Vol. 150, No. 11 — June 1, 2016
SI/2016-28 June 1, 2016
VICTIMS BILL OF RIGHTS ACT
Order Fixing June 1, 2016 as the Day on which Certain Provisions of the Act Come into Force
P.C. 2016-366 May 20, 2016
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, pursuant to subsection 60(2) of the Victims Bill of Rights Act (“the Act”), chapter 13 of the Statutes of Canada, 2015, fixes June 1, 2016 as the day on which subsection 46(1) of the Act, paragraph 26(1)(d) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as enacted by subsection 46(3) of the Act, and subsections 48(3) and 49(1) and (3) of the Act come into force.
(This note is not part of the Order.)
Pursuant to subsection 60(2) of the Victims Bill of Rights Act, this Order in Council fixes June 1, 2016, as the day on which subsection 46(1) of the Act, paragraph 26(1)(d) as enacted by subsection 46(3) of the Act, subsections 48(3) and 49(1) and (3) of the Act come into force. These provisions amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The objective of this Order in Council is to bring into force sections of Bill C-32 (Victims Bill of Rights Act) that amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). These amendments require the Parole Board of Canada to inform the victim and consider their concerns prior to removing or varying conditions related to victim safety that are attached to a long-term supervision order. (see footnote 1) The amendments also allow a victim to obtain information about the offender’s correctional plan and progress; have access to a photograph of the offender who harmed them; and access an audio recording of a parole hearing.
Overview of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights
The development of a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) was first announced by the Minister of Justice in February 2013. Financial support for the CVBR was confirmed in Budget 2014, including the announcement of funding for a secure Web portal that would allow registered victims to access information available to them under the CCRA and a photo of the offender prior to conditional release (e.g. parole, statutory release) or at the end of the sentence.
Bill C-32 (Victims Bill of Rights Act) enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights as a stand-alone statute and also amended existing statutes — Criminal Code, CCRA, Canada Evidence Act (CEA), and the Employment Insurance Act (EIA) — in order to give effect to the rights conferred by the CVBR.
The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights enshrined statutory rights for victims to information, protection, participation and restitution.
Rights to information include
- Information about the criminal justice system, programs and services; and
- Case-specific information, such as the status and outcome of the investigation; progress and outcome of the proceedings; reviews of an offender’s conditional release; and reviews or release of not criminally responsible accused.
Rights to protection include
- Consideration of a victim’s security and privacy in their interactions with the criminal justice system;
- Reasonable and necessary measures to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation;
- Application for testimonial aids when appearing as a witness; and
- Enhanced ability to protect a victim’s identity from public disclosure.
Rights to participation include
- Allow victims to convey views about decisions to be made by appropriate authorities that affect their rights under the CVBR and have them considered by decision-makers; and
- Present a victim impact statement.
Rights to restitution include
- Courts must consider a restitution order in all offences; and
- Victims have a right to seek payment through civil courts.
In addition, in order to comply with the CVBR, federal departments with responsibilities under this legislation implemented a complaints process to resolve any breaches of a victim’s rights. The CVBR and the amendments to the Criminal Code, CEA, EIA, and some amendments to the CCRA, came into force 90 days following royal assent (i.e. July 23, 2015).
Corrections and Conditional Release Act
The CCRA came into force in 1992 and, at that time, provided authority to share some information with victims of crime (e.g. offender’s name, offence, sentence length). Amendments made in 2012 through the Safe Streets and Communities Act broadened the amount of information available to a victim (e.g. offender transfers to another facility).
These amendments made to the CCRA by Bill C-32 (Victims Bill of Rights Act) build on existing provisions and assist in facilitating the exercise of a victim’s rights. The amendments require that the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) make reasonable efforts to consult with victims prior to removing or varying a condition imposed on an offender under a long-term supervision order to enhance victim safety. Bringing this amendment into force also brings a coordinating amendment into force that requires the PBC to consult with a victim prior to removing or varying safety conditions imposed on an offender on an unescorted temporary absence, parole or statutory release. This ensures that victims are aware of any changes to non-contact conditions or geographic restrictions imposed on the offender who harmed them and are given the opportunity to communicate their views prior to the change.
The amendments also allow a victim to obtain information about the offender’s correctional plan (see footnote 2) and progress; access a photograph of the offender who harmed them prior to conditional release or at the end of the sentence; and listen to an audio recording of a parole hearing if they were unable to attend the proceedings.
These amendments broaden the amount of information available to victims about the offender who harmed them, enhance victim safety and provide victims with additional ways to participate in the parole process.
All federal costs associated with the provisions being brought into force by this Order in Council are accommodated within existing budgets. The amendments to the CCRA pertain to the federal correctional system and have little impact, if any, on the provincial and territorial systems.
The Government of Canada conducted a comprehensive consultation process for the development of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Consultations were held in Whitehorse, Iqaluit, Montréal, Québec City, Ottawa, St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, London, Toronto, Moncton, Yellowknife, Edmonton, and Vancouver. A number of roundtable sessions were also held. During the consultations, many participants expressed a desire for victims of crime to be kept informed and involved at every stage of the justice process. Others called for an increased understanding of the needs of specific victims, including young victims of crime and those who live in remote and rural communities. These meetings were complemented by an online consultation process from May 2013 to October 2013, which received over 300 submissions.
Witnesses appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights spoke for and against various components of the Bill. Victims, victim organizations and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime expressed continued support for the Bill. The Federal Ombudsman outlined a number of measures that could be considered in order to strengthen the Bill. These include automatic provision of information to victims and specifying roles and responsibilities of partners in the CVBR; allowing a victim to choose how they will attend a hearing and allowing those who have attended a hearing to listen to an audio recording of the hearing; providing separate waiting areas for victims who attend parole hearings; providing any authority with the jurisdiction to review complaints with investigative powers and the ability to compel information; providing legal representation to enforce participatory rights; and working with provinces and territories to evaluate the CVBR.
Police expressed support for the CVBR and advocated for training and implementation support. The Minister of Justice for Alberta noted concerns about the definition of “victim,” and community impact statements, and requested more time to prepare for implementation of the CVBR, as it came into force 90 days after royal assent. Aboriginal organizations were critical of some aspects of the CVBR noting a lack of specific focus on support to Aboriginal victims and the absence of a holistic approach to addressing crime and victimization. Legal associations expressed some support for Bill C-32, but also raised concerns about the provisions that permit a victim to testify anonymously and amendments to the sentencing principles.
Witnesses who appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs made similar presentations as those made to the House of Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Victims and victims’ advocates reaffirmed their support for the amendments. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime reiterated her suggested additional amendments to the Bill. Legal associations and non-governmental organizations raised concerns regarding the provisions that permit for anonymous testimony and amendments to the sentencing principles. They also highlighted concerns about the ability of offenders to pay restitution and potential for delays.
For more information, please contact
Mrs. Angela Connidis
Crime Prevention, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate
Public Safety Canada
- Footnote 1
A long-term supervision order is an order imposed at sentencing when the court has found an offender to be a long-term offender. A long-term offender is one who, in the opinion of the court, exhibits substantial risk, but could be effectively controlled in the community following a period of incarceration that lasts two years or more. These orders take effect once the sentence has ended and may be imposed for up to 10 years.
- Footnote 2
A correctional plan is prepared during an offender’s arrival at the penitentiary. Each correctional plan is tailored to the specific needs and risks of the individual offender and outlines and prioritizes the areas that must be addressed to reduce an offender’s likelihood of re-offending and to prepare him or her for safe reintegration into society.