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Ombudsman’s statement marking the 5th anniversary of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) came into force on July 23, 2015, which notably enshrined rights for victims of crime in federal legislation for the first time. The CVBR gives all victims and survivors the right to information about their case; the right to protection; the right to participate and share their views in processes that affect their rights; and the right to seek restitution for losses throughout the criminal justice and corrections system. It also provides victims with the ability to file a complaint if they feel their rights have not being respected.

The passing of this legislation was an important moment in the progression of victims’ rights in Canada. However, my Office knows from the complaints we receive from victims, survivors and service providers across Canada that there is much work to be done to strengthen victims’ rights. Despite the CVBR, victims and survivors still feel that their rights are secondary to the constitutionally protected rights of the accused. Many survivors remain unaware of their rights or support services to help them recover.  

As currently written, the CVBR places the onus on victims to know, understand and assert their rights. In the administration of justice in Canada, we must protect the human rights of victims and ensure all victims have access to justice and procedural fairness. We must evaluate how the rights afforded to victims are implemented by criminal justice institutions and require all agencies to gather data in relation to the rights outlined in the Act. Victims also deserve guaranteed services and financial compensation to support their healing. In the aftermath of victimization, we know that access to well funded, culturally specific, independent victim services can depend on where people live and this should not be acceptable in this country.

My Office is preparing a progress report on the CVBR, which will include several recommendations to strengthen victims’ rights in Canada. We plan to launch our progress report in the fall. We are currently seeking feedback from victims and survivors about your experience with the CVBR in order to inform our report. Please share your views by completing our survey.

Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime