Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

July 24, 2015 13:27 ET

Canadian Victims Bill of Rights - Historic Legislation Now in Force

Clear statutory rights at the federal level better protect victims of crime and give them a more effective voice in the criminal justice system

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwired - July 24, 2015) - Department of Justice Canada

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Peter MacKay today announced the coming-into-force of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. The new law provides clear rights for victims of crime at the federal level - a first in Canadian history. The Minister also highlighted Criminal Code amendments in the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act that also recently came into force to better protect children from a range of sexual offences.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights includes a balanced package of rights that will deliver real and concrete change for victims of crime without compromising the efficiency of the criminal justice system. In recognition of the costs associated with the implementation process, the Government is providing more than $54 million to support the consistent, timely and effective implementation of this historic legislation.

The development of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was informed by stakeholder consultations held by the Government of Canada online and in person in every province and territory. During the consultations, many shared stories of their interactions with the criminal justice system and called for an increased understanding of the needs of victims of crime. Participants expressed a desire for victims of crime to be kept better informed at every stage of the justice process.

By creating the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, a commitment reiterated in Budget 2014. The legislation is also part of the Government's Plan for Safe Streets and Communities, which focuses on holding violent offenders accountable, enhancing the rights of victims, and increasing the efficiency of the justice system.

The Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act puts an end to sentencing discounts for child sex offenders who commit crimes against multiple children by requiring those sentenced at the same time for child sexual offences against multiple victims to serve their sentences consecutively. It also increases the maximum and minimum prison sentences for certain child sexual offences.

Quick Facts

  • The Canadian Victims Bills of Rights creates the following statutory rights for victims of crime:
    • Right to information: Victims have the right to request general information about the criminal justice system and available victim services and programs, including restorative justice programs. They also have the right to request specific information about the progress of the case, including information relating to the investigation, prosecution, sentencing and conditional release of the person who harmed them.
    • Right to protection: Victims have the right to have their security and privacy considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and to have reasonable and necessary measures to protect them from intimidation and retaliation. They also have the right to request that their identity be protected from public disclosure and the right to request testimonial aids when appearing as a witness.
    • Right to participation: Victims have the right to convey their views about decisions to be made by criminal justice professionals that affect their rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to have them considered at various stages of the criminal justice process. They also have the right to present a victim impact statement and to have it considered.
    • Right to seek restitution: Victims have the right to have the court consider making a restitution order and to have any unpaid restitution entered as an enforceable civil judgment.
  • The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and related amendments to the Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act, and Employment Insurance Act came into force on July 23, 2015. Most of the amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act also came into force on July 23, 2015, and the remainder will come into force on a day or days to be fixed by Order in Council.
  • The consultations held by the Government of Canada online and in person to inform the development of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights included victims of crime, victim advocacy organizations, criminal justice professionals, provincial and territorial officials, and non-governmental organizations.
  • The Government of Canada will provide more than $54 million to support the implementation of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights through existing resources as well as the allocation of new federal resources.
  • Since 2006, more than $158 million has been designated to give victims a more effective voice through initiatives delivered by the Department of Justice Canada. This amount includes $10.3 million for new or enhanced child advocacy centres (CACs). So far, CAC projects have been funded in more than 20 cities or municipalities across Canada. CACs adopt a child-focused, seamless, coordinated and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of child and youth victims who have experienced abuse or witnessed violence, and provide services to their families.

Quotes

"Our Government is extremely proud of this new piece of legislation that was informed by Canadians across the country, in particular, victims of crime. We have delivered this transformational change for victims to ensure that every victim of crime will now have an effective voice in our criminal justice system. The protection of Canadians, particularly those who have suffered the harm and devastation of victimization, is a responsibility that our Government takes very seriously. We are also committed to standing up for our most vulnerable victims of crime, our children. The Criminal Code amendments contained in the new Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, which also recently came into force will put an end to sentencing discounts for child sex offenders who commit crimes against multiple children. "

Peter MacKay

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

"Our Government is delivering on its commitment to ensure that victims of crime are treated with courtesy, dignity and respect at every stage of the criminal justice process, and, if the accused is found guilty, to incarceration and release. The creation of a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is a historic step that will have an immense and positive impact on victims of crime in our country. This important accomplishment will help all Canadians have increased faith in our criminal justice and corrections system."

Steven Blaney

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Related Products

- Overview of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

- Right to information

- Right to protection

- Right to participation

- Right to restitution

- Victims of Crime

- Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act

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Backgrounder

Overview of Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

On July 23, 2015, most of Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, which gives victims of crime a more effective voice in the criminal justice system, came into force. This legislation creates the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights to provide clear statutory rights at the federal level for victims of crime for the first time in Canada's history.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights establishes statutory rights to information, protection, and participation and to seek restitution, and it ensures that a complaint process is in place for breaches of these rights by a federal department or agency.

Coming into force

The amendments included in the Victims Bill of Rights Act, including the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, amendments to the Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act, and Employment Insurance Act, and most amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), came into force on July 23, 2015.

The remaining amendments to the CCRA will come into force on a day or days to be fixed by Order in Council.

Definitions

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights defines a victim of crime as any individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage, or economic loss as a result of an offence committed under the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act; it also applies to some offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and parts of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The rights are available to a victim who is in Canada or who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. The rights apply to offences that occur in Canada, as well as to offences that are investigated or prosecuted or for which the offender is serving a sentence or conditional release in Canada.

The legislation also allows the following individuals to exercise a victim's rights when a victim is dead or incapable of acting on his or her behalf:

  • the victim's spouse or an individual cohabiting with the victim in a conjugal relationship for at least one year prior to the victim's death;
  • a relative or dependant of the victim; and
  • anyone who has custody of the victim or of the victim's dependant.

A person who has been charged, convicted, or found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder for the offence that resulted in the victimization will not be defined as a victim. For example, if a parent has been charged with abuse of a child, that parent will not be allowed to exercise the child victim's rights or their own rights as a parent.

Remedies for breaches of rights

Under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, when a victim believes that his or her rights have been breached, the victim first files a complaint with the appropriate federal department or agency. The legislation includes a requirement for all federal departments and agencies that have responsibilities under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights to have internal complaint mechanisms accessible to victims to review complaints, make recommendations to correct any infringement, and notify victims about the results of the review.

Complaints regarding a provincial or territorial agency, including police, prosecutors, and victim services, will be addressed in accordance with the applicable provincial or territorial legislation. In order to improve the remedies available to victims, the federal government is providing funding through the Victims Fund to provinces and territories to enhance or establish complaint bodies for victims of crime. This funding encourages a level of consistency in the complaints mechanisms available to victims of crime across the country without drawing funds from successful existing programs for victims of crime.

Exercising rights

A victim can exercise the rights in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights while an offence is being investigated or prosecuted and while the offender is subject to the corrections or conditional release process. For cases in which an accused has been found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the victim can exercise the rights while the accused is under the jurisdiction of a court or Review Board.

If there is an inconsistency between the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and any other federal Act enacted on or after the day that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights comes into force, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights will prevail. In cases where the inconsistency is with the Canadian Bill of Rights, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Official Languages Act, the Access to Information Act, or the Privacy Act, the rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights will be balanced with these other quasi-constitutional statutes.

Limitations to exercising rights

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights includes a limitation clause to specify that the rights are to be applied in a reasonable manner so they do not interfere with police or prosecutorial discretion, cause excessive delay, compromise an investigation or prosecution, or cause a stay of proceedings. As well, the rights are not to endanger the life or safety of any individual, interfere with ministerial discretion, interfere with the discretion that may be exercised by any person or body authorized to release an offender into the community, or cause injury to international relations or national defence or security. This limitation clause is intended to ensure that the rights are interpreted and applied in a way that addresses victims' concerns while avoiding unintended or unjustified consequences for the criminal justice system.

Nothing in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights permits an individual to enter Canada or to remain in Canada longer than a previously authorized period, nor will it delay or prevent the removal of an individual or delay extradition proceedings.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights does not grant or remove the status of a party, intervener, or observer in any criminal proceedings from a victim, or anyone acting on the victim's behalf. An infringement of any of the rights included in the legislation does not create a cause of action, a right to damages, or a right of appeal from any decision or order.

Backgrounder

Right to Information

Building on existing federal and provincial laws and policies, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights enshrines a victim's right to receive, on request, general information about:

  • the criminal justice system and the role of victims;
  • available victim services and programs, including restorative justice programs; and
  • the right to make a complaint if in their opinion their rights have been infringed or denied.

Building on existing federal, provincial and territorial laws and policies, a victim also has access to case-specific information on request, such as:

  • the status and outcome of the investigation;
  • scheduling, progress and the final outcome of criminal proceedings;
  • any review of an offender's conditional release, and the timing and conditions of that release; and
  • information about an accused who has been found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder while that person is under the jurisdiction of a court or a review board.

Criminal Code amendments that accompany the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights require the court to ask the prosecutor if reasonable steps were taken to inform the victim of a plea agreement for murder or serious personal injury offences, or on request for an offence where imprisonment of five years or more is possible. Criminal Code amendments also allow a victim to request copies of bail, conditional sentence, and/or probation orders.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) amendments to increase victim access to information about the person who harmed them will:

  • permit a registered victim to access information about the status of the offender and the offender's progress against his or her correctional plan;
  • permit a registered victim to be informed when a federal offender has been removed from Canada prior to the end of a sentence;
  • require disclosure of an offender's release date, destination and conditions to the victim unless the disclosure would have a negative impact on public safety;
  • upon request, provide a registered victim with copies of Parole Board of Canada decisions; an,
  • require that the Correctional Service of Canada inform a registered victim about victim-offender mediation services.

The Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada will also modernize service delivery to victims by allowing registered victims to access the information available to them under the CCRA through a secure web-portal in the near future.

Backgrounder

Right to Participation

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights gives victims the right to convey their views about decisions to be made by criminal justice professionals which affect their rights at various stages of the criminal justice system and have their views considered, and to present a victim impact statement for consideration.

Amendments to the Criminal Code:

  • require judges to include in the record of bail proceedings that they have taken into consideration victim safety and security in their decision;
  • add the acknowledgement of harm done to victims and the community to the sentencing objectives;
  • allow victims to use a testimonial aid in court when they present victim impact statements;
  • allow victims to bring a photo of the victim during their presentation of a victim impact statement in court; and
  • provide for a standard Victim Impact Statement and Community Impact Statement form at sentencing to ensure consistency in how victims indicate the physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss suffered. Another optional victim impact statement form can be used by Review Boards to guide their decision making in the case of an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

Changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) that came into force on July 23,, 2015, include allowing registered victims to designate a representative to receive information on their behalf and allowing victims to waive their right to receive information from the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.

Other amendments to the CCRA, such as permitting victims who are unable to attend a parole hearing to listen to an audio recording of the hearing, will come into force on a day or days to be fixed by Order in Council.

Backgrounder

Right to Seek Restitution

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights creates a right for a victim to have the Court consider making a restitution order against the offender and, where that order is not paid, to have it entered as an enforceable civil judgment. Legislative amendments to the Criminal Code:

  • require the court to consider a restitution order for all offences and allow victims to describe these losses at sentencing;
  • specify that an offender's ability to pay is not determinative in ordering restitution;
  • provide for a standard form to help victims claim their losses; and
  • provide that payment schedules can also be included in a court order for restitution.

Under the Criminal Code, a judge can currently order an offender to pay the costs of any easy-to-calculate financial losses up to the date of sentencing, but not any future losses. A judge can order restitution for financial losses related to:

  • damaged or lost property due to the crime;
  • physical injury or psychological harm due to the crime;
  • physical injury due to the arrest or attempted arrest of the offender;
  • costs for temporary housing, food, childcare and transportation due to a spouse, common-law partner, child, or other person moving out of the offender's household because of harm or threatened harm from the offender;
  • costs incurred by victims of identity theft to re-establish their identity and to correct their credit history and their credit rating; and
  • costs that victims of non-consensual publication of an intimate image had to pay to have the image removed from the Internet or other digital networks.

The enforcement of restitution will be facilitated through several program measures, such as the development of tools for victims to give them more information about restitution and making funding available to provinces and territories to improve the enforcement of restitution orders.

Backgrounder

Child Sexual Offenders

The Government of Canada remains committed to protecting Canadians and keeping our streets and communities safe.

In Canada, over 4,200 sexual violations against children were reported to police in 2013, a six percent increase in the rate from 2012.[1]. That is why the Government has brought forward legislation that better protects children from sexual predators at home and abroad.

The Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act came into force on July 17, 2015. The new measures build on the significant work that has already been done to combat child sexual exploitation and protect Canadians from online crime. The new measures:

  • require those sentenced for child pornography offences and contact child sexual offences to serve the sentences they receive consecutively – one sentence after the other;
  • increase maximum and minimum prison sentences for certain child sexual offences;
  • increase maximum sentences for violating conditions of supervision orders; and
  • ensure that committing a crime while on house arrest, parole, statutory release, or unescorted temporary absence is always considered an aggravating factor at sentencing.

Since 2006, our Government has taken strong actions to better protect children, including:

  • bringing forward legislation to ensure children are better protected against cyberbullying by making it an offence to distribute intimate images of a person without their consent;
  • putting in place, through the Safe Streets and Communities Act, new mandatory minimum penalties for seven existing Criminal Code sexual offences, including assault, assault with a weapon, and aggravated assault (where the child is under 16 years);
  • making it illegal for anyone to provide sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence against that child;
  • making it illegal to use computers or other means of telecommunications to agree or make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child;
  • strengthening the sex offender registry;
  • increasing the age of protection – the age at which a young person can legally consent to sexual activity – from 14 to 16 years of age;
  • putting in place legislation to make the reporting of child pornography by Internet service providers mandatory; and
  • strengthening the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous offenders.

[1] Statistics Canada. Table 252-0051 - Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, annual (number unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database).

Contact Information

  • Clarissa Lamb
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

    Media Relations Office
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207