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Letter addressed to the Honourable Bill Blair regarding the need for substantive, timely and public responses to recommendations of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

 

February 15, 2021


By email

The Honourable Bill Blair
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8

 

Re: need for substantive, timely and public responses to recommendations of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Dear Minister Blair,


As the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, an important part of my mandate is to identify issues that negatively affect victims and survivors of crime, and recommend ways that the federal government can make its laws, policies and programs more meaningful, fair, and responsive to their needs. These recommendations are informed by what we hear through our direct work with victims and survivors, victim service providers, and many other stakeholders who are directly involved in the criminal justice system.

I am writing to express my concern regarding the lack of a reporting mechanism to capture the responses of the Public Safety Canada to the recommendations made by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

As you may know, section 9(4) of the legislation governing the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) states that the Ombudsman may request a management response to the recommendations that indicates what action is contemplated or being taken with respect to a report’s recommendations or explains why the recommended action will not be taken.

However, without required reporting, my Office’s only authority for following up on recommendations is by formally requesting that officials within Public Safety Canada provide a management response to my reports. If the management response is considered unacceptable or untimely, I may submit the report to the relevant Minister.

I believe there is an opportunity to enhance transparency, and respectfully submit the following for your consideration. I recommend:

  1. The accountability framework be strengthened to require officials within Public Safety Canada to provide a timely response to all recommendations submitted by the Ombudsperson, indicating what action is contemplated or will be taken, or explaining why a recommended action will not be taken, without the necessity of a specific request; and
  2. Federal agencies, including Public Safety Canada, report publicly, on an annual basis, about what has or has not been implemented in response to all recommendations of the Ombudsman.

Without a formal reporting mechanism, we cannot know whether substantive change takes place. In the current climate, when the Department of Justice Canada’s own research has revealed a lack of public confidence in the justice system, fostering public trust and strengthening accountability mechanisms are of critical importance.

Implementing these changes would allow the OFOVC to report publicly on the results of all of its recommendations, not just those from reports, increasing the accountability of federal agencies to victims of crime and increasing public confidence in Canada’s justice system as it relates to victims and survivors of crime. I believe that the Canadian public has a right to know the implementation status of recommendations made.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue. I look forward to hearing from you and welcome an opportunity to discuss further.

Sincerely,

 

Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime