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OFOVC Update Spring 2017

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

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week May 28-June 3, 2017

The Ombudsman marked the week by attending the Federal Symposium held at the Westin Calgary in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, May 29, 2017. The symposium was a day-long event featuring workshops and plenary sessions on issues for victims and survivors of crime, and was live-streamed. Other events, funded in part by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI), were planned to take place across the country all through the week. For more information:
http://www.victimsweek.gc.ca/home-accueil.html

In other news, the OFOVC remains busy with signature projects such as submissions to public consultations and parliamentary committees and appearances at domestic and international conferences. As always, our objective is to provide decision makers with a victims’ perspective on the issues under discussion. We continue to assist the hundreds of Canadians who contact the Office each year with questions and complaints and encourage federal organizations to recognize and respond to victims’ needs.


RECENT MILESTONES


Conférence international pour l’aide aux victimes

Conférence international pour l’aide aux victimes The Ombudsman was invited to participate in an important international conference hosted by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the patronage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris in January 2017. The conference brought together foreign and French experts to share experiences and best practices. The goal of the conference was to present a European and international initiative in support of an interdisciplinary victim assistance policy involving improved coordination between states.1

Ombudsman Sue O'Sullivan with conference organizer Juliette Méadel. Nearly 1,000 people participated in this conference, which is testament to the need to strengthen European and International cooperation in assisting the victims of terrorism. With the Foreign Ministers present, Juliette Méadel decided to set up a “CIVIC Committee” responsible developing concrete ideas to better share information among victim aid services, harmonize practices, implement joint training exercises, and improve victims’ access to clear information about their rights.2

The Ombudsman provided an overview of the Canadian context and criminal justice system, including the role of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. She then went on to outline the recommendations made by the Office in our submission to Public Safety Canada’s National Security Consultation on Victim-Centred Considerations for the Development of a National Security Framework (see below for summary), and best practices and lessons learned from incidents world-wide.


OFOVC submissions to federal consultations on policy development


As part of our work to amplify victims’ voices and ensure victim’s needs are considered, our Office continues to provide recommendations to policy makers on issues which may affect victims of crime. Recently, we have provided two submissions; one on the review of record suspensions and one on the development of a national security framework that recognizes victims’ needs. OFOVC also provided a submission to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on the Status of Women: Study of Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault), and conducted a systemic review of the grant program for parents of murdered and missing children.


Victim-Centred Considerations for the Consultation on the Review of Record Suspensions


In December 2016, the OFOVC provided a submission to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada entitled “Victim-Centred Considerations for the Consultation on the Review of Record Suspensions”.

 

The Government of Canada (GOC) is reviewing legislative amendments made to the criminal justice system over the past decade. As part of this work, Public Safety Canada has launched a review of record suspensions under the>Criminal Records Act (CRA).A record suspension (formerly referred to as a ‘pardon’) enables people with a criminal record to have it set aside, with the objective of helping them access employment, educational and other opportunities, and to reintegrate into society.

 

Since changes to the record suspension system may affect victims of crime, the Ombudsman wished to ensure that victims are an integral consideration in the consultations, as well as in the subsequent development of any options for reform.


The Ombudsman recommended that:

  • The GOC continue to use the term ‘record suspension’, or another suitable term, as opposed to the term ‘pardon’, because the term ‘pardon’ has connotations that can be offensive to some victims of crime.
  • Payment of fines in relation to victims (e.g., restitution, victim fine surcharge) remain one of the eligibility criteria for a record suspension.
  • The Parole Board of Canada continue to include safeguards that mitigate against the potential for victimization and risks to public safety through a careful screening process.

The full report may be found here: http://victimsfirst.gc.ca/vv/RRSE-RRSF/index.html

 

Victim-Centred Considerations for the Development of a National Security Framework


In December 2016, the Ombudsman provided a submission to Public Safety Canada’s National Security Consultation entitled “Victim-Centred Considerations for the Development of a National Security Framework”.

 

The Ombudsman noted that the Government’s 2016 green paper on national security did not address victims’ issues. Yet, national security incidents have significant and devastating physical, psychological, and socio-economic impacts on victims. Developing security strategies without considering how to mitigate and respond to these impacts would result in a significant gap in planning and preparation and, ultimately, a gap in critical service delivery at a time when it is most needed. The submission discusses impacts of mass victimization and provides a summary of best practices relating to mass victimization incidents.

 

The Ombudsman recommended that:

  • Public Safety Canada, with support from the Canadian Association for Chiefs of Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, create a federally-led, tri-governmental, coordinated response to assist mass victimization/terrorism victims.

Based on a pre-planned, coordinated and victim-centred response framework, this program should:

  • ensure that mass victimization and terrorism victims are treated with respect, compassion and dignity, while also protecting their rights;
  • ensure that Canada is able to provide timely and appropriate response through inter-jurisdictional and inter-agency coordination and collaboration;
  • ensure that a broad definition of ‘victim’ is used from the outset of an incident, including the identification of victim groups and their needs;
  • ensure that measures and protocols are in place to address the immediate, medium, and long-term needs of all those affected, recognizing that needs will shift over time; and
  • ensure that the protocols are planned in advance and in collaboration with all key partners.

The full report may be found here: http://victimsfirst.gc.ca/vv/DNSF-LCSN/index.html

 

Study of Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault)


In April 2017, the OFOVC provided a submission to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on the Status of Women entitled “Study of Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault)”.

Sexual assault remains the least-reported of criminal acts. Victims are reluctant to report the crime, largely due to fear of further victimization, either by the perpetrator, by society as a whole (victim-blaming), or by the criminal justice system itself. As Bill C-337 proposes improvements to the criminal justice system that will be of benefit to victims, the Ombudsman supports the initiative.

However, she saw areas where the Bill needed to be strengthened, and provided recommendations to that end:

  • The training should be developed by specialized experts, and in collaboration with victims, should be culturally informed and relevant, and should review best practices on an ongoing basis;
  • The training content should include the following elements:
    • The intersectionality of sexual assault and other issues, such as domestic violence;
    • The neurobiology of trauma;
    • New forms of sexual violence, like cyber violence.

In addition to her recommendations, the Ombudsman also provided some points for consideration by the Committee. These are as follows:

  • The value of reviewing existing best practices in the development of both the legislation and the subsequent training;
  • The need to train judges with respect to victim issues and legislation more broadly;
  • The need to ensure the sensitization of all those working in the criminal justice system

In order for victims to have confidence in the criminal justice system, we need to ultimately ensure that survivors are treated with dignity and respect by all participants in the criminal justice system.

 

The full submission may be found here: http://victimsfirst.gc.ca/vv/JASA-RJAS/index.html


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


The OFOVC has completed its systemic review of the Income Support for Parents of Murdered and Missing Children program administered by Service Canada. The report has been provided to the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, as per the OFOVC’s systemic review process, the Minister will have 60 calendar days before the OFOVC publishes the report. It is anticipated that the report should be available by the end of the summer.  

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!


We invite you to visit our website at www.victimsfirst.gc.ca and 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.