Breadcrumb trail

Letter addressed to the Honourable Arif Virani regarding the launch of a systemic investigation on the experiences of survivors of sexual assault as they navigate the criminal justice system

February 09, 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 launch of a systemic investigation on the experiences of survivors of sexual assault as they navigate the criminal justice system

Dear Minister Virani,

I am pleased to advise of you of the launch of a systemic investigation on the experiences of survivors of sexual assault as they navigate the criminal justice system. I am undertaking this review pursuant to section 6(2) of the Terms and Conditions of Employment of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

My Office consistently receives calls from survivors of sexual assault and advocates regarding barriers in access to justice. These calls highlight a disheartening reality: despite notable advancements in the criminal law, the continued prevalence of myths, stereotypes and lack of understanding surrounding sexual assault result in unintended consequences for survivors.

Sexual assault is a deeply traumatizing experience and often intended to humiliate and degrade the victim. Regrettably, survivors report enduring re-traumatization throughout their engagement with the criminal justice system, encountering intimidating and intersectional barriers.

Our Office has received a wide range of complaints on responses to sexual violence, including cases transferred from the military to the civilian justice system. Victims are being silenced. The provisions of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) are not enforced, the rights of the accused are prioritized, and victims feel discarded. Survivors want to be treated with dignity.

In the coming months, our team will be conducting a systemic investigation, including a review of complaints submitted to our Office, literature and caselaw reviews, consultations with survivors and other experts, our advisory circles, and collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Following our investigation, we will provide you and other decision makers with evidence-based actions for sustainable improvements in how survivors of sexual assault are treated in the criminal justice system. I would be pleased to provide you with more information about this investigation at your convenience.

I remain dedicated to fostering positive and lasting changes that will benefit survivors and contribute to a more equitable and compassionate criminal justice system.

Sincerely,

Dr. Benjamin Roebuck
Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime
Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime

c.c.: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety

The Honourable Marci Ien, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth of Canada

Shalene Curtis-Micallef
Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada

 


Response

March 18, 2024
(by email)

Dear Dr. Roebuck:

Thank you for your correspondence of February 9, 2024, concerning your office’s systemic investigation into the experiences of survivors of sexual assault. I also appreciated meeting with you on March 13, 2024, to discuss how best to support victims and survivors.

Please be assured that your correspondence has been shared with the appropriate departmental officials.

As discussed during our meeting, as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I know how important it is to learn from victims and survivors about their experiences,and how essential that information is to ensuring that our justice system is as responsive and victim-centred as possible. I look forward to learning about your report’s findings when it is released.

Addressing the needs of victims and survivors of crime is a priority for this government. I am committed to continue working with federal colleagues and provincial and territorial counterparts to improve the experiences of victims and survivors as they move through the criminal justice system, with the goal of keeping them safe.

Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

The Honourable Arif Virani