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Letter addressed to the Honourable Bill Blair on the conditions of release and protection of vulnerable adults

 

BY EMAIL

                                                                                                             

November 2, 2020

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

 

Dear Minister Blair:


Re: Conditions of Release – Protection of Vulnerable Adults

In recent months, my Office has received complaints from families of victims of crime expressing their concerns relating to the lack of recognition and protection for adults as vulnerable people under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). In order to effectively protect victims and society as a whole upon offender reintegration, I believe the law must acknowledge that vulnerable people can be of any age and should be granted equal legislative protection under the CCRA.

Currently in Canada, the Criminal Record Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-47) defines a vulnerable person as:

6.3 (1) a person who, because of his or her age, a disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent,

  1. is in a position of dependency on others; or
  2. is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of trust or authority towards them.

The definition in the Criminal Record Act is broad andinclusive of the vulnerability of adults. It outlines how any vulnerable person can be susceptible to falling victim as a result of the limitations they may have. I recommend, the CCRA be amended to include a definition in Section 2 (1) of vulnerable person as any person, who because of their age, a disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, is in a position of dependency on others; or is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed. This will ensure that adults who are unable to protect themselves from harm or exploitation due to cognitive and physical impairments are also provided protections under the law.

As you know, offenders must follow standard conditions set out in the law (Section 133 of the CCRA). For example, offenders must stay in Canada at all times. They also cannot travel outside boundaries set by their Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Parole Officer without prior approval. PBC can also impose additional conditions, which must be reasonable and necessary to protect society and to help the offender return to the community as a law-abiding citizen. They are also tailored to the offender. For example, these conditions may require the offender to attend a certain program, to not drink alcohol, or to stay away from a certain person or geographic area.  

I recommend the CCRA be amended to require Parole Board members to give special consideration to the protection of vulnerable victims, and the need to impose additional conditions, where the offender has targeted such persons. The need to consider protection for vulnerable victims is also important at Statutory Release, when CSC officials are considering referring a case to the Board for review. In order to properly consider the vulnerability of all persons, I recommend amending Section 129(2)(a)(ii) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) to include:

Section 129(2)(a)(ii) – Detention during Period of Statutory Release

 ii) the offence was a sexual offence involving a child or vulnerable person and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender is likely to commit a sexual offence involving a child or vulnerable person or an offence causing death or serious harm to another person before the expiration of the offender’s sentence according to law.

Similar amendments should be made to subsections 129(3), 129(9) and 129 (10), and to sections 130 and 132, as well as to Schedule I, so that reference is made to “vulnerable person” in those provisions as well.

As always, I welcome the opportunity to further discuss these very important considerations, which I believe are essential to enhance safety for all vulnerable populations, involved victims and Canadian society as a whole.

 

Respectfully,

 

Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

 

Cc  The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Jennifer Oades, Chairperson, Parole Board of Canada
Anne Kelly, Commissioner, Correctional Services Canada