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Letter addressed to Jennifer Oades, Chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada on the reasons for not imposing conditions

   

December 21, 2020

Ms. Jennifer Oades, Chairperson                                                                                              
Parole Board of Canada    
410 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R1

Dear Ms. Oades,

I hope you are keeping safe and well this holiday season. I am writing with regards to complaints to my Office, where Parole Board of Canada (PBC) did not include in the written decision, the reason(s) for not imposing a geographical restriction, as requested by the victims. As you know, the wording of subsection 133(3.2) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) is as follows: 

Written reasons

(3.2) If a statement referred to in subsection (3.1) has been provided to the releasing authority and the releasing authority decides not to impose any conditions under that subsection, it shall provide written reasons for the decision.

I believe the intent of the legislation was to require reasons if any condition that was requested is not imposed, but perhaps you can clarify on what basis reasons are not being given. The purpose of written decisions is to “contribute to public understanding of conditional release decision making and to promote openness and accountability”. When Board members determine a geographic restriction is not required, it demonstrates the belief that the offender(s) will not present an undue risk to the victims or society upon release. For victims of crime, information is empowering. Victims need to be provided with complete and clear information to understand why the decision has been taken. When an offender is reintegrating to a community in very close proximity to their victims, this causes incredible stress and anxiety to survivors. Victims often want to be protected from bumping into the offender. Taking a trauma-informed approach means understanding and acknowledging the victim’s need to feel safe. Their fear is very real and can be overwhelming at times. When the Board omits a written explanation of reasons for a decision, it results in increased confusion, anger and mistrust for victims who are unable to understand why their request was not granted.

In order to ensure the proper interpretation of section 133(3.2), I recommend training for Board members around requiring written reasons when a particular condition that has been requested is not required. This will ensure victims have a better understanding of why conditions are not needed.

I welcome the opportunity to further discuss this recommendation with you and to working together to ensure victims’ needs are respected.

 

Sincerely,


Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime



Response

January 22, 2021

BY EMAIL

Dear Heidi:

I am writing to follow-up on the exchange below. Following receipt of additional details regarding the case in question, I wish to clarify the Board’s obligation to provide reasons when it does not impose conditions to protect the victim. Pursuant to subsection 133(3.2) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), if a statement has been provided by a victim and the Board does not impose any conditions under subsection 133(3.1) of the CCRA, it will provide reasons for their decision. In accordance with the legislative requirement, Board members will provide reasons for their decision to not impose conditions requested by the victim, only in cases where none of the requested conditions were imposed.

I hope that the above provides additional clarity on the Board’s application of this legislative provision. In closing, I want to assure you that we remain committed to taking a trauma-informed approach in our communications and interactions with victims, and to improving and strengthening our training to ensure a trauma-informed approach to decision-writing.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

 

Jennifer Oades
Chairperson| Présidente
Parole Board of Canada | Commission des libérations conditionnelles du Canada