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

Heard. Respected. Victims First.

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Contents

  • The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

    The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) is an independent resource for victims in Canada. It was created in 2007 to ensure that the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime.

     

    Our mandate relates exclusively to matters of federal jurisdiction and enables us to

    • promote access by victims to existing federal programs and services for victims;
    • address complaints of victims about compliance with the provisions of the

    Corrections and Conditional Release Act that apply to victims of crimes committed by offenders under federal jurisdiction;

    • promote awareness of the needs and concerns of victims and the applicable laws that benefit victims of crime, including promoting the principles set out in the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime with respect to matters of federal jurisdiction, among criminal justice personnel and policy makers;
    • identify and review emerging and systemic issues, including those issues related to programs and services provided or administered by the Department of Justice Canada or the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, which impact negatively on victims of crime; and
    • facilitate access by victims to existing federal programs and services by providing them with information and referrals.

     

    We are also involved in ongoing discussions with the government about our mandate in relation to the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR). The CVBR, which came into effect on July 23, 2015.1

     

    An important part of the OFOVC’s work is to ensure that victims of crime in Canada are informed, considered, protected and supported. This includes ensuring that victims have a voice when the government is developing or updating federal programs and services, legislation and regulations.

    1 The Victims Bill of Rights: An Act to Enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to Amend Certain Acts created the legislative recognition of victims’ rights and made amendments to the Criminal Code, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Canada Evidence Act, and Employment Insurance Act. While almost all technical amendments came into force on July 23, 2015, some amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act came into force on June 1, 2016. http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Bills/412/Government/C-32/C-32_4/C-32_4.PDF

     

     

  • Introduction

    The Government of Canada has committed to developing a national security framework that will reflect the rights, values, and freedoms of Canadians. To help inform its development, a public consultation process on national security is being led by Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice Canada. The consultation is focused on ten topics:

     

    • Accountability;
    • Prevention;
    • Threat Reduction;
    • Domestic National Security Information Sharing;
    • Passenger Protect Program;
    • Criminal Code Terrorism Measures;
    • Terrorist Entity Listing Procedures;
    • Terrorist Financing;
    • Investigative Capabilities in a Digital World; and
    • Intelligence and Evidence

    Canadians have been invited to submit their views and input through different fora (i.e., by responding to an online consultation, by email, and by mail). As well, in-person consultations have been taking place with stakeholders interested in improving government policy related to national security, including Parliamentarians, academics, security stakeholders, and others.

     

    As acknowledged in the backgrounder2 to the Government’s Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016, “Canada, like other countries, faces national security threats. The threat of terrorism, by global and by domestic actors, is real and evolving…Canadians expect the Government to keep them safe.” Yet, absent from the Green Paper3 itself, which was written to help guide the consultation and is “intended to prompt discussion and debate about Canada’s national security framework, which will inform policy changes…,” is any mention of the word “victim” or “survivor.”

     

    On October 19, 2016, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, co-hosted a National Security Framework Civil Society Roundtable. During the Roundtable, they heard that “addressing the needs of victims of terrorism”4 is an important issue to consider in the context of developing a national security framework. I share and echo that position.

     

    Working on counter-radicalization and other strategies to prevent tragedies from occurring in the first place is paramount in order to keep Canadians safe from threats. However, it is equally important to ensure that the concerns of victims of crime and victim-serving agencies are considered, and that carefully pre-planned and coordinated strategies are in place to be able to meet victims’ needs, and protect their rights, when mass victimization occurs. As such, my submission will address the need for the Government of Canada to be well positioned to respond to victims in the context of national security attacks.

     

    Do we really need to consider the needs of victims alongside the development of any strategy? Are these really considerations for security experts? The answer is yes. We know that 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 needed most. The more effectively we can help victims to address the impacts they face, the more resilient they will be. On the whole, those victims whose needs are met effectively will be in a better position to continue to contribute to our communities. Applying a victim-centred approach to the development of a national security framework will ultimately help to achieve the objective of enhancing the safety, well-being, and resiliency of Canadians.

     

    The key to this is ensuring that the planning is done and strategies are in place before an incident occurs. If you are working to identify how best to address the needs of victims of mass victimization in the aftermath, you’re already too late. Thoughtfully pre-planned processes, which are rooted in the evidence-informed models, tools, and lessons learned available from the international context, and developed in collaboration amongst key partners in Canada, will help to ensure that the necessary protocols are in place at the time they are needed.

     

    Similar messages have been emphasized by the international experts who have led on responding to victims in tragedies in the United States, such as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as in Europe, including in Brussels and Paris, and elsewhere. They have shared that having carefully mapped out protocols, coordinated resources, and victim-centred training in place amongst key partners better positions governments not only to respond to victims of terrorist attacks, but also to respond to other emergency management crises, such as natural disasters. That said, it is important to recognize that in instances of criminal victimization, there are unique circumstances that will require specialized response strategies.

     

    Over the course of the past two years, I have shared my recommendations pertaining to mass victimization and the need for a strategic and comprehensive response to victims with the Government of Canada. It is my hope that those recommendations, as well as any suggestions highlighted in this submission, will be taken into consideration in the forthcoming legislative, program, and policy reform with respect to national security.

     


     

    2 Government of Canada. Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016: Background Document. Retrieved from: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/ntnl-scrt-grn-ppr-2016-bckgrndr/index-en.aspx

    3 Government of Canada. Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/ntnl-scrt-grn-ppr-2016/index-en.aspx

    4 Government of Canada. Roundtable on the National Security Framework Civil Society Evening – October 19, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/defence/nationalsecurity/consultation-national-security/ottawa-consultation.html

     

    Context

  • Impacts of mass victimization

    Mass victimization incidents such as terrorist bombings, active shooter situations, and other emergencies all carry the potential for significant trauma to a wide circle of people. From a victim-centred perspective, responding to such incidents is especially difficult because of the magnitude of suffering caused and the multifaceted types of victimization involved. Such types of incidents impact not only victims (including survivors and witnesses) and their families and loved ones, but also first responders (e.g., police officers, paramedics, firefighters), other service providers (e.g., Red Cross, victim support services), and the broader community – all of whom are faced with the challenge of coping in the aftermath.

    Speaking on November 26, 2016 about the impacts of terrorist events in Paris, Brussels, and elsewhere, Commissioner King, European Commissioner of the Security Union, aptly noted5 :


    “Terrorism takes away lives – lives of innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


    And terrorism leaves the lives of many others scarred forever – families and friends who will mourn, children who will never get to know a parent, parents who will never see a child grow up.


    There are those who survive an attack – those directly injured who may never recover, all those who will care for the injured, perhaps for the rest of their lives.


    And all those who witnessed the devastation. Or those who were the first responders, there to help the victims. These people are also victims and we need to think about them.”


    The term “circles of impact” describes the intensity of the experience and potential for harm when victims and their families are affected, as well as their communities and society as a whole.

     

    Figure 1: Circles of impact. Diagram depicts four concentric circles. The innermost circle is labelled Direct victims (including survivors and witnesses). The second circle is labelled Family and loved ones. The third circle is labelled Service/support providers (including first responders). The fourth circle is labelled Community.

    Figure 1: Circles of impact

     

    Research suggests that post-traumatic stress symptoms subsequent to mass victimization can be long lasting for victims due to the high prevalence of traumatic factors that contribute to mental distress.6 A review of the available literature on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among victims of terrorist attacks found that, in the aftermath of attacks, 33 to 39 percent of direct victims developed PTSD, as did 17 to 29 percent of family and friends of victims, four percent of the general population in affected communities, and 5 to 6 percent of emergency, rescue and recovery workers; for many, symptoms persisted over time.7

     

    While the mental health impacts of mass victimization on survivors are comparatively well documented, financial consequences specific to mass victimization are less well researched. Looking at the costs of crime in Canada more generally (i.e., not in relation to mass victimization), the Department of Justice Canada has estimated the total annual costs of crime in Canada to be $99.6 billion, of which the vast majority ($82.5 billion, or 83 percent) was borne directly by victims. Tangible costs, such as medical attention, hospitalizations, lost wages, and missed school days accounted for $14.3 billion, while intangible costs such as pain and suffering and loss of life accounted for $68.2 billion.8

     

    Costs not only affect direct victims and survivors of mass victimization but can also extend to their families. Studies on the financial impact of victimization suggest that families who have been bereaved may suffer financial problems as a result of funeral expenses, lost wages from an inability to work, and loss of financial support if the primary breadwinner is injured or killed. Other financial impacts might include family members having to quit work to provide care for those injured and traumatized, and costs of medical treatment or mental health treatment. For example, a 2011 study of over 400 British families bereaved by homicide reported a range of long-term impacts, including financial impacts: over 80 percent suffered trauma-related symptoms, 75 percent suffered from depression, 20 percent became addicted to alcohol, 59 percent had difficulty managing finances, 25 percent stopped working permanently, and 83 percent reported their physical health was affected. 9

     

    With respect to the financial impacts of mass victimization, specifically, in its research on the needs and experiences of survivors and those bereaved through terrorism, Victim Support England and Wales found that 21.7 percent of survivors faced financial impacts as a direct consequence of the act of terrorism. Likewise, almost a third (30.3 percent) of bereaved family members suffered financial consequences.10

     

    It is evident that national security attacks involving mass victimization have significant physical, financial, and psychological impacts on victims as well as the wider community that can persist long after the immediate aftermath of the crime.


    5 Speech by Julian King, European Commissioner, Security Union, November 26, 2016, Victims Support Europe Conference on Establishing Victims’ Rights and Support Services in Challenging Times. Retrieved from: http://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/king_en

    6 DiGrande, L., Neria, Y., Brackbill, R. M., Pulliam, P., and Galea, S. (2011). Long-term posttraumatic stress symptoms among 3,271 civilian survivors of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. American journal of epidemiology, 173(3): 271-281.

    7 Paz-Garcia-Vera, M., Sanz, J., and Gutierrez, S. (2016). A systematic review of the literature on posttraumatic stress disorder in victims of terrorist attacks. Psychological Reports, 119(1): 328-359.

    8 Zhang, T. (2013). Cost of Crime in Canada, 2008. Ottawa:Department of Justice Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/crime/rr10_5/rr10_5.pdf

    9 Casey, L. (2011). Review into the needs of families bereaved by homicide. London: Ministry of Justice.

    10 Barker, A. and T. Dinisman. (November 2016). Meeting the needs of survivors and families bereaved through terrorism. United Kingdom: Victim Support England and Wales.

     

  • Recognizing the role of victim supports in building resilient communities

    Many governments have emergency management and/or terrorism plans in place, however these plans tend to focus on the operational and safety response to natural disasters or major accidents. They are primarily based on a public safety model of response focused on saving lives and ensuring citizens’ immediate safety. Such models tend not to specifically and proactively address issues related to mass criminal victimization11 and, as such, the needs of victims beyond the need for protection and safety. The meaningful integration of victim assistance and supports into emergency and terrorism planning can contribute to community resiliency by addressing victims’ needs and any trauma they may have experienced. The United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention suggests that victim supports are integral to the promotion of victim restoration, which contributes to the maintenance and improvement of quality of life in communities.12 The right supports can help mitigate some of the impacts of mass victimization, such as mental health stress, and can also be instrumental in helping victims reclaim their lives and restore their productivity in society.

     

    11 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime. (2005). Responding to September 11 Victims: Lessons Learned from the States. Retrieved from: https://www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/911lessonslearned/ovcpost911.pdf

    12 United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Centre for International Crime Prevention. (1999). Handbook on Justice Victims on the use and application of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. 1-133. Retrieved from: https://www.unodc.org/pdf/criminal_justice/UNODC_Handbook_on_Justice_for_victims.pdf

  • Best practices relating to mass victimization incidents

  • International best practices

     

    Reflecting on mass victimization incidents in Europe, Commissioner King13 noted:


    “In the same way that we need to work together to tackle the threat of terrorism, we must also work together to deal with the consequences of attacks. We can take actions to enhance security and make terrorist acts less likely, and we can also provide frameworks so that the needs of victims are properly addressed. The needs are multiple, varied and complex and require a comprehensive response… To make that happen, proper planning is essential. Victim support services should be a well-coordinated part of a national emergency response structure. Being prepared can make a huge difference.”

    To that end, a European Union Directive on Combating Terrorism, proposed in November 2015, focuses primarily on combatting terrorism but also focuses on meeting the needs of victims of terrorism. Subsequent discussions between the European Parliament and the European Council have resulted in a significantly increased focus on addressing the needs of victims of terrorism. This includes requirements for Member States to make support services available to victims of terrorism, and to ensure that such supports address the specific needs of victims of terrorism, and are confidential, free of charge, and easily accessible. It also includes requirement for supports to be envisaged within emergency response mechanisms, which would necessitate coordination of all agencies.

    Further, international partners such as the United States and the United Kingdom already have federally-coordinated initiatives in place to respond to mass victimization incidents. For example, in the United States, following a major event, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Victim Specialists are among the organizations that are made available to assist investigative teams, and include personnel specifically trained for mass casualty response who serve on Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Teams. Similarly, the United Kingdom’s Family Liaison Officers are deployed in a range of cases, such as road fatalities, homicides and terrorist attacks.

    United States: Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Teams

    After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) established the Office for Victim Assistance. Part of the work of the office involves being prepared to support victims in the event of mass victimization. Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Teams consisting of FBI victim specialists are trained for mass casualty response and are available to respond to incidents such as federal crimes or aviation disasters and are also deployed to support state, local and military responses to mass victimization incidents such as active shooter crimes. The victim specialists have extensive knowledge and experience in crisis intervention and victim assistance and provide victims with updates on the case events as well as information about a wide range of victim assistance services.


    United Kingdom: Family Liaison Officers

    In the United Kingdom, every territorial police force has a pool of trained Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) that can be assigned in any situation where a point of contact between the family and the police is deemed essential (e.g. homicide, road fatality). Since 1999, the United Kingdom Police Service has assigned FLOs to assist families who have lost relatives in terrorist attacks or major disasters. They are responsible for developing a victim response strategy which enables police officers to focus on first response and investigation. FLOs guide victims/survivors through the complex and traumatic process that follows such tragedies by keeping the victims and family updated on the progress of the investigation, as well as providing information related to the availability of relevant assistance and services. They are also key to gathering information which assists in the identification and/or repatriation of loved ones.

    We can also draw from international research and evaluation, such as studies with victims of terrorism and service providers, evaluation of programs for victims of terrorism, and reports on lessons learned. There is also a considerable wealth of good practice information to be drawn from networks and frameworks, such as the Leadership in Counter Terrorism Alumni Association (LinCT-AA), the Madrid Memorandum on Good Practices for Assistance to Victims of Terrorism Immediately after the Attack and in Criminal Proceedings, the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and the United Nations Good Practices in Supporting Victims of Terrorism within the Criminal Justice Framework.

     

    Our international partners also provide excellent examples of specific protocols or areas of expertise to learn from. For example, in the Netherlands, following the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, Victim Support Netherlands and Arc Psychotrauma Specialist Group set up the Information and Referral Centre (IRC) to provide long-term support (at least up to two years) and resources to those affected by the incident.14 Set up at the request of the Ministry of Security and Justice, the online Centre acts as a focal point for the families and friends of those who died in the plane crash.15 The Centre is designed to help anyone affected by the crash cope with what they have experienced and to prepare next of kin for the emotional difficulties and practical issues they may be faced with, such as funeral arrangements and accessing compensation. Next of kin are offered a means to contact, and share their experiences with, others who have experienced bereavement themselves. A restricted part of the website also allows immediate family members to pose questions directly to all of the organizations involved (Victim Support Netherlands, central government, the Dutch Safety Board, and the Public Prosecution Service) and for these agencies to share relevant information with them.16

     

    Another good example comes from the United States (Massachusetts). Following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, the Massachusetts Office for Victims obtained grant funding from the Antiterrorism Emergency Assistance Program Grant administered by the United States’ Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to develop both short-term and long-term specialized victim and witness services such as legal aid, social support, employment and mental health care.17 Furthermore, in the aftermath of the mass casualty, the Massachusetts Resiliency Centre was created, offering a wide range of services to assist victims in their recovery.18 The Centre focuses on resilience-oriented disaster response services, provided through central hub, to help victims adapt to their lived experience. It offers both an online and physical space for those affected by the Boston Marathon attacks to stay in touch with one another and access tailored services, in or near their local community or via technology.19  


    13 Speech by Julian King, European Commissioner, Security Union, November 26, 2016, Victims Support Europe Conference on Establishing Victims’ Rights and Support Services in Challenging Times. Retrieved from: http://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/king_en

    14 Slachtofferhulp Nederland. (n.d). IRC Plane crash Ukraine. Retrieved from: https://www.slachtofferhulp.nl/en/Corporate/Calamiteiten/IVC-Planecrash-Ukraine/   

    15 Letter to the President of the House of Representatives from Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders, Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and Minister for the Environment Wilma Mansfeld regarding the MH17 air disaster, 30 June 2015.

    16 Ibid at note 14.

    17 Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (2016). Antiterrorism Emergency Assistance Program Grant. Retrieved from: http://www.mass.gov/mova/grants/aeap/ 

    18 Massachusetts Resiliency Center. (2015). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from: http://www.maresiliencycenter.org/about.php

    19 Ibid at note 18.

     

  • Canadian best practices

    Domestically, lessons learned are available from initiatives such as the Kanishka Project, a $10 million, five-year program for research on terrorism-related issues affecting Canada, including to better understand and support the needs of victims of terrorism. Through the Kanishka Project, close to 70 projects were funded, several of which involved multiple studies. It has supported targeted research studies, student projects and events to build research capacity and networks. While the Kanishka Project concluded in March 2016, Public Safety Canada and its partners continue to publish results and build on the program’s research.20

    20 Public Safety Canada. (2016). 2016 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat in Canada: Building a Safe and Resilient Canada. Cat. No.: PS4-200/2016E-PDF.

  • Toward a nationally coordinated, victim-centred response to mass victimization in Canada

    A common theme that has emerged from the available, collective lessons learned both internationally and at home is that several protocols are typically needed in the event of a mass victimization incident. These include, but are not limited to, protocols for:

     

    • Victim/witness identification;
    • Death notification;
    • Setting up and operating family/survivor assistance centres;
    • Liaison between victims and the investigation team;
    • Contact lists (including victim contact lists and key partner contact lists);
    • Public communications (e.g., technology, social media, websites, government-issued messages, media relations);
    • Volunteer and donation management;
    • Cleaning and return of personal effects;
    • Financial support (emergency funds, victim compensation, compensation for medical and mental health costs, lost wages or funeral expenses);
    • Support services;
    • Coordination, collaboration, partnerships and agreements;
    • Community resiliency and counter narrative; and
    • Commemoration and memorials.

