ARCHIVE - RECOGNIZING THE ROLE OF VICTIMS— PROVIDING VICTIM SERVICES
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In this section, we review the initiatives that have been undertaken by CSC to provide victim services and look at requirements to support effective communication and consultation with victims, victim groups and federal organizations focusing on victims. We note that there is a requirement to look at sharing additional information with victims.
The number of registered victims of crime has grown by more than 400% since 1995, from 1,200 to more than 5,000 today and is expected to reach 8,000 by 2010.
There was limited public recognition of the needs of these crime victims during the 1970s and '80s. In the latter part of the '80s and into the '90s, provinces and territories began enacting victims' legislation and supporting victim services. In 1992, Section 26 of the CCRA set out the responsibilities of CSC and the NPB for sharing information with victims. The CCRA recognizes that victims of crime have a legitimate interest in receiving information about the offender who harmed them and in providing information to be considered in decisions related to the conditional release of the offender. The Panel also heard concerns about some remaining silos between federal and provincial jurisdictions and strongly encourage various components of the criminal justice system to work together to offer victims a more integrated information-sharing system.
The 2006 Federal Budget provided funding for a new federal victims' strategy to give victims of crime a more effective voice in the federal corrections and justice system, and greater access to services. It also created a Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
As part of the strategy, CSC received $13.6 million for 2006–11 to strengthen victim services and to better respond to information requests from victims. This funding allows CSC to implement a National Victim Services Program dedicated to providing timely information in its five regions, while promoting awareness among CSC staff to the concerns and needs of victims. Expected results will improve victim satisfaction through:
- improved services and the provision of timely information;
- increased awareness of available services among victims and criminal justice partners;
- improved relationships with victims and victim organizations; and
- improved professional relationships with government partners, including the National Office for Victims, the NPB, the Policy Centre for Victims Issues, and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
The Panel reviewed CSC's proposed implementation plan to ensure that it was responding to the Government's initiatives to support victims of crime and develop the human resource infrastructure required to deliver timely, accurate information to meet the needs of victims. An important part of the review was consultation with the recently appointed Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Steve Sullivan.
This Office has been mandated to address matters of federal responsibility, including:
- facilitating access to existing federal programs and services;
- addressing victims' complaints about compliance with the provisions of the CCRA;
- enhancing awareness among criminal justice personnel and policy makers of the needs and concerns of victims and the applicable laws that benefit victims of crime; and
- identifying emerging issues and exploring systemic issues that negatively affect victims of crime.
The Panel focused on CSC's proposals for the recruitment and hiring of regional staff who have experience in victim services, the development and provision of training in consultation with victims and victim groups, and the development of reference documentation that will assist CSC staff in responding to victim requests in a timely manner and will also give victims a variety of electronic and direct contact portals for information.
Furthermore, the Panel reviewed CSC's proposed communication strategy to support comprehensive communications with victims and its government partners.
Of particular importance to the Panel was the implementation of a consultation strategy for engaging the victim community, regionally and nationally.
The Panel has concluded that the elements of the National Victim Services Program are sound and should enhance information services to victims of crime. Because this initiative is in its early stages, the Panel recognizes the need for a continued integration of activities and ongoing collaboration between CSC, NPB, Justice Canada and the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to ensure a seamless approach, and to ensure that victims and victim communities are consulted. The Panel was also impressed by CSC's willingness to proactively respond to suggestions made by the Panel in order to strengthen the National Victim Services Program.
Because future funding is contingent on a detailed evaluation, the Panel wants to ensure that methods to collect and analyze operational and financial information are put in place now to ensure the availability of timely, accurate information. The Panel is also encouraged that a Victim Advisory Committee will be created.
In consultation with the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, it is suggested that two recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights53 be reviewed for reconsideration, namely:
- providing information to victims related to offender program participation, offender penitentiary conduct and new offences committed by a conditionally released offender resulting in reincarceration (possible amendment of Sections 26(1)(b) and 142(1)(b) of the CCRA); and
- advising victims in a timely manner, and in advance when possible, of the planned, anticipated or scheduled routine transfer of inmates (possible amendment of 26(1)(b) (ii) of the CCRA).
Currently, any information victims provide to CSC or the NPB for decision-making purposes is shared with the offender. Concern has been expressed about the potential impact of the use of this information on victims of family violence. Under Section 27(3) (a) of the CCRA, the CSC Commissioner may not disclose information if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the disclosure would jeopardize the safety of any person. The Panel believes that CSC must review how this section of the CCRA is operationally applied, to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place to protect victims.
- The Panel recommends that CSC continue ongoing consultation with victims and victim communities and supports the creation of a Victims Advisory Committee, as well as continuing to collaborate with federal partners.
- The Panel recommends that a strategy be developed, in conjunction with the Aboriginal Policy Branch, Public Safety, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, and Aboriginal organizations, to reach out to Aboriginal victims to ensure their information needs are identified and addressed.
- The Panel recommends that CSC ensures that it continuously reviews the progress being made with victim's services to ensure full implementation is achieved in a timely manner.
- The Panel recommends that the Corrections and Conditional Release Act be amended to share information with registered victims on the progress of offenders in addressing their correctional plan and the incidents of penitentiary discipline on an annual basis at a minimum.
- The Panel recommends that CSC's operational policy, in the context of Section 27 (3)(a) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and as applied to victims of crime, be reviewed to ensure that victims are aware of these provisions, that procedures are in place to determine potential risk, and that these provisions are being applied as and when appropriate.
- The Panel recommends that, given the creation of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, the provision of services to victims be reviewed holistically to ensure that resources are maximized and possible duplication of services avoided and gaps in service eliminated.
- The Panel recommends that CSC heighten the awareness of available victim services by working with its provincial and territorial counterparts, i.e., Crown Attorneys, in order to allow for an improved exchange of information about victim services.
53 See the Committee's Report, "The Corrections and Conditional Release Act: A Work in Progress," Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, May 29, 2000.
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