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Time for parliamentary review of victims bill of rights, ombudsman says

Thursday, November 26, 2020 @ 9:22 AM | By Ian Burns

The federal ombudsman for victims of crime is calling on Ottawa to make changes to Canada’s victims bill of rights, saying it has not lived up to its promise.

Ombudsman Heidi Illingworth released a progress report on the bill Nov. 25, which revealed its implementation has been “sporadic and inconsistent.” Training opportunities for criminal justice officials have been limited and there has been no pan-Canadian public education effort to inform citizens of their rights, meaning the situation of victims of crime has not fundamentally changed since the law was passed.

“Victims and survivors of crime deserve rights that are respected and upheld by all criminal justice officials,” said Illingworth. “I believe the bill must be strengthened to address a number of fundamental gaps and challenges that remain for victims and survivors. We must enhance victims’ rights in Canada.”

The progress report concluded that the federal government should bring in changes to the bill to give victims the opportunity to seek legal and administrative remedies if they believe their rights have been overlooked, guarantee support services and assistance and assist victims with the collection of court-ordered restitution for the losses they have suffered.

“Officials in the criminal justice system should be mandated to provide information on restorative justice programs to victims who report crimes,” said Jo-Anne Wemmers, a professor of criminology at the Université de Montréal. “If we want to improve outcomes for victims of crime, we must provide greater access to reparations, which is a broader notion than restitution. Reparation can take many forms but seeks to repair the harm and restore victims’ well-being.”

Parliament passed the bill of rights in 2015, which gave victims and survivors the right to information about how their case was being pursued and the right to seek restitution for losses, among other provisions. The legislation also has a requirement that a committee be established to review the bill five years after enactment.

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