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Submission to the to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on the Rights of Victims of Crime, Reclassification and Transfer of Federal Offenders

Submitted by: Dr. Benjamin Roebuck, Ombudsperson

Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime

November 2023

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL OMBUDSPERSON FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME. 1

How to reach us. 1

CONTEXT. 1

RESPONSE FROM THE CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA. 2

INSIGHT FROM THE PRIVACY COMMISSIONER.. 2

MINISTERIAL DIRECTION.. 2

ISSUE. 3

WHAT WE HAVE HEARD FROM VICTIMS. 3

Geographic location and safety concerns. 3

Recommendations. 4

Gaps in notification and participation. 4

Transparency in decision-making. 4

Recommendation. 5

BEST PRACTICES. 5

Advance notification. 5

Recommendations. 6

Trauma and violence-informed practices. 6

Recommendations. 7

CONCLUSION.. 8

RECOMMENDATIONS. 9

APPENDIX A: RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY THE REVIEW COMMITTEE. 10

APPENDIX B: MINISTERIAL DIRECTION TO THE CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA, 2023. 11

APPENDIX C: PREVIOUS OFOVC RECOMMENDATIONS ON PRISON TRANSFERS. 13

APPENDIX D: CANADIAN STATEMENT OF BASIC PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME, 2003. 17

THE OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL OMBUDSPERSON FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME

The Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) was created in 2007 to ensure that the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime.

One of the main responsibilities of the OFOVC is to address complaints related to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and effects on victims of offenders under federal jurisdiction (sentence of imprisonment of two years or more and community supervision). While the Ombudsperson cannot review a decision of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to transfer an offender, victims can contact the Office if they feel that their rights are not being respected in relation to federal criminal justice policies, laws, and programs for victims of crime, including when it comes to matters such as transfers. Based on the feedback received, the OFOVC identifies issues that negatively affect victims of crime and provides recommendations to the federal government on those issues.

Anyone who believes that a federal department has not respected their rights as a victim of crime has the right to file a complaint and have their concerns addressed. The OFOVC recognizes that the process of filing a complaint can be challenging. If unsure of the process, our team is available to assist victims and survivors in directing their complaint to the appropriate department. If they are not satisfied with the outcome, our Office encourages them to contact us. The OFOVC makes every attempt to address complaints quickly and informally.

How to reach us

Website: victimsfirst.gc.ca

Telephone: (toll-free): 1-866-481-8429

Email: victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca

Mail:

Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime

P.O Box 55037

Ottawa, Ontario  K1P1A1

CONTEXT

The transfer of a high-profile inmate from maximum-security Millhaven Institution to medium-security La Macaza Institution on May 29, 2023, sparked intense debate and concern among the families of his victims, media representatives, elected officials and the Canadian public. This decision has raised critical questions about the policies and processes governing the security reclassification and transfer of offenders within CSC.

This submission shows the result of the OFOVC's review of concerns and registered complaints received by victims and survivors of crime and concerned citizens regarding prison transfers. It provides eight recommendations for consideration as amendments to policies and procedures and to the CCRA.

RESPONSE FROM THE CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA

Following the criticism received, CSC conducted a thorough review of the transfer decision to ensure compliance with existing policies and legislation. While the Review Committee found that CSC did adhere to their legal and policy framework, the review highlighted a crucial need for enhanced engagement with victims, recognizing that current practices fall short of a genuine victim-centred approach and that it is possible to have more proactive and meaningful discussion with victims, in a manner that adheres to the Privacy Act.

The Review Committee recommended that the Commissioner of CSC create a multidisciplinary working committee to enhance policies and practices surrounding victim engagement and notification within CSC. A list of considerations for the working committee to review can be found in Appendix A.

CSC has responded proactively to the list of recommendations from the transfer review. In November 2023, CSC convened the first meeting of a multidisciplinary working committee, which will meet weekly into early 2024.

