QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC -- (Marketwired) -- 04/26/13 -- Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), spoke about the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to addressing the needs of victims of crime at a symposium hosted by the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared.
"The Harper Government has taken concrete actions to not only protect the victims of crime but to prevent Canadians from becoming victims in the first place," said Minister Paradis. "By holding violent offenders accountable for their crimes, promoting victims' access to justice and participation in the criminal justice system, and making the justice system more efficient, we are ensuring our criminal justice system works for victims, not for criminals."
Earlier this week, the Government began consultations on a Canadian Victims' Bill of Rights, which will enshrine the rights of victims into federal legislation. This is in keeping with the Government's Plan for Safe Streets and Communities, one of four priorities identified by the Prime Minister. This plan focuses on tackling crime, victims' rights, and fair and efficient justice.
The Government of Canada's action on supporting victims of crime builds on measures that have already been taken to further advance the interests of victims, including:
-- the establishment of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime;-- the creation of the Federal Victims Strategy, with more than $90 million allocated since 2007 for programs and services that help give victims a more effective voice in the criminal justice system;-- the allocation of more than $10 million for new or enhanced Child Advocacy Centres since 2010 to address the needs of child and youth victims of crime;-- the introduction of legislation to double the victims' surcharge and to make it mandatory; and-- the elimination of the faint-hope clause.
The symposium was held during National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. The eighth annual Victims Week is being held across Canada from April 21 to 27 with the theme We All Have a Role.
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Key Accomplishments for Victims of Crime
Canada has made significant accomplishments in giving victims of crime a more effective voice in the justice system.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act (Bill C-26) (Effective date: March 11, 2013)
Under this legislation, an owner, a person in lawful possession of property, or someone authorized by them, will be allowed to arrest a person within a reasonable amount of time after having found that person committing a criminal offence either on their property (e.g. when the offence occurs in their yard), or in relation to their property (e.g. when their property is stolen from a public parking lot).
The new citizen's arrest authority will only apply in circumstances when it is not feasible for a police officer to make the arrest. The police will continue to be Canada's first and foremost criminal law enforcement body.
This legislation will also reform the "self-defence" and "defence of property" provisions in the Criminal Code. These provisions have been simplified to make it easier to determine whether individuals who claim to have defended themselves, others, or their property should be charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence.
The Protecting Canada's Seniors Act (Bill C-36) (Effective date: January 13, 2013)
The Protecting Canada's Seniors Act better protects seniors by helping ensure tough sentences for those who take advantage of elderly Canadians. Evidence that an offence had a significant impact on the victims due to their age - and other personal circumstances, such as their health or financial situation - must be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act (Bill C-10) (Effective date: July 4, 2012)
This legislation authorizes immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (Bill C-10) (Effective date: March 13, 2012)
This legislation allows victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world.
An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service (Bill C-22) (Effective date: December 8, 2011)
This legislation protects children from online sexual exploitation by requiring suppliers of Internet services to report online child pornography. It will help identify victims so they may be rescued, and will improve law enforcement's ability to identify, apprehend and prosecute offenders.
Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act (Bill S-6) (Effective date: December 2, 2011)
This legislation ensures a "life" sentence means life by repealing the "faint-hope clause," which allows murderers to obtain early parole. Victims' families will be spared the anguish of attending repeated parole eligibility hearings and having to relive their losses over and over again.
Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act (Bill C-48) (Effective dates: March 23 and December 2, 2011)
This legislation helps ensure that each life taken is acknowledged in the sentencing process and that those who commit multiple murders will serve a sentence that more adequately reflects the heinous nature of their crimes. It allows judges to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on individuals convicted of more than one first- or second-degree murder.
Standing Up For Victims of White-Collar Crime Act (Bill C-21) (Effective date: November 1, 2011)
This legislation cracks down on white-collar crime by toughening sentences for fraud, including a mandatory minimum penalty of imprisonment for frauds over $1 million, and by requiring judges to consider restitution for victims.
Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act (S-2) (Effective Date: April 15, 2011)
This legislation strengthens the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank through the following fundamental reforms:
-- automatic inclusion of convicted sex offenders in the registry;-- mandatory DNA sampling for convicted sex offenders;-- proactive use of the registry by police;-- registration of sex offenders convicted abroad;-- notifications to other police jurisdictions when high-risk registered offenders travel;-- operational and administrative amendments to enhance registry operations; and-- amendments to the National Defence Act.
Abolition of Early Parole Act (Bill C-59) (Effective dates: March 23 and March 28, 2011)
This legislation abolishes the current system of Accelerated Parole Review, which allows those convicted of non-violent offences to obtain day parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence and full parole after serving one-third.
Federal Victims Strategy
The objective of the Federal Victims Strategy is to give victims a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. The Department of Justice works in close collaboration with other federal institutions, as well as victims, victim advocates, provincial and territorial governments, service providers and others involved in the criminal justice system. The Department of Justice develops policy and criminal law reform, funds various programs to meet the needs of victims of crime, and shares information about issues of importance to victims of crime.
Within the Federal Victim Strategy, the Victims Fund is a grants and contributions program administered by the Department of Justice. Funds are available each year to fund provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations whose projects, activities and operations support the objectives of the Federal Victims Strategy.
Since 2007, when the Government introduced the Federal Victims Strategy, more than $90 million has been committed to respond to the needs of victims of crime. In Economic Action Plan 2012, the government committed an additional $5 million over five years for new or enhanced Child Advocacy Centres (CACs), bringing the total commitment to CACs to $10.25 million.
Child Advocacy Centres aim to minimize the trauma of being a child victim of crime. CACs are made up of a collaborative team of professionals who work in a child-friendly setting to help child or youth victims or witnesses navigate the criminal justice system. The work of the CAC staff can greatly reduce the emotional and mental harm to the child.
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime is an independent resource for victims in Canada. The Office was created in 2007 to ensure that the federal government meets its responsibilities regarding victims of crime.
Victims can contact the Office to learn more about their rights under federal law and the services available to them, or to make a complaint about any federal agency or federal legislation dealing with victims of crime. In addition to its direct work with victims, the Office also works to ensure that policy makers and other criminal justice personnel are aware of victims' needs and concerns and to identify important issues and trends that may negatively impact victims. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman may also make recommendations to the federal government.
National Action Plan on Human Trafficking
Canada's National Action Plan is a comprehensive blueprint to guide Canada's fight against the serious crime of human trafficking. A Human Trafficking Taskforce, led by Public Safety Canada and comprised of key departments, is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Action Plan commitments, coordinating the federal anti-human trafficking response and reporting annually on progress to the public.
Key activities under the National Action Plan include:
-- the creation of Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combating human trafficking;-- increasing front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities;-- providing more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and-- strengthening coordination with domestic and international partners who contribute to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.
The Action Plan includes activities to better support organizations providing assistance to victims and helps to protect foreign nationals, including young female immigrants who arrive in Canada alone, from being subjected to illegitimate or unsafe work. New measures, totalling $25 million over four years, build on and strengthen Canada's significant work to date to prevent, detect and prosecute human trafficking. Such measures include targeted training for law enforcement officials and front-line service providers and enhanced public awareness measures.
Elder Abuse Initiative
In 2008, Canada launched the Federal Elder Abuse Initiative (FEAI), a successful $13-million, multi-departmental, three-year initiative to help seniors and others recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and provide information on available supports. This initiative successfully concluded on March 31, 2011. Building on the momentum created through the FEAI, the Government remains active in addressing elder abuse through its elder abuse awareness campaigns and the New Horizons for Seniors Program.
The New Horizons for Seniors Program is designed to help ensure that seniors benefit from, and contribute to, the quality of life in their communities through social participation and active living. The program was expanded in 2007 to include elder abuse awareness activities. The elder abuse awareness objective of the program helps organizations develop national or regional education and awareness activities to reduce the incidence of abuse of seniors. Additional funds were announced in Budget 2010 for projects that focus on raising awareness of the financial abuse of seniors. In 2011, the Government increased its investments in the program by $5 million per year for two years, bringing the program's annual budget to $45 million. A portion of this funding will continue to support projects that expand awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse.
Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children
As of January 1, 2013, the Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children grant is an income support grant available to applicants who have suffered a loss of income from taking time away from work to cope with the death or disappearance of their child or children, as a result of a probable Criminal Code offence.
Safety Planning Brochure / Staying Informed Booklet
Canada is continuing to support victims with the launch a new Safety Planning brochure, which provides information and tools that could help with any concerns or questions that victims of crime may have when an offender is released. Also, the Staying Informed booklet has been revised to provide victims with the most accurate and up-to-date information on what they are entitled to know, how to obtain that information, and the role they can play in the decision-making process. Both are available through the National Office of Victims or online: www.publicsafety.gc.ca.
Julie Di Mambro
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice