV in the context of issues such as cyberviolence, restorative justice and publication bans in sexual assault cases. The Ombudsman’s recommendations also touched on the broader need for solutions in three key areas: statistics; education, training, and awareness; and victim-centred supports.

    Read the full submission here.

  • Consultation on Cyber Security

    In October 2016, our Office made a submission to Public Safety Canada’s consultation on cyber security entitled, “Considering the Victim: Meeting Victims’ Needs in Relation to Cybercrime and its Impacts”. While the true extent of cybercrime is currently unknown, the varying nature and severity of the crimes are of concern, and security agencies are taking the issue very seriously. The Ombudsman recommended improving data collection on cyber victimization in Canada, increasing public awareness about these types of crimes, ensuring that victim-centered supports are available for those who have experienced cyber victimization, and that the various sectors should work together to tackle this issue. The Ombudsman also highlighted existing legislative gaps. For example, while the Criminal Code contains provisions to address most forms of child pornography, there are no provisions that prohibit recording and sharing or posting of child physical abuse images on the Internet, or that compel removal of such images from Internet content networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). Ultimately, the laws and programs in place must reflect the realities both of a fast-paced technological environment and of the unique needs and concerns of victims of crime.

    Read the full submission here

  • Victims within the Canadian military justice system

    In November 2016, our Office made a submission to the Court Martial Comprehensive Review entitled “Fairness for all victims: Addressing the gap in the rights of victims of crime within the Canadian military justice system”. Currently, victims’ entitlements provided by the CVBR do not apply to offences prosecuted under the National Defence Act and therefore do not apply to victims of crime in the Canadian military justice system. This means, for example, that victims of offences such as sexual assault that are tried in military court have fewer rights, and continue to be treated differently, from sexual assault victims in the civilian system. The Ombudsman believes that this imbalance needs to be remedied and that all victims of crime should have access to legislated rights that address their needs for information, participation, protection and restitution throughout the investigation and prosecution of an offence and beyond. The Ombudsman recommended that the rights of victims of crimes prosecuted under the National Defence Act be brought in line with those under the CVBR, and that the Armed Forces ensure that its internal policies and practices address victims’ needs and concerns. 

    Read the full submission here.

CURRENT PROJECTS

Systemic Review of the grant program for parents of murdered and missing children

Presently, the OFOVC is conducting a systemic review of the Income Support for Parents of Murdered and Missing Children program administered by Service Canada. The Office would welcome input from those who have had experience with the program and wish to share their thoughts on this subject.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

As part of our mandate to educate policy makers, stakeholders and service providers, the Ombudsman, and members of the Office, continue to participate at conferences, symposiums and roundtables to engage with victims, victim serving agencies and criminal justice officials in helping to make CVBR rights real in our communities.


Share your thoughts!
If there is a victims’ issue you think deserves more attention or further study, please call us at 1-866-481-8429 or email us at victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca.
                           
Stay connected!

Finally, we invite you to follow us on Twitter, where we regularly post information to help raise awareness about victims’ rights, services available to victims and upcoming events. Our handle is @OFOVC_BOFVAC.