INSIGHT FROM THE PRIVACY COMMISSIONER

In response to the Minister of Public Safety's statement advising that "the Privacy Act puts significant limits on what can be discussed publicly, including information surrounding specific inmate transfers", the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) clarified that the "the Privacy Act does not preclude the sharing of information when the public interest clearly outweighs the potential invasion of privacy" that could result from the disclosure. In discussions with our office, the OPC recognized the necessity of reconciling privacy rights and victim rights, and that privacy should not be a barrier for taking a trauma-informed and victim-sensitive approach to this issue. When deciding what personal information can and should be shared with victims, it is important that necessity, effectiveness, and proportionality are taken into consideration.

This assertion supports a more transparent process in cases of significant public concern, such as high-profile offender transfers.

MINISTERIAL DIRECTION

On July 20, 2023, Canada's then Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, issued a Ministerial Direction (Appendix B) to CSC to ensure victims' rights are considered from the beginning of an offender's sentence and to strengthen the way it shares information with victims and his office.

The Ministerial Direction responds to recommendations made by the OFOVC in 2019 and introduces significant changes to the notification and information-sharing process regarding offender security classification and transfers. Specifically, it mandates that the Minister of Public Safety receive notification regarding the transfers of high-profile offenders.

Furthermore, the directive calls for collaboration between CSC, OFOVC, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to implement the recommendations made by the OFOVC.

The Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime supports the Ministerial Direction and recommends that the multidisciplinary working committee review and consider current and previous recommendations (Appendix C) made by the OFOVC.

ISSUE

Prison transfers can be a complicated and emotionally charged issue for victims, particularly when a transfer involves moving an offender from a higher-security institution to a lower-security one. For over a decade, victims and survivors of crime have shared concerns with the OFOVC about offender transfers. Specifically, victims have expressed concerns related to the timing of notifications; how little information can be shared; and the lack of opportunity to share safety concerns or input before a decision is made.

The current framework for offender transfers under the CCRA falls short of providing victims with the transparency and information they deserve.

As things stand, the CCRA does not authorize advance notification to victims when an offender is being transferred from a maximum to a medium-security facility. Even more concerning is that victims are only notified of the transfer after it has already occurred. This systemic lack of information sharing not only undermines victims' sense of safety but also fails to recognize the psychological need for information as a trauma response. Notably, when offenders are transferred to a minimum-security institution, the CCRA does allow CSC to provide advance notification. This suggests a model for incorporating inclusive practices that can be expanded to all transfers.

WHAT WE HAVE HEARD FROM VICTIMS

The following is a qualitative analysis of the OFOVC contacts with victims of crime and their advocates about prison transfers and the negative effects.

Geographic location and safety concerns

Victims have shared concerns when offenders are transferred to institutions close to their homes, including breaches of personal security and psychological safety.

Before proceeding with a transfer, CSC must consider geographic restrictions previously requested in victim statements on file. However, since victims are generally not informed before a transfer occurs, they miss the opportunity to provide updated context. We hear from victims who feel that this violates their rights to information, protection and participation under the CVBR. One victim contacted our Office when they found out that the offender had been transferred to an institution within walking distance from their home. This caused considerable psychological distress and interfered with their ability to complete their daily activities.

Offenders can be approved for escorted or unescorted temporary absences in the community for several reasons, including medical, administrative, parental responsibility, compassionate reasons, community service, family contact, personal development, and for rehabilitative purposes. We have been contacted by victims who have encountered the offender in the community and did not realize they had been transferred to a nearby institution.

Conversely, some registered victims maintain a relationship with the person who harmed them and want to remain in proximity. This can make it easier for victims to visit the offender at the institution or participate in programs like Restorative Opportunities, which offers in-person victim-offender mediation. Positive social connections can support re-entry and reduce recidivism. Notifying victims about pending transfer decisions provides an opportunity for victims to provide additional relationship context for consideration in transfer decisions.

Recommendations

1. Always consider victim geography: Require CSC staff to always consider whether victims reside or work near the institution to which a transfer is being considered, with a preference for transferring the offender to another institution when feasible.

2. Consider additional relationship contexts: Providing advance notice of pending transfer decision request to an institution nearby. This can improve communication and connection, potentially helping with re-entry and reducing recidivism.

Gaps in notification and participation

Registered victims have reported to our Office that they have not received timely notification, and in some cases no notification at all, regarding offender transfers. The law and policies offer such rights yet compliance with these provisions is not always consistent.

Transparency in decision-making

Victims have expressed frustration over not receiving clear reasons for an offender's transfer. In one case, an offender was transferred from a medium-security facility to a minimum-security facility. The victim was only notified four months after the transfer was completed and no reasoning was given for the decision. A formal complaint was submitted, and CSC acknowledged they did not meet the expected timeframe and apologized.

The current practice of providing reasons for transfer decisions can be improved. When victims receive a notification of transfer letter, it includes the reason for the transfer and the name and location of the new institution. However, the reasons given can be vague or unspecific to the case. In a recent complaint involving first-degree murder, a registered family member of the victim learned at a parole hearing that the reason the offender was briefly transferred from a minimum to a medium-security institution prior to the hearing was for harassment and threatening behaviour towards their Parole Officer. The offender was released on day parole a short distance from the registered family member who felt unprotected by not being better informed prior to the hearing.

Section 26(b) of the CCRA provides discretionary power to the Commissioner to disclose the reason for the transfer, suggesting that while the policy framework exists, its implementation is lacking consistency and requires a shift from discretionary to a more proactive approach to disclosure for all victims.

Commissioner's Directive (CD) 705, Section 7, states the offender's rights to receive the rationale, as well as information considered regarding the transfer decision, but victims are not entitled to the same. This inequity is further intensified when considering that offenders can seek redress if dissatisfied, a right not mirrored for victims.

Recommendation

3. Provide discretionary information to registered victims automatically: Provide victims with all information currently listed as discretionary under Section 26 of the CCRA unless there is a relevant safety or security reason not to. In cases where it is not possible, an explanation of the decision should be provided in writing.

BEST PRACTICES

Advance notification

It is important to note that CSC has the authority to inform victims about offender transfers. Section 26 of the CCRA[1] states that the Commissioner may inform victims if the offender is transferred and provide a summary of the reasons for the transfer and the name and location of the penitentiary in which the sentence is being served. Additionally, Section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act[2] allows for the head of CSC to disclose personal information about an offender if public interest clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy. Disclosures under Section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act are resource intensive, introduce delays as they require a case-by-case assessment of unique circumstances and context, and the privacy impact must be proportionate to the public interest.

To address this, CSC could provide notification to registered victims about pending transfer decisions so they are better informed, and their concerns are included in decision-making. CSC could adopt a reverse onus process, requiring a written explanation to justify when advance notification is not possible because of a tangible threat to public safety or a disproportionate impact on the privacy rights of the offender. This shift in responsibility would align with the principles of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR), quasi-constitutional legislation which states that victims deserve to be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect throughout their interactions with the criminal justice system. The CVBR also emphasizes victims' rights to timely and relevant information throughout the criminal justice process. Such a shift would lead to important results for victims with minimal impairment to offender privacy rights. The goal of providing advance notice to victims is to protect them from experiencing ongoing stress and emotional harm, as well as an opportunity for them to take measures to ensure their physical safety. The information required to meet this very important objective would not be more than necessary.

Recommendations

4. Advance notification of pending transfers: When an offender applies or will be assessed for an institutional transfer, CSC should provide an update about a pending transfer decision to victims who have registered to receive information. This could be considered an update on the correctional plan and does not require sharing the specific date. Materials about institutional transfers should include:

      • An explanation of how transfer decisions are made, including assessment tools
      • How to submit a victim statement
      • How to share safety concerns or request geographic restrictions
      • Victim rights to information, protection, and participation
      • How to submit a complaint to CSC if desired
      • Information about the Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, including clear contact information

5. Embed information for victims: CSC websites and brochures on institutional transfers should include victim-related information and ensure that the victim registration process is clearly explained. All information about registration should clearly indicate that victims will not receive any information about the offender or the administration of the sentence if they do not register.

6. Provide a written explanation when advance notification is not possible: In rare circumstances where there are tangible concerns that make advance notification unsafe, an explanation should be provided to victims in writing as soon as possible.

Trauma and violence-informed practices[3]

The CCRA sets objectives for corrections, including principles for carrying out imposed sentences and a focus on the rehabilitation of offenders. However, the legislation could be improved to ensure that the interests of victims of crime are better reflected. A trauma and violence-informed approach seeks to minimize further harm and provide safety and choice.

The CVBR clearly states that victim rights should be considered throughout the criminal justice system, including corrections and conditional release, and that consideration of victim rights is in the interest of the proper administration of justice. The CVBR has quasi-constitutional primacy and should be prioritized when its principles conflict with other legislation.[4]

A trauma and violence-informed approach includes nuanced and sensitive communication. CSC should ensure that notifications are delivered with an awareness of the psychological impact they may have on victims. CSC currently considers sensitive dates a victim may have in their file but could also consider the impact of notifications around significant holidays.

Additionally, victim statements for corrections and parole can be used to describe the ongoing impact of the crime, share safety concerns, and request geographic restrictions. Victim statements (not to be confused with Victim Impact Statements at sentencing) can be submitted throughout the corrections process as many times as needed. Because of the format, victims often feel the need to revisit the traumatic details of what they have experienced to make requests. There could be a more streamlined way to share safety concerns or request geographic restrictions.

Recommendations

7. Amend the CCRA to include victim rights: Amend Section 4 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) to require that the spirit of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) be included in the principles that guide the service.

8. Use a trauma and violence-informed approach: Always communicate with victims kindly, being mindful of sensitive dates, including holidays.

9. Simplify how to share safety concerns or request geographic restrictions: Introduce a simple process to share safety concerns and request geographic restrictions without being required to submit an additional victim statement. Be clear on what information is shared with the offender when a victim makes these requests.

CONCLUSION

This submission reflects the concerns we have heard primarily from registered victims. We have also received complaints from victims who were unaware of the need to register, and consequently received no information. In 2023, unregistered victims far outnumber those who have registered, so it is important to understand that the majority of victims whose cases involve a federally-sentenced offender will never receive notifications about prison transfers. Information is only provided upon request. Unregistered victims will sometimes find out about the transfer of an offender through the media.

Bill S-12 has introduced a new mechanism in law to inform victims of crime about registration and we anticipate that once it is implemented more victims of crime will be able to access their rights under the CVBR.

The emotional weight and complexity of prison transfers, particularly involving high-profile offenders, necessitate a system that is sensitive to the needs of victims while at the same time respecting the reasonable expectation of privacy of offenders. Recent events have underscored the pressing need for a strong commitment to place victims' concerns, their rights to information, protection, and participation at the heart of CSC's transfer processes. Victims deserve to be treated with respect.

The proposed multidisciplinary committee must address these issues with urgency and compassion, ensuring that victims are not re-victimized by a correctional system that has the safety of the public and victims at the heart of its mission. Among other resources, the quasi-constitutional Canadian Victims Bill of Rights provides a legislative roadmap for achieving these goals, and the Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime is mandated to work with CSC and other federal agencies to make Canada's criminal justice system work better for victims and survivors.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Always consider victim geography: Require CSC staff to always consider whether victims reside or work near the institution to which a transfer is being considered, with a preference for transferring the offender to another institution when feasible.
  2. Consider additional relationship contexts: Providing advance notice of pending transfer decisions allows registered victims who have maintained a relationship with the offender to request an institution nearby. This can improve communication and connection, potentially helping with re-entry and reducing recidivism.
  3. Provide discretionary information to registered victims automatically: Provide victims with all information currently listed as discretionary under Section 26 of the CCRA unless there is a relevant safety or security reason not to. In cases where it is not possible, an explanation of the decision should be provided in writing.
  4. Advance notification of pending transfers: When an offender applies or will be assessed for an institutional transfer, CSC should provide an update about a pending transfer decision to victims who have registered to receive information. This could be considered an update on the correctional plan and does not require sharing the specific date. Materials about institutional transfers should include:
    1. An explanation of how transfer decisions are made, including assessment tools
    2. How to submit a victim statement
    3. How to share safety concerns or request geographic restrictions
    4. Victim rights to information, protection, and participation
    5. How to submit a complaint to CSC if desired
    6. Information about Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, including clear contact information

     

  5. Embed information for victims: CSC websites and brochures on institutional transfers should include victim-related information and ensure that the victim registration process is clearly explained. All information about registration should clearly indicate that victims will not receive any information about the offender or the administration of the sentence if they do not register.
  6. Provide a written explanation when advance notification is not possible: In rare circumstances where there are tangible concerns that make advance notification unsafe, an explanation should be provided to victims in writing as soon as possible.
  7. Amend the CCRA to include victim rights: Amend Section 4 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) to require that the spirit of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) be included in the principles that guide the service.
  8. Use a trauma and violence-informed approach: Always communicate with victims kindly, being mindful of sensitive dates, including holidays.
  9. Simplify how to share safety concerns or request geographic restrictions: Introduce a simple process to share safety concerns and request geographic restrictions without being required to submit an additional victim statement. Be clear on what information is shared with the offender when a victim makes these requests.

APPENDIX A: RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY THE REVIEW COMMITTEE

The Review Committee suggests that the working committee:

  • Consider establishing clear directions surrounding the use of the "exceptional circumstances" clause within CD-784. Assess if a more specific clause is needed to grant the Commissioner discretionary authority to designate certain cases as requiring special protocols with respect to victim notification and engagement. On this matter, it is recommended that consultations are held with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on strategies for balancing the Privacy Act with victims' rights to information.
  • Undertake a critical review of existing CSC policies surrounding victim engagement and a review of international 'best practices' to identify congruence. Additionally, review the consistency between existing policies and the spirit of the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime (Appendix D).
  • Consider if the current operational definition of "victim" is consistent with section 26(3) of the CCRA, which notes victims include persons who "suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss" as a result of the offender's crimes; identify if there is a need to broaden CSC's understanding of victims.
  • Review existing protocols and guidelines with respect to incorporation of victim considerations into decision-making and consider if there is a need to implement further directions (e.g., how sensitive dates are to be incorporated in decision-making to enhance sensitivity in the timing of transfers).
  • In consultation with the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), review protocols that are in place to assist victims who do not reside in the same area as the offender's institution to facilitate parole hearing attendance (e.g., video-conferencing options), and identify if enhancements are needed.
  • Review existing CSC resources that are available to assist victims and identify if enhancements are needed regarding access, availability, and quality.

APPENDIX B: MINISTERIAL DIRECTION TO THE CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA, 2023

Information Sharing: Security Classification and Transfer of Offenders

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) requires Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the penitentiary in which an inmate is confined is the least restrictive environment. This statutory principle is in keeping with the principles of rehabilitation, proportionality, and the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

By the same token, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights provides that victims have the right to information about an offender or accused person. Specifically, victims have a right to convey their views about decisions to be made by appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system that affect the victim's rights and to have those views considered, such as through victim impact statements. These expectations are clearly set out in the Victims Bill of Rights.

Victims' rights and the rights of offenders are equally important. An effective balance must be made between these rights when CSC is sharing information about offenders with victims.

As it stands, an offender is transferred from one federal institution to another in accordance with the CCRA, the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR), and correctional policies, and a victim is defined as someone who chooses to be officially recorded as a victim of crime or as a victim representative with CSC and the Parole Board of Canada, who registers through Victims Services, and may receive information about a transfer from maximum to medium security after it occurs, should they elect to do so.

More can be done to ensure that a trauma-informed and victim-sensitive approach is factored into the decision-making process as regards transfers and security classifications. This means meaningfully engaging with victims to elicit input on a transfer prior to its occurrence.

In their provision of services to victims of federal offenders, I expect CSC to provide victims with an opportunity, should they elect to do so, to share an updated victim statement for consideration as part of the security classification and transfer decision-making process. Currently, this process incorporates any victim statements already on file, but these statements may be dated.

These expectations are not intended to derogate from CSC's operational independence or its full discretion over inmate transfers and security classifications. Rather, it responds to years of concerns pertaining to a lack of information sharing with victims with respect to decisions of this nature. These concerns have been articulated by the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime. Pursuant to subsection 6(1) of the CCRA, and further to the above, I have issued the following directive to specify my expectations of CSC, when CSC is considering supporting an offender transfer:

  1. In accordance with the recommendations made by the Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime in 2019, CSC will:
    • Gather and consider victim information at the outset of the decision-making process or as soon as a voluntary transfer request is being considered for support by CSC.
    • Use the victim flag system referenced in the CSC's January 28, 2014, Case Management Bulletin, Notification to Victim Services Units and Consideration of Victims' Concerns as part of the decision-making in all voluntary transfers as soon as CSC initiates the process of assessment for a transfer being considered for support by CSC, at the time of receipt of the application for transfer. This will allow victim services officers to proactively collect input from victims. This must be done in advance of the Assessment for Decision.
    • Make changes to policy to require all CSC staff to always consider whether any victims live near the institution to which the transfer is being considered, and wherever possible, transfer the offender to another institution.
  2. With respect to item 1, the CSC should work closely with the Office of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to implement the above recommendations.
  3. Prior to transferring a high-profile offender to any reduced security level, the Commissioner of CSC or their delegate will notify the Minister of Public Safety, formally and directly.
  4. Implement the recommendations set out in the "Review into the Transfer of an Inmate from Millhaven Institution to La Macaza Institution on May 29, 2023" (Report submitted on June 26, 2023).
  5. Report back to me within 30 days on the implementation of this directive.

APPENDIX C: PREVIOUS OFOVC RECOMMENDATIONS ON PRISON TRANSFERS

Letter to the Honourable Ralph Goodale - Strengthening Victims' Rights to Information, Participation and Protection in Relation to the Transfer of Federal Offenders

January 25, 2019

Recommendations for the Correctional Service of Canada:

  1. Gather and consider victim information at the outset of the decision-making process or as soon as a voluntary transfer request is made.
  2. Use the victim flag system referenced in the CSC's January 28, 2014, Case Management Bulletin, Notification to Victim Services units and consideration of victims' concerns as part of the decision-making, in all voluntary transfers at the time of receipt of the application for transfer. This would enable VSUs to proactively communicate and collect the victims' input, any updated statements, and any concerns they may have. This should be done in advance of the Decision for Assessment.
  3. Make changes to policy (CD 784) to direct VSUs to contact victims when an offender applies for a voluntary penitentiary transfer. The purpose of this contact would be to provide victims with general information about the transfer process, reiterate that victim statements on file will be considered by Case Management Team and institutional head during the decision-making process, and invite them to submit a statement should they wish to do so.
  4. Make changes to policy to require all CSC staff to always consider whether any victims live near the institution to which the transfer is being considered, and wherever possible, transfer the offender to another institution.

Remarks to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on Bill C-479

February 4, 2015

Recommendation 

  1. First, even with the changes to section 142 of the CCRA outlined in this Bill, some information remains at the Board's discretion to provide to the victim. In keeping with my previous recommendations, I encourage members to consider amending the Bill so that all information currently listed as discretionary under section 142 is disclosed to the victim automatically unless there is a relevant safety or security reason not to.
  2. Second, many victims have expressed the desire to be informed of the commission of any new criminal code offences by the offender while under the supervision of the CSC. We recommend that the Bill be amended to ensure that victims receive this information, either as part of the correctional plan or in a format deemed appropriate.

Letter to the Commissioner of CSC  - Consideration of Victims' Concerns in Advance of Decisions to Transfer or Release Offenders

August 2012

Recommendation 

  1. In August 2012, the Ombudsman wrote to the Commissioner of the CSC to recommend that the CSC review and amend paragraph 11 of CD 784 to require that institutional parole officers contact Victim Services Units prior to preparing files for decisions about transfers, escorted temporary absences and work releases. This change would further enable the CSC to honour its commitment to the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, which states that "the safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process..." and that "information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim's role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes."

Through the victims' lens: Submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-10

October 18, 2011

Recommendations

  1. Amend subsection 140(4) of the CCRA to provide victims a presumptive right to attend a hearing unless there is justification to believe their presence will disrupt the hearing or threaten the security of the institution.
  2. Amend section 142 of the CCRA to allow victims the opportunity to listen to recordings of hearings, or where possible, to attend/observe parole hearing proceedings in person, by video conference, teleconference, or other remote real-time technology.
  3. Amend section 123(5) of the CCRA to extend the time between hearings to five years for those serving life and indeterminate sentences.
  4. Amend section 147 of the CCRA to permit a registered victim to request a new hearing be conducted if he or she did not receive proper advance notification of the hearing.
  5. Amend sections 26 and 142 of the CCRA to share information and provide notification of all transfers, whenever possible, to the victim(s).
  6. Automatically provide all information that is currently considered discretionary under the CCRA to registered victims, except in cases where it may threaten the safety of an offender, individual, or institution.
  7. Amend subsections 26(1) and 142(1) of the CCRA to provide the CSC and PBC discretion to show a photo of the offender to a registered victim.
  8. Amend subsection 78(2) of the CCRA to authorize the Correctional Service of Canada to deduct reasonable amounts from an offender's earnings to satisfy any outstanding restitution orders.

