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Letter addressed to the Honourable Arif Virani regarding the OFOVC's Response to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST) report Improving Support for Victims of Crime

February 08, 2024

The Honourable Arif Virani,
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canda
Department of Justice
284 Wellington St.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8

Re: Notification of Upcoming Response to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST) report Improving Support for Victims of Crime

Dear Minister Virani,

I am writing to inform you that the Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) is ready to submit a detailed response to Improving Support for Victims of Crime which was released by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST) in December 2022. Our response is titled, Worthy of Information and Respect.

Over the past year, our Office has meticulously examined the recommendations put forth by the JUST Committee. Our review process included consultation with victims and survivors of crime from across Canada, criminal justice professionals, victim service providers, advocacy organizations, and discussions with federal agencies that have responsibilities related to our recommendations. We also consulted with our Academic Advisory Circle and Frontline Service Provider Advisory Circle. Our response is grounded within these perspectives, containing firsthand evidence and expertise.

We recognize the sensitivity surrounding terminology used to describe people who have been harmed by crime. We have used the word “victim” throughout our response because of its connection to criminal law and victims’ rights.

Earlier versions of our response were shared with federal stakeholders who could be responsible for the implementation of recommendations or who could feel that they were portrayed negatively. We provided opportunities for dialogue and comments which we have aimed to reflect fairly. Victims’ rights in Canada are still early in their development, and we believe that listening to the concerns of victims and survivors can help us do better.

From Public Safety Canada, we incorporated feedback from the Correctional Services of Canada (CSC), Parole Board of Canada (PBC), and National Office for Victims.

From Justice Canada, we incorporated feedback from the Minister’s Office, Deputy Minister, Policy Sector, and Policy Centre for Victim Issues.

One of the most encouraging challenges we experienced was how much action we saw following the circulation of earlier drafts. Bill S-12 integrated earlier recommendations as well as advice we provided directly to the Minister’s Office, and we saw direct improvements in victim services at CSC and PBC.

I appreciate the humility and strength of leaders who know we can do better as we listen and learn.

I believe we are at a turning point in the development of victims’ rights.

Moving from “what do we have to do?” towards “what are we able to do?” I believe that shift is central to meaningful justice for victims of crime, offering a compassionate and inclusive way forward.

I look forward to discussion on our recommendations and continued collaboration on initiatives aimed at advancing the rights and well-being of victims of crime in Canada. I have been deeply impressed by the quality of people working in your Office. They have welcomed our conversations with curiosity, kindness, and skill.

I remain available to you and members of your team in my role as Special Advisor. I have reached out to your team to arrange our next meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Benjamin Roebuck
Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime