Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Calls for Parliamentary Review of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights to ensure accountability for victims and survivors of crime
November 25, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario
Today, Heidi Illingworth, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, released a Progress Report: The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) and called upon Parliament to conduct its Statutory Review of the legislation.
In her role as Federal Ombudsman, Illingworth led an in-depth examination and assessment of Canada’s performance in upholding the rights the Act provides. The Progress Report is informed by the experiences of victims and survivors who reached out to the Federal Ombudsman’s Office. Meetings with victims and survivors, organizations serving victims, police, stakeholders and academics further informed her conclusions and recommendations.
Based on our analysis of the data available to us, it appears that the objectives set out in the Act have not been met. The Act’s implementation has been sporadic and inconsistent. Training opportunities for criminal justice officials have been limited, and there has been no pan-Canadian public education effort to inform citizens of their rights. Thus, the situation of victims of crime has not fundamentally changed since it was passed.
The Progress Report concludes that the federal government must strengthen the Act while empowering victims and placing them at the centre of the criminal justice system by:
- giving victims the opportunity to seek legal and administrative remedies if they believe their rights have been overlooked;
- requiring the automatic provision of information by criminal justice professionals;
- guaranteeing support services and assistance for victims;
- collecting nationally consistent data aligned with the rights enumerated in the Act; and
- assisting victims with the collection of court-ordered restitution for the losses they have suffered.
“Victims and survivors of crime deserve rights that are respected and upheld by all criminal justice officials. I believe the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights must be strengthened to address a number of fundamental gaps and challenges that remain for victims and survivors. We must enhance victims’ rights in Canada through widely accessible public legal education efforts; training of criminal justice professionals in regards to their obligations; and properly funding victim support services to enable them to deliver support in all regions of Canada.”
— Heidi Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
“Canadians are victims in 2.2 million incidents of violent crime a year. Their lives matter. We need to prevent these tragedies by using evidence-based prevention, measure whether their rights are being respected by our police, judicial systems and support services, and learn from best practices in other countries.”
— Irvin Waller, Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa
“Officials in the criminal justice system should be mandated to provide information on restorative justice programs to victims who report crimes. If we want to improve outcomes for victims of crime, we must provide greater access to reparations, which is a broader notion than restitution. Reparation can take many forms but seeks to repair the harm and restore victims’ well-being.”
— Jo-Anne Wemmers, Full Professor, School of Criminology, International Centre for Comparative Criminology, Université de Montréal
“Women, Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, religious minorities, youth and the elderly, the poor and homeless, those addicted to substances, people who identify as LGBTQ2S, and those who live with cognitive or physical disabilities, or with mental illness, are more vulnerable to violence and being victimized by crime. This coupled with historical oppression, systemic barriers and prejudice underline the importance of equity-based training on victims’ rights for criminal justice personnel across Canada.”
— Gina Wilson, Deputy Minister, Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
“People cope with grief in different ways after a violent crime. Some avoid talking about it, while others focus on it. Some identify as victims or survivors, while others avoid that language. Some avoid the criminal justice system, while others attend every court appearance. We need better data to understand how victims are treated in the criminal justice system and stable funding to build the capacity of victim support organizations.”
— Benjamin Roebuck, Research Chair and Professor of Victimology, Victimology Research Centre, Algonquin College
- Canada’s Parliament, following the United Nations adoption of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, passed legislation in 2015 to create the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR). Contained within this legislation (Bill C-32) was a requirement that a committee of Parliament be designated or established to review the CVBR five years after it was enacted.
- The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights gave victims and survivors the right:
- to information about how their case was being pursued; the right to protection;
- to participate and share their views in processes that affect their rights;
- to seek restitution for losses; and
- to file a complaint if they felt their rights had been infringed or denied.
- The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) is an independent resource for victims of crime in Canada. It was created in 2007 to ensure the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime. Our mandate relates exclusively to matters of federal jurisdiction. It enables us to:
- address victims’ complaints about compliance with Corrections and Conditional Release Act provisions that apply to crimes committed under federal jurisdiction,
- promote awareness of crime victims’ needs and concerns and the applicable laws that benefit them,
- promote the principles 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 related to programs and services provided or administered by the Department of Justice Canada or the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada—that negatively affect victims of crime, and
- facilitate victims’ access to federal programs and services by providing information and referrals.
Communications Team Lead
Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime