Letter to Minister Blair concerning a recommendation for amendment – Conditions of release
August 18, 2020
The Honourable Bill Blair
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8
Cc The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Re: Recommendations for Amendment - Conditions of Release
Dear Minister Blair:
An important part of my mandate as Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime1 is to provide recommendations to the Government of Canada regarding its laws, policies and programs in an effort to make them more responsive to the needs of victims and survivors of crime.
In view of this, I am writing to you regarding a number of complaints my office has recently received, where Parole Board of Canada members imposed conditions on the offender, which have caused additional hardships and trauma for the victims. In these cases, the Board:
- Imposed a no-contact order with children in a case where the victims were all vulnerable disabled adults. Conditions should reflect the group of victims directly affected and harmed, especially for sexual offenders.
- Released offenders into the same community within 500 meters of the victims causing the victims to be on house arrest and to live in paralyzing fear.
- Refused to impose a geographic restriction on an offender, as requested by the victims for their psychological wellbeing and emotional peace of mind. Subsequently, the solution offered to the victims was for them to report to Correctional Services Canada 48 hours in advance of traveling into or through this region, so that the parole officer could ensure the offender was not present.
The victims in these cases have all expressed valid concerns that the conditions of parole imposed on the offenders did not accurately reflect the risks posed by the offender, or they have the effect of negatively impacting their psychological wellbeing. All aspects of victim safety should be considered by the releasing authority, not just physical safety.
Section 100.1 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act S.C. 1992, c. 20 as amended(“CCRA”) clearly states that the protection of society is the “paramount consideration” for the Board in making any determination with respect to an offender’s release. Furthermore, section 101(a) of the CCRA states that all relevant information with respect to the offence, and the offender, must be taken into account when making such determinations. Certainly, if the protection of society is paramount, it is reasonable to expect that the conditions imposed for non-contact would include the victims who were targeted and harmed specifically and that the psychological wellbeing of victims is also considered.
It is for this reason I recommend amending s. 133 (3.1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, ‘‘where the releasing authority imposes a condition that the offender abstain from having any contact, including communication by any means, with the victim or the person or from going to any specified place,’’ to:
- Require the no contact order to specifically name and reflect the victim/group of victims who were directly harmed.
- Require geographic restrictions imposed to adequately protect victim safety by taking into account both their physical and psychological wellbeing.
I welcome the opportunity to further discuss these very important considerations, which I believe are essential to the safety of vulnerable populations, involved victims and Canadian society as a whole.
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
1 The mandate of my office is to help ensure that the rights of victims and survivors of crime are respected and upheld and that the federal government meets its obligations to victims. This includes ensuring that victims and their families have access to federal programs and services specifically designed for their support. In addition to our ongoing efforts to help individual victims, we also have a responsibility to identify and bring forward emerging and systemic issues that impact negatively on victims of crime at the federal level. In doing so, we work closely with victim service providers and a host of other government and non-government stakeholders on our common goal of building a justice system that better serves everyone in Canada.