    Applying a victim-centred approach to development of such protocols means putting victims’ needs, concerns, and rights at the heart of planning. For example, building a victim-centred public communications protocol means ensuring that victims and communities will be able to have the information they need immediately following the incident and thereafter. From that perspective, survivors, their families, and those bereaved should have access to a single online information and support portal. It also means ensuring that language and key messaging are  framed in such a way as to reduce the potential for vicarious traumatization amongst the public.

     

    Building a victim-centred support services protocol means ensuring that communities are positioned to meet the needs of victims through the provision of effective supports. Services that address the specific circumstances of the situation and the needs of the victims can promote the resiliency21 of victims following mass victimization incidents. Such services in the short, medium, and long term are critical to improving coping and therefore improving outcomes. Examples of short-term services can include crisis counselling, emergency food and clothing, and emergency transportation and travel, while medium- and long-term services might include access to psychological services and peer trauma support groups, or vocational rehabilitation.

     

    21 “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or significant stress…It means bouncing back from difficult experiences…Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed...” American Psychological Association, The Road to Resilience. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

  •  

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

    Over the course of the last two years, I have actively recommended to the federal government ways in which the needs of victims could be better met following a mass victimization incident. Specifically, I have 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 program to address mass victimization/terrorism incidents.

     

    Such a program should be based on a pre-planned, coordinated, victim-centred response framework and should ensure:

     

    • that victims of mass victimization and terrorism are treated with the respect, compassion, and dignity they deserve, and that their rights are protected
    • that the Government is able to a provide timely and appropriate response through inter-jurisdictional and inter-agency coordination and collaboration, relying on, and informed by, national and international promising practices, lessons learned and expertise
    • that a broad definition of who a ‘victim’ is used from the outset, which requires identifying potential victim groups resulting from specific types of mass victimization and their potential needs (e.g. victims of a radiological attack might never be able to return home and thus will have housing needs)22

     

    • that measures and protocols are in place that appropriately address the immediate, medium- and long-term needs of all those affected, in recognition that the needs of those affected by mass victimization shift over time
    • that such protocols are be pre-planned in advance, in collaboration with all key partners   

    Pre-planning is necessary to create an effective framework in Canada in order to address some of the challenges we face in terms of our vast geography, specific jurisdictional responsibilities and/or limitations and requirements for specialized services.

     

    As you know, victim services are administered through the provinces and territories and initiatives led by local authorities. Delivering these services requires specialized training and experience, which takes time.  It is not a something that can be quickly learned and delivered by general volunteers following an incident. In fact, untrained service providers can unintentionally do more harm than good.

     

    Experienced victim service providers know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every victim, and that victims, in all different types of situations, will have unique needs. They also know that one community’s needs may be different from the next. That knowledge and flexibility to adapt their approach is part of what makes a trained victim services provider so valuable. Canada is fortunate to have dedicated service providers who excel at what they do, however, such resources would likely be overwhelmed in the event of a mass victimization incident in Canada. Agreements and protocols will need to be in place before an incident to mobilize that expertise when and where it’s needed; both in the immediate aftermath, and over the longer term. They would also help to ensure that specialized training is developed and delivered ahead of time.

     

    It is my view that the current Canadian structure for mass victim response would benefit from co-ordination and leadership embedded in the police incident command structure through the creation of specialized victim response staff. A central component of such a program would be an accredited training program for victim service providers specific to responding to mass victimization incidents. A program of this kind would allow for an organized system of victim specialists to be located across the country that could be consulted to ensure a victim’s lens is applied in the development of response frameworks/protocols, and deployed following a mass victimization incident. The creation of such a program would include the identification and mobilization of best practices in responding to victims and survivors following a mass victimization event.

