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Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund


December 5, 2019

The Honourable David Lametti
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6


Re: Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund

Dear Minister Lametti,


Firstly, my congratulations on your re-election and re-appointment as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. I look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship in the coming years.


I originally sent this letter to you in the pre-election period and am resending it for your information. As you know, an important part of my mandate as the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime is identifying systemic issues that negatively impact victims of crime, and recommending ways that the federal government can make its laws, policies and programs more responsive to the needs of victims and survivors in Canada.


Over the years, my Office has heard from victims about concerns relating to the limited financial support available to Canadians who have been victimized abroad. Recently, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC), an agency that advocates for victims and survivors of crime in Canada, has been in touch with my Office regarding issues they have encountered in their work with victims and survivors who were victimized abroad. The CRCVC have raised this issue with the Victims Abroad Fund Manager within the Department of Justice, and have shared a copy of this correspondence with my Office.


Based on the information provided in the response from the Victims Abroad Fund Manager to the concerns shared by the CRCVC, the Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund has a maximum envelope available of $50,000 in financial assistance per victim. This includes $10,000 available for health and counselling, and up to $40,000 available for travel including costs associated with repatriation as well as travel back to a foreign jurisdiction to participate in trials. The current limits are set out in the Terms and Conditions of the Victims Fund, and therefore any changes must be approved by the Minister of Justice and Cabinet.


While I am very pleased to learn that the Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund now has a maximum envelope of $50,000 available in financial assistance per victim, the current limits set are not responsive to the unique needs of victims and survivors, leaving many individuals without access to enough financial assistance to help them recover.


Specifically, depending on individual circumstances, many victims will not incur additional travel costs, but are instead in grave need of financial assistance to cover continued healthcare costs resulting from their victimization, such as physiotherapy and counselling.


Physical injuries that result from violent victimization, along with invisible injuries such as traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, entail significant out-of-pocket treatment costs that most victims cannot afford.   


As such, I am writing to you to recommend that changes be made to the Terms and Conditions of the Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund, to ensure that the maximum envelope of $50,000 available be allocated in a more flexible way that meets victims’ needs and contributes to their resilience. The funds should be adaptable to an individual victim’s unique circumstances in the aftermath of victimization abroad, recognizing that restoring physical and mental health for victims is critical following the trauma arising from violence. I would welcome meeting with you to further discuss this matter and victim-centred remedies to this issue.


I look forward to your response and to working with you to continue to bring about positive change for victims and survivors of crime in Canada.


Sincerely,

 

Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

 

Cc  Susan Fisher-Clément, Victims Abroad Fund Manager, Department of Justice

 


 

Response

BY EMAIL

May 11, 2020

 

Dear Ms. Illingworth:

 

Thank you for your correspondence of December 5, 2019, concerning your recommendations for a range of victims’ issues. I regret the delay in responding.

At the outset, I also wish to thank you for your congratulations. It is a true honour for me to continue to serve in this important position. For as long as I continue to do so, I will remain committed to advancing a progressive vision of Canada, based on the rule of law, while ensuring that our justice system is fair and accessible to all.

In your correspondence, you raise matters concerning the State of the Criminal Justice System 2019 Report and the importance of data on victims in the criminal justice system. I note your suggestions for areas where additional victim indicators could be collected to provide a more thorough examination of the criminal justice system. Our government recognizes the value of criminal justice system data, including data specific to victims of crime. For this reason, the Department of Justice Canada provided the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) at Statistics Canada with funding to develop the Canadian Victim Services Indicators pilot survey to explore the collection of key victim indicators through existing provincial and territorial data. As a result of this project, the CCJS has developed online data tables of police-reported counts of victims of violence for each province and territory, which will be released on an annual basis.

As you point out, the majority of victim services are provided by the provinces and territories as part of their responsibility for the administration of justice. This creates challenges for the development of comparable victim services measures at the national level. Department of Justice Canada officials will continue to work with their provincial and territorial colleagues and the CCJS to explore new opportunities for future data collection specific to victims of crime.

You also recommend that the Report include information regarding compliance by criminal justice professionals with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR). All federal departments and agencies whose work relates to victims’ rights under the CVBR have established a CVBR complaints mechanism and publish an annual report on complaints received. I am pleased that the Department’s CVBR report for 2018-2019 is now available at www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/victim/cvbrcm-mtpccdv/19/index.html. I have shared your suggestion that CVBR data be included in future reports with departmental officials.

I note your comments regarding the Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund (CVAF). As you are aware, I have recently received a similar request from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. I appreciate that you are taking the time to add your voice to this discussion.

Periodically, the Department of Justice Canada undertakes reviews of the criteria related to financial assistance provided through the CVAF, including the maximum amounts available under the health and travel portions of the program. Your recommendation will help inform future reviews.

Finally, I would like to address your recommendation that the Department of Justice Canada permanently fund the Family Information Liaison Units (FILUs).

As you know, FILUs help Indigenous families to access available information about their missing and murdered loved ones from multiple government sources, and address a critical need for culturally sensitive victim support. I am pleased to tell you that the Government is committed to extending FILU funding for another three years.

On December 4, 2019, I attended the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly, where I was finally able to make this commitment before the attendees. As I told them, we have heard that the FILUs have been an extremely important resource during the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to help ensure that families and loved ones have somewhere to turn for help finding answers. We know the need for answers and support has not ended, and we want to make sure these important services continue to be available moving forward. Please be assured that addressing the needs of victims and survivors of crime is a priority for our government, and that we recognize the importance of reliable victim data. I appreciate the time you have taken to provide comprehensive recommendations concerning the criminal justice system and the needs of victims and their families. I would like to take this opportunity to commend you for the important work that you do on behalf of victims and survivors in Canada. I look forward to working with you to explore ways that the federal government can make its laws, policies, and processes more responsive to the needs of victims and survivors of crime.

 

Thank you again for writing.

Respectfully,

 

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada