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OFOVC Update - Summer 2016

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

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

In addition to helping victims to address their complaints and inquiries, we have been working hard to raise awareness of the recently adopted Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR). Our main focus is to highlight the transition from legislation to implementation, to ensure that victims’ rights are real in communities across Canada. As well, with the creation of new internal victim complaint mechanisms within federal departments, agencies, and bodies as part of the CVBR, we have been assisting victims in navigating the new complaints system to help ensure that the new system meets the needs of victims.

RECENT MILESTONES
Heard. Respected. Victims First.
Release of our 2014-2015 Annual Report
On May 19, 2016, we released our 2014-2015 Annual Report. The Report provides an overview of the OFOVC’s eighth year of operation as well as highlights of the Office’s key accomplishments. The Report also features our recommendations for positive change for victims of crime to ensure that all victims are informed, considered, protected and supported in the criminal justice system.

 

Systemic Review:  Financial Assistance for Victims to Attend Parole Board of Canada Parole Hearings

One of our major efforts was a systemic review of the portion of the Department of Justice Canada’s Victims Fund that provides financial assistance for victims of crime who request to attend parole hearings.  The purpose was to better understand the systemic basis of the LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SYSTEMIC REVIEW PROCESS.complaints we had received from registered victims across the country and to make recommendations around how these issues should be addressed so that victims receive the information they need and obtain the financial assistance they are entitled to, in a timely, sensitive, and efficient manner.  Through this review, the OFOVC made recommendations aimed at: ensuring that victims are well-informed about the program, improving staff training, developing reasonable and measureable service standards, and enhancing the oversight of the program. All of these recommendations were well received by the Department of Justice Canada. You can read the full report at http://www.victimsfirst.gc.ca/res/pub/fafv-afav/index.html.

Parliamentary studies and national inquiry submissions
In our work to ensure victims voices are heard and victim’s needs are considered, our office prepared three important submissions. On February 26, 2016, our office provided a submission on the pre-inquiry design process for a National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. On March 24, 2016, the Ombudsman appeared before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs as part of the study on delays in the criminal justice system. In May 2016, our office provided a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security as part of their study on Operational Stress Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Public Safety Officers and First Responders. Our submission focused on supporting first responders and public safety officers in the context of mass victimization incidents.

CURRENT PROJECTS
Systemic Review of the Federal Income Support for Parents of Missing and Murdered Children (PMMC) grant
We are currently conducting a systemic review of the PMMC grant. As reported in the media, there has been very little take up of the grant, resulting in significant underspending of the funds allocated. In fact, less than one per cent of the $20 million budgeted has actually been allocated to parents of murdered or missing children over that time frame. This review presents an important opportunity to explore how the program could be improved to ensure broader participation by victims of crime. We will keep you apprised of the status of this systemic review.

Working with Statistics Canada
In preparation of the CVBR’s five-year review, OFOVC has partnered with Statistics Canada’s Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in order to identify potential data sources at the time of crime, during court proceedings, and during corrections and parole. The study will produce a roadmap for the collection, production and dissemination of data pertaining to victim’s issues and services at different points of the criminal justice system across federal and provincial/territorial jurisdictions to assess the impact of the CVBR. 

The second phase of the project will involve mapping existing data sets. This mapping exercise will detail all data currently produced and highlight how they could be optimized to meet stated research needs.  Optimization could include linking data sets, adding new variables to existing surveys or increasing data quality and the scope of information already collected to inform policy and program development.  The end product of the study will be to develop a strategic roadmap detailing options for short, mid and long-term research projects, to respond to identified research needs and to develop victim-related metrics. This will ensure that comprehensive data will be available to conduct an effective five-year CVBR review.

OFOVC in the media
The OFOVC has recently submitted two articles to Canadian publications. The first, “Making victims’ rights real in your community” was published in the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s Spring bulletin. The second, “Recognizing the role of victim assistance in building and maintaining healthy and safe communities” will be published in the August 2016 edition of the Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, the flagship product of the Saskatchewan-based Community Safety Knowledge Alliance. We hope that you will enjoy reading our submissions.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
Outreach to the Victims Community
As part of our mandate to educate policy makers, stakeholders and service providers, the Ombudsman, and members of the Office, have been travelling across the country to participate at conferences, symposiums and roundtables in order to engage with victims, victim serving agencies and criminal justice officials in helping to make CVBR rights real in our communities. As well, one of the high points of the year for OFOVC was the invitation for Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan to moderate a panel at the United Nations Conference on the Human Rights of Victims of Terrorism.  Check out the Video of her panel (starts at 54:01).
The CVBR is now fully in force
In April 2015, the federal government passed Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act. The legislation included amendments to existing laws, including under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Many of these changes came into effect on July 23, 2015.  However, as of June 1, 2016, upon request, victims can:

  • receive information from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) about an offender’s correctional plan and progress towards meeting the objectives of the plan;
  • have CSC provide access to a photograph of the offender prior to certain releases into the community; and
  • request access from the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to listen to an audio recording of a parole hearing if unable to attend in person.

Victim’s Portal Launched
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On June 1, 2016, to improve services to victims, CSC and PBC have modernized how registered victims can access information with the launch of the Victims Portal.  The Victims Portal is a secure website where registered victims may obtain information about the federal offenders who harmed them.  Victims may use the Portal in addition to, or instead of, the current methods of communication by phone and mail.  The Portal will also allow registered victims to manage their information and preferences online.
Stakeholders play an important role in informing victims about corrections and conditional release.  Should you wish to inform the members and/or clients of your organization of these changes and about the Victims Portal, we invite you to provide the following electronic link on your website and/or social media links: Victims Portal.

 

National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week
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This year’s Victims and Survivors of Crime Week was capped by the National Capital Symposium which was held on June 3, 2016. This year’s theme for the symposium was “The Power of our Voices.”
Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan also marked the week by stating that: “After almost a year since the The symposium’s program can be viewed at www.victimsweek.gc.ca/symp-colloque/program.html.adoption of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR), this National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made toward implementing the legislation.” Ms. O'Sullivan continued: “More importantly, it gives Canadians the opportunity to recognize the power of victims and survivors voices in raising awareness of the issues they face, and advocating for reform to ensure they are better informed, considered, protected and supported.”


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.