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March 11, 2024

Federal Ombudsperson launches systemic investigation into treatment of survivors of sexual assault in Canadian Justice System

The Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) announces the launch of a systemic investigation on the experiences of survivors of sexual assault within the Canadian criminal justice system.

In early February, the OFOVC informed key government officials, including the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety, Women and Gender Equality and Youth, National Defence, and the Prime Minister of Canada, about this major undertaking that will highlight critical shortcomings and hopefully drive urgent reforms across the entire system.

Dr. Benjamin Roebuck, Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, underscored the imperative for change, stating, “The treatment of survivors of sexual assault within Canada’s criminal justice system demands urgent improvement. Our Office is committed to ensuring survivors' voices are central in our pursuit of a more just system.”

It’s shocking how often victim rights are ignored. Survivors experience retraumatization and can feel disposable once their testimony is heard. Survivors who contact our office have told us they felt unsafe in a system that is supposed to protect them. We have normalized the idea that the criminal justice system will be a painful experience for survivors of sexual violence.” Roebuck added.

The investigation will cover survivors’ interactions with law enforcement and the justice system from the point of initial contact through to post-sentencing.

An Expert Advisory Circle is being created to support the investigation and ensure voices of survivors remain at the forefront and a diverse range of perspectives and expertise are included, enhancing the effectiveness and inclusivity of our investigative process. We are delighted that Sunny Marriner, highly respected and leading expert in criminal justice system responses to sexual violence, has agreed to chair the Advisory Circle.

Lead investigator Hoori Hamboyan stated that “survivors and other experts have been pointing out the barriers to justice for decades. There are very helpful recommendations that already exist. We will synthesize existing research and review the experiences of survivors who contact our Office. Our goal is to show that it is possible to make changes to address obstacles, uphold survivors' dignity, and ensure compassionate treatment throughout the criminal justice process.”

The investigation will involve extensive outreach and consultation with survivors and other experts, stakeholders, government departments and professionals within the justice system, applying an intersectional lens to address diverse experiences and needs.

The investigation's final report, anticipated in the summer of 2025, will provide actionable recommendations to integrate a trauma-informed and victim-centred approach in the criminal justice system, marking a pivotal step towards meaningful reform. Survivors of sexual assault deserve access to justice.

For media inquiries, please contact the OFOVC’s Communications Manager, Marc Comeau, at ofovc-bofvac.media@ombudsman.gc.ca .

Important Information

Victim Services Directory (to find services near you)

Wellness Together Canada (for mental health support)

Hope for Wellness Helpline (a resource operated by and for Indigenous people across Canada)
1-855-242-3310

Helpful Information: The Office will launch public consultations in the Spring and all details will be made available on the OFOVC website at www.vistimsfirst.gc.ca . Should anyone wish to let us know that they would like to participate in the public consultation, they can write to us at victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca .

Anyone in Canada who believes that their rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights have not been respected can contact the Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime:

Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime

www.victimsfirst.gc.ca

victimsfirst@Ombudsman.gc.ca

1-866-481-8429

Regarding the lead investigator: Leading this investigation is Hoori Hamboyan, a lawyer and social worker with a wealth of expertise in working on addressing gender-based violence. Hamboyan previously led on the Access to Justice Pillar of the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence at Women and Gender Equality Canada before joining the OFOVC.

Follow the OFOVC on LinkedIn , X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook, or visit their website at victimsfirst.gc.ca