Who is a victim of crime

Definition of a victim

A victim is defined as a person who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage, or economic loss as a result of a crime. The rights are available to a victim who is in Canada or who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

The following people can exercise a victim’s rights if the victim is dead or not able to act on his or her own behalf:

  • A victim’s spouse
  • A common law partner who has lived with the victim for at least one year prior to the victim’s death
  • A relative or dependant of the victim
  • 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 is not 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.

A victim’s role in the criminal justice system

Infographic - Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

Although a victim of crime is not a party in criminal proceedings, they play a vital role in the criminal justice process. Their testimony is a very important part of the prosecutor’s case against the accused.

Exercising rights

Victims of crime are able to exercise their rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights while an offence is being investigated or prosecuted and while the offender is going through the corrections or conditional release process.

The offence committed against the victim must fall under the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, or the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. The rights also apply to some offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and parts of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The rights apply to offences which occur in Canada. They also apply if the offence is investigated and prosecuted in Canada or if the offender is serving a sentence or conditional release in Canada.

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 a review board.

Implementation during investigations and court proceedings

Rights are to be applied in a reasonable manner so they do not interfere with police, investigations, prosecutions or court proceedings nor endanger a person’s life and safety.

When rights are not respected

Victims have the right to make a complaint if they believe their rights have not been respected by a federal department or agency. All federal departments and agencies that have responsibilities under the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights need to provide a way for victims to file complaints.

Complaints against a provincial or territorial agency, like police or victim services, will be addressed through the appropriate provincial or territorial laws.

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