Breadcrumb trail

  1. Home
  2. Backgrounders
  3. Backgrounder

Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime 2008-09 Annual Report

A Voice for Victims

In its second successful year, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) continued to work closely with victims, victim service providers and other federal government departments to push for change and to build an office where victims' voices matter.

Clearly, victims are interested in being heard. In 2008-09, victim contact with the Office increased by more than 20% and web site visits spiked by more than 45% over the previous year.

In addition to its increased contact with victims, the OFOVC made a number of important recommendations to the Government of Canada and saw further progress and success from the recommendations made in its first year (2007-08).

Awareness and Partnership Building

As a relatively new organization, the OFOVC continues to take action to raise awareness of its services and mandate.

Throughout the year, the Office took the opportunity to reach out to stakeholders at conferences and other forums that helped to raise further awareness of victims' rights and concerns in Canada. For example, in March 2009, the Ombudsman was proud to join law enforcement officials from across Canada in the announcement of the largest-ever coordinated investigation into Internet-facilitated sexual abuse in the country.

The OFOVC strongly believes in information sharing as a way of evaluating progress and learning more about best practices. As part of this work, the Ombudsman was invited to be part of a Canadian delegation that met with officials from Indonesia's Witness Protection Program Institute, in an effort to help the Program develop further.

Progress towards positive change

The OFOVC works to identify and recommend improvements to Canada's judicial system in order to better meet the needs and concerns of victims. The following are the issues and recommendations the Office made in 2008-09.

Accelerated parole for offenders convicted of child sexual exploitation

The Ombudsman recommended that the Minister of Public Safety amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) to recognize child pornography and luring as offences that involve violence; thus making these offenders ineligible for accelerated parole. On June 16th, 2009, Canada's Minister of Public Safety proposed legislative amendments to the CCRA that would exclude from accelerated parole review offences such as street racing and luring a child.

Expanding the network of Child Advocacy Centres in Canada

Child Advocacy Centres provide much needed support to children who are victims of abuse by bringing key victim services, law enforcement and mental health professionals together in one child-centric location. Child Advocacy Centres have been proven to help reduce trauma in children and lead to more charges laid, more guilty pleas, and higher conviction rates. In advance of the January 2009 budget, the OFOVC submitted a recommendation to the Minister of Finance to set aside $5 million to develop a cooperative opportunity to study the impact of child advocacy centres in Canada with a longer-term goal of developing a national strategy to promote their growth across the country.

Notifying victims of the deportation status of offenders

Unlike an offender held in Canada's corrections system, when an offender is released into the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency the victim no longer has any rights to obtain information about the offender, such as whether a removal order was issued, whether the offender has been released back into the community pending an appeal, or whether a decision has been made to allow the offender to remain in the country. This can have very serious implications for victims who fear for their safety. For this reason, the OFOVC made a recommendation to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act be reviewed to determine what amendments are necessary to address and enhance the role and voice of victims. The OFOVC intends to push for further accountability regarding this issue to ensure that victims of violent crime do not live in fear, wondering whether or not the offender continues to remain in Canada.

Making offenders accountable to harm done to victims

A Federal Victim Surcharge (FVS) is a fine that is to be applied to offenders at the time of sentencing and which goes to support provincial victims’ services. While the Criminal Code requires judges to impose a FVS in all cases, it has been found that judges routinely wave the surcharge, often without any documentation of the reason for the waiver. As a result, most jurisdictions have recovered only a portion of the anticipated revenue they need to support victim services. The OFOVC has recommended that the Minister of Justice remove the discretion of judges to waive the surcharge and make it automatic in all cases. Additionally, the OFOVC recommended to the Minister of Public Safety that the first $100 of a federal inmate’s pay go to satisfy his or hers FVS.

Providing support to victims of crime

In addition to the emotional toll that a crime can take, victims can also experience significant financial losses. In May 2008, Ms. Francine Bonsant, M.P., introduced Bill C-550, "An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act" which would have allowed employees to take a leave from work with benefits if a minor child suffers serious physical injury during the commission of a crime or as a direct result of a crime, or if there is the disappearance of a minor or the suicide or murder of a spouse or child. The OFOVC recommended that the Government undertake a review to determine the impact of Bill C-550 as compared with the needs identified by victims. The OFOVC also raised the issue of time off for victims to participate in the justice process which, as we know, is one of the most draining and difficult times a victim can experience in the aftermath of a violent crime.

Updates on 2007-08 recommendations

In its first full year, the OFOVC made a number of recommendations to the federal government on important victim issues. Further follow- up on these recommendations makes it clear that the OFOVC's unique ability to provide a voice for victims has resulted in significant and positive change.

Recommendation made in 2007-08

That victims' rights be enhanced, including providing more information to victims of crime.

Progress

In June 2009, the federal government proposed legislative amendments that will address important victims' issues within the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, including enhancing the information that victims of crime receive.

Recommendation made in 2007-08

That the Minister of Public Safety introduce legislation requiring Internet Service Providers to give basic customer name and address to law enforcement agencies investigating child sexual abuse cases.

Progress

In June 2009, the federal government announced newly proposed legislation to make it mandatory for Internet Service Providers to give police basic customer information without a warrant.

Recommendation made in 2007-08

That the federal government review potential restitution options so that more offenders are held accountable to victims.

Progress

The federal government proposed new legislation in June 2009 to enhance victims' rights and services, including making offenders more accountable to their victims.

Recommendation made in 2007-08

Expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the National Sex Offender Registry, and made several recommendations to strengthen its capacity.

Progress

In 2009, the federal government moved to make changes by proposing legislative amendments to include the automatic inclusion of all convicted sex offenders in the Registry. Furthermore, offenders convicted of a designated sexual offence under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act will now be subject to a mandatory order to provide a DNA sample for the National DNA Databank.

The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims to address their needs, promotes their interests and makes recommendations to the federal government on issues that negatively impact victims.

- 30 -

Media contact:

Christina McDonald
Telephone: 613-941-3428
Email: christina.mcdonald@ombudsman.gc.ca