    22 Ibid at note 11.

  • Benefits of a nationally coordinated, victim-centred response to mass victimization in Canada

    A national program of this nature would increase Canadians preparedness for, and resiliency following, mass victimization, while creating a higher, more consistent standard of victim response across jurisdictions in Canada. The program would:

     

    • create a structure that coordinates flow of information to and from victims through  victim specialists;
    • allow for a consistent minimum standard of response to mass victimization across the provinces and territories, while building in flexibility to respond in ways appropriate to the specific community; and 
    • create a pool of subject matter experts that can be consulted to ensure that a victim’s lens is applied in the development of emergency response frameworks throughout Canada.

     

    More broadly, a victim-centred approach would offer significant benefits for victims and their loved ones in the context of mass victimization. It would allow them to feel heard, and promote healing and resiliency. It would also reduce the potential for further harm, re-victimization and post-traumatic stress. Overall, victims would feel safer and more secure and would be more likely to be satisfied with the process.

     

    It would also offer benefits to service providers, such as first responders. Coping is helped when employees feel equipped and supported to interact with victims and families, and when they are assured that victims and their loved ones are receiving support and care from others.

    Oval: “The quality of the overall response to mass fatality incidents (whether caused by criminal or accidental events) will, in large part, be judged by the manner in which victims and families are supported and treated.”  -U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Office for Victims Assistance

    Such a model would also have a positive effect on the public/broader community. It would help to build public trust and confidence in governments’ response to national security incidents.

     

    A pre-planned victim-centred approach would also enhance governments’ capacity, in mass victimization incidents, to ensure that victims are informed, considered, pro­tected, and supported throughout their journey, from the time of crime through any experiences with the criminal justice system, and over the longer term.

     

     

     

    Figure 2: Applying a victim-centred approach to national security. Diagram depicts a continuum of how to support the needs of victims from the time of crime through any experiences with the criminal justice system, and over the longer term. The continuum begins with a rectangle labelled Prevention. Next is a right-facing arrow labelled Victims are informed considered supported protected. Next is a right facing arrow divided into three segments labelled time of crime, court system and corrections, conditional release/parole. The final segment of the continuum is a rectangle labelled lifelong needs.

     

     

    Figure 2: Applying a victim-centred approach to national security

    On a related note, it would also improve federal, provincial and territorial governments’ capacity to uphold obligations to victims under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR). The CVBR is applicable to offences investigated and prosecuted in the Canadian criminal justice system, and defines a victim as a person who has suffered physical, emotional, property, or financial loss.


    It provides victims of crime in Canada with the following statutory rights:

    • Right to Information – Victims have a right to request general information about the criminal justice system (CJS) and available victim services and programs, including the right to be informed about restorative justice programs. They also have the right to request specific information relating to the investigation, prosecution, sentencing, and conditional release of the person(s) who harmed them.

     

    • Right to Protection – Victims have a right to have their security and privacy considered at all stages of the CJS, and for reasonable and necessary measures to be taken to protect them from intimidation and retaliation. As well, they have the right to request that their identity be protected from public disclosure, and to request to use testimonial aids when appearing as a witness.

     

    • Right to Participation – Victims have a right to convey their views about decisions to be made that affect their rights under the CVBR, and to have their rights considered at various stages of the criminal justice process. Victims also have a right to present a victim impact statement, and to have it considered.

    • Right to seek Restitution – Victims have a right to have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender. As well, every victim with a restitution order has the right, if they are not paid, to have the order entered as a civil court judgment that is enforceable against the offender.

     

  • Conclusion

    Globally, the threat of terrorism and mass violence incidents has increased. Such incidents challenge governments and others to respond quickly and appropriately to help victims, survivors, and communities, more broadly.


    The Government of Canada must be prepared to support Canadians affected by mass victimization incidents. The continuing threat of mass victimization incidents facing Canada, coupled with Canada’s obligations under the CVBR, provide ample rationale for prioritizing the development of a victim-centred mass victimization response model. Development of a new national security framework provides a timely and ideal opportunity to do so.

     

    I would welcome the potential to discuss further with the Government of Canada my recommendation to create a victim-focused, federally-led, tri-governmental, coordinated response to mass victimization/terrorism.