Special report, Towards a Greater Respect for Victims in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

2010

Recommendations

  1. That the Government of Canada introduce an amendment to sections 4 and 101 (principles) of the CCRA, which reflects the Canadian Basic Statement of Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and the interests of victims in the corrections and parole system. The principles should recognize that victims have the right to participate in the parole and corrections system.
  2. That the Government of Canada introduce an amendment to subsection 23 (e) to include the victim's contact information.
  3. That the Government of Canada introduce legislation that proposes to automatically provide all information currently considered discretionary under the CCRA to registered victims, except in cases where it may threaten the safety of an offender, individual or institution.
  4. That the Government of Canada introduce legislation to specify that victims be given information about an offender's progress and that the information is provided at least annually throughout the duration of the offender's sentence.
  5. That the Government of Canada amends subsections 26(1) and 142(1) of the CCRA to provide the CSC and the National Parole Board discretion to show a photo of the offender to a registered victim.
  6. That the Government of Canada introduce amendments to sections 26 and 142 of the CCRA to share information and provide advance notification of all transfers, where possible, to the victim(s).
  7. That the Government of Canada amends subsection 140(4) of the CCRA to provide victims a presumptive right to attend a hearing unless there is justification to believe their presence will disrupt the hearing or threaten the security of the institution.
  8. That the Government of Canada amend section 142 of the CCRA to allow registered victims the opportunity to listen to recordings of hearings or, where possible, to attend via video-conferencing or other such remote real-time technology.
  9. That the Government of Canada introduce legislation to eliminate the ability of an offender to withdraw an application for any hearing a victim is attending within 14 days before the commencement of the review unless the withdrawal is necessary, and it was not possible to withdraw it earlier due to circumstances beyond their control. That the Government of Canada also ensure, in the same legislation, that victims receive the reason for a waiver of a hearing if the offender gives one.
  10. That the Government of Canada introduce an amendment to section 147 of the CCRA to permit a registered victim to request a new hearing if s/he did not receive proper notification.
  11. That the Government of Canada introduce an amendment to subsection 123(5) of the CCRA to extend the time between hearings to five years for those serving life and indefinite sentences if an offender's request for conditional release is denied.
  12. That the Government of Canada amends paragraph 133(3) of the CCRA to include a necessity for conditions to ensure offenders fulfill their court ordered sentences, including restitution and victim fine surcharges.
  13. That the Government of Canada amends subsection 78(2) of the CCRA to authorize the CSC to deduct reasonable amounts from an offender's earnings to satisfy any outstanding restitution or victim fine surcharge orders.

APPENDIX D: CANADIAN STATEMENT OF BASIC PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME, 2003

In honour of the United Nations' Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, and with concern for the harmful impact of criminal victimization on individuals and on society, and in recognition that all persons have the full protection of rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other provincial charters governing rights and freedoms; that the rights of victims and offenders need to be balanced; and of the shared jurisdiction of federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice agree that the following principles should guide the treatment of victims, particularly during the criminal justice process.

The following principles are intended to promote fair treatment of victims and should be reflected in federal/provincial/territorial laws, policies and procedures:

  1. Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.
  2. The privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.
  3. All reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims.
  4. The safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.
  5. Information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim's role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes.
  6. Victims should be given information, in accordance with prevailing law, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress and final outcome of the proceedings; and the status of the offender in the correctional system.
  7. Information should be provided to victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them, and means of obtaining financial reparation.
  8. The views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with prevailing law, policies and procedures.
  9. The needs, concerns and diversity of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services, and in related education and training.
  10. Information should be provided to victims about available options to raise their concerns when they believe that these principles have not been followed.


[1] Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Section 26 (1) (b) https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-44.6/section-26.html

[4] The CVBR is limited by the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act, so revisions to legislation need to balance the privacy interests of offenders with the rights of victims.