Vol. 149, No. 13 — July 1, 2015
SI/2015-60 July 1, 2015
VICTIMS BILL OF RIGHTS ACT
Order Fixing July 23, 2015 as the Day on which Certain Provisions of the Victims Bill of Rights Act Come into Force
P.C. 2015-846 June 18, 2015
His Excellency the Governor 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 July 23, 2015 as the day on which paragraph 26(1)(c) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as enacted by subsection 46(3) of the Act, and section 45, subsections 46(2) and 46(4) to (7), section 47, subsections 48(1) and (2) and 49(2) and sections 50 and 51 of the Act come into force.
(This note is not part of the Order.)
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness proposes that pursuant to section 60(2) of the Victims Bill of Rights Act, the coming-into-force date of section 45; subsection 46(2); paragraph 26(1)(c) as enacted by subsection 46(3); subsection 46(4); subsection 46(5); subsection 46(6); subsection 46(7); section 47; subsection 48(1); subsection 48(2); subsection 49(2); section 50; and section 51 be fixed as July 23, 2015. These sections amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA).
The objective of this coming into force Order 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 will assist victims in accessing additional information about the offender who harmed them; require that the Parole Board of Canada impose reasonable and necessary conditions to protect victims on an offender serving a Long-Term Supervision Order; (see footnote 1) and make amendments to the definition of “victim” to add the concepts of economic loss and property damage.
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. Since that time, the CVBR has been a key government priority and was highlighted in the 2013 Speech from the Throne. 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 end of sentence.
Bill C-32 (Victims Bill of Rights Act) will enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights as a stand-alone statute and also amend existing statutes — the Criminal Code, the CCRA, the 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 enshrines 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 to appropriate authorities 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, the CVBR will also require that all federal departments have a complaints process in place to resolve any breaches of a victim’s rights. The CVBR and the amendments to the Criminal Code, CEA and EIA come 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).
The amendments to the CCRA in Bill C-32 build on the existing CCRA provisions and will assist in facilitating the exercise of a victim’s rights under the CVBR.
The amendments to the CCRA being brought into force by this Order will
- Change the definition of “victim” in the CCRA to include concepts of property damage and economic loss;
- Provide the victim with the date, destination and conditions of the offender’s release, 14 days in advance if possible;
- Provide the victim with updates to previously released information;
- Provide the victim with information about victim-offender mediation services;
- Provide the victim with information regarding whether the offender has been removed from the country before the end of the sentence;
- Allow the victim to designate a representative and withdraw requests for information;
- Provide access to Parole Board decisions; and
- Require that the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) impose victim non-contact orders or geographic restrictions on offenders subject to a Long-Term Supervision Order, where reasonable and necessary, if the victim has provided a statement to the PBC describing the harm done to them, or loss suffered by them, as a result of the commission of the offence and its continuing impact. If the PBC does not impose the conditions, it is required to provide written reasons.
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 will have little impact, if any, on the provincial/territorial systems.
The Government of Canada conducted a comprehensive consultation process for the development of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. The Minister of Justice held in-person consultations in Whitehorse, Iqaluit, Montréal, Québec City, Ottawa, St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, London, Toronto, Moncton, Yellowknife, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The Minister of Public Safety also participated in some of the roundtable sessions. 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; 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,” community impact statements, and have requested more time to prepare for implementation of the CVBR, as it comes 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 the Bill 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
Corrections and Criminal Justice Division
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-tern 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.