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Ombudsman’s statement on the Parole Board of Canada piloting a videoconferencing solution

I am pleased to learn that Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is piloting a new videoconferencing solution to allow victims to participate in its hearings by video, while also protecting private and confidential information discussed at parole hearings including the privacy and security of victims.

Throughout the pandemic, my Office received multiple complaints from victims who felt their rights were infringed when PBC cancelled their participation in hearings outright due to COVID-19 or limited participation to teleconference only. Registered victims told us that teleconference participation was not ideal for everyone. Victims and their families wanted to see the offender, other participants and deliver their victim statements to Board members they were addressing. This summer my Office recommended the Minister ask PBC to find a way to allow victims to participate in parole hearings remotely through secure video conferencing, recognizing pandemic restrictions were likely to continue for many months.

Since my appointment, I have sought the increased use of videoconferencing for victims who do not wish to or cannot attend hearings in person. I believe modernizing the Board’s capacity and infrastructure, as other courts and tribunals across Canada have done in light of COVID-19, is fair and should remain available to victims after the pandemic has ended. We are pleased Minister Blair and PBC leadership have acted to make videoconferencing solutions a reality outside of secure government locations. Doing so increases inclusivity, accessibility and better respects victims’ needs and lived experiences.