Update: Ombudsman’s Statement on Victims’ Attendance at Federal Parole Board Hearings During COVID-19
March 24, 2020
Last week, my office was informed that the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) cancelled all observer attendance to Parole Board hearings until further notice to comply with countrywide prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID19. As a result, my office has received several complaints from victims and stakeholders about Parole Board hearings continuing without victims present.
The spread of COVID19 in Canada has caused many necessary disruptions to daily life in the name of health and safety. In my view, there are ways to utilize technology to allow us to remain connected during such exceptional times, such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing services. Efforts should be made to accommodate victims through technology, given their rights to participate and convey their views as defined in the Canadian Victims’ Bill of Rights.
I want victims to know that I am in communication with officials from Public Safety Canada and PBC to convey my concerns and to try to address this issue as a matter of urgency. We are working to resolve this in the interest of fairness and transparency, which are obligations of the criminal justice system towards victims of crime. We hope to be able to provide an update on the situation as soon as possible.
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
On April 22, 2020, the Parole Board of Canada announced that it is committed to fulfilling its important public safety mandate during COVID-19 by allowing victims to be included in its parole hearings. We are very pleased that the Parole Board of Canada is implementing solutions that will allow victims to exercise their rights. For additional information, read Facilitation of Victim Participation in PBC Hearing (COVID-19).