Federal Victims Strategy Evaluation, Final Report

2. THE FEDERAL VICTIMS STRATEGY

This chapter provides an overview of the Federal Victims Strategy including its rationale, objectives, activities, and budget.

2.1 Federal Victims Strategy

2.1.1 Rationale and Objectives of the Federal Victims Strategy

There is a need to ensure the fair and compassionate treatment of victims by the criminal justice system and to offer protection to victims of crime. Victim services/victim witness assistance programs help reduce the trauma of a crime by empowering and assisting crime victims, witnesses and family members in reconstructing their lives through advocacy, support, information and referrals. Victim services/victim assistance programs are needed to build safer communities, help people use the court system, enhance understanding of the law, and link victims to sources of assistance and additional information. They also provide court orientation and support to children and other vulnerable witnesses who are required to testify in court in order to help reduce the fear, anxiety and further trauma that may occur through testifying. Many victims, especially women and children, need financial support as well as additional services and assistance to aid in their recovery from the physical and psychological effects of their victimization.

The objective of the Strategy is to improve the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system by:

  • Working with partners to enhance victim participation in the criminal justice system;
  • Ensuring that victims of crime and their families are aware of their role in the criminal justice system and the services and assistance available to support them;
  • Enhancing capacity to develop policy, legislation and other initiatives which take the perspectives of victims into consideration;
  • Increasing awareness of criminal justice system personnel, allied professionals and the public about the needs of victims of crime, legislative provisions designed to protect them, and services available to support them; and,
  • Developing and disseminating information about effective approaches both within Canada and internationally to respond to the needs of victims of crime.

2.2 Policy Centre for Victim Issues

Under the FVS, the PCVI is mandated to work towards improving the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system by pursuing a range of interrelated activities and initiatives. The PCVI provides the "victims lens" for all criminal law reform and criminal justice policy development for which the Department of Justice is responsible and collaborates with other federal departments to ensure a consistent approach to victim issues. The PCVI consults with victim advocates, service providers and others involved in the criminal justice system, works closely with provinces and territories, and supports the network of Directors of Victim Services. In addition, the PCVI conducts research and funds surveys, develops public information, sponsors special projects (e.g. the use of technology to provide information to victims), sponsors National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, and administers the Victims Fund.

2.2.1 Victims Fund

The Victims Fund is a grants and contributions fund designed to raise awareness about and enhance services and assistance to victims of crime. As a core component of the PCVI, the Victims Fund is complemented by the PCVI's other key activities. The Victims Fund consists of the following three main components:

2.2.1.1 Provincial/Territorial Component.

The Victims Fund supports the following activities through this component:

  • Implementation. The Victims Fund supports the implementation of federal and provincial/ territorial legislation for victims of crime, particularly provisions of the Criminal Code and the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime (maximum of $100,000 per year to larger jurisdictions and $50,000 per year to smaller jurisdictions since 2000).
  • Victim Impact Statement (VIS)[1] Sentencing Travel Funds: The Victims Fund supports the development of provincial/territorial programs to defray the costs for victims attending sentencing hearings in order to submit a VIS ($150,000 per year, per jurisdiction as of 2007-08).
  • Reaching Underserved Victims of Crime. The Victims Fund provides support to the provinces and territories to develop, implement, enhance or evaluate programs to respond to under-served victims of crime such as Aboriginal victims of crime, seniors, official language minorities, and disabled victims ($100,000 per year, per jurisdiction as of 2007-08).
  • Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund. The Victims Fund provides support to the territories to directly assist victims of crime with emergency costs ($100,000 per year, per territory as of 2007-08).

In 2007-08, significant enhancements to the Victims Fund were implemented, which increased the annual budget for the Provincial/Territorial Component from $1,000,000 to $4,825,000. The Sentencing, Underserved and Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund are new aspects of the Victims Fund since this enhancement. From 2005-06 to 2009-10 (the timeframe covered by this evaluation), 21 projects received funding through the Provincial/Territorial Component of the Victims Fund, the majority (18) of which were multi-year projects. The Department's Integrated Finance and Materiel System (IFMS) records indicate that a total of $2,956,797 was provided to the provinces and territories under this component of the Fund from 2005-06 to 2009-10 (Table 1). This, however, is only 18% of the total amount ($16,465,000) budgeted for this component.[2]

Table 1 Provincial/Territorial Component of Victims Fund, 2005-06 to 2009-10
Applications Implementation Sentencing Underserved Northern Emergency Fund TOTAL

Received

12

6

10

2

30

Rejected

1

2

2

1

6

Funded

11

4

8

1

21[3]

Total Paid

$1,474,734

$51,054

$1,352,306

$78,703

$2,956,797

In terms of national coverage, funding through the Provincial/Territorial Component was provided to all provinces and territories, except Quebec, which did not apply for funding; Ontario, which had not claimed any expenditure as of the date of this report; and Manitoba whose claim of $38,150 was being processed but had not yet been paid (Table 2).

Table 2 Geographic Distribution of Projects Funded by the Provincial/Territorial Component, 2005-06 to 2009-10

Implementation

Sentencing

Underserved

Northern Emergency Fund[4]

Total
Projects

Total $
Paid

Newfoundland and Labrador

0

1

1

N/A

2

$27,874

Prince Edward Island

1

0

0

N/A

1

$423,154

Nova Scotia

2

1

1

N/A

4

$287,249

New Brunswick

1

0

1

N/A

2

$477,325

Quebec

0

0

0

N/A

0

$0

Ontario

0

1

0

N/A

1

$0

Manitoba

1

0

0

N/A

1

$0

Saskatchewan

2

0

1

N/A

3

$355,229

Alberta

1

0

1

N/A

2

$210,378

British Columbia

1

0

1

N/A

2

$288,634

Yukon

1

0

0

0

1

$213,834

Northwest Territories

1

1

1

1

4

$555,500

Nunavut

0

0

1

0

1

$117,620

Total Paid

$2,956,797

2.2.1.2 Projects and Activities Component.

This component of the Victims Fund is designed to support a range of projects and activities such as public education initiatives (e.g. National Victims of Crime Awareness Week projects and events), training, enhanced services for victims of crime, and the development of programs. This component of the Fund can be accessed by governmental and non-governmental organizations. Some resources of this component are specifically intended to support the purchase of capital expenditures such as screens for vulnerable witnesses and to advance support for victims in territorial communities.

From 2006-07 to 2009-10, the annual budget for the Projects and Activities Component was $1,025,000. The number of projects supported under this component of the Fund doubled from 2007-08 to 2008-09 and again in 2009-10 (see Table 3) due to the high level of interest among non-government organizations (NGOs) and community advocates in organizing events for National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.

Table 3 Projects and Activities Component of Victims Fund, 2005-10

2005/06

2006/07

2007/08

2008/09

2009/10

Projects Funded

5

50

42

85

162

$ Paid

$55,546

$666,158

$584,561

$747,081

$1,611,291

The Department's IFMS records indicate that a total of 344 projects were funded through the Projects and Activities Component of the Victims Fund from 2005-06 to 2009-10, the majority (82%) of which were NGO projects. Provincial/Territorial government projects accounted for 17% of the 344 projects.

2.2.1.3 Financial Assistance Component.

This component provides the following financial assistance:

  • financial assistance to registered victims of federally supervised offenders to attend parole hearings.[5] The budget has varied each year and increased from $492,000 in 2005-06 to $1,058,000 in 2009-10;
  • financial assistance to a support person to attend, or support registered victims to attend, PBC hearings ($400,000 per year);
  • financial assistance to Canadian citizens victimized abroad, or their family members where the victim faced unusual or extreme hardship due to criminal victimization and where no other adequate source of financial assistance is available (up to $5,000 per victim exclusive of travel costs; total budget $1,325,000 per year); and
  • direct, limited, emergency financial assistance to individual victims of crime facing unusual or extreme hardship due to criminal victimization and where no other adequate source of financial assistance is available, as well as financial assistance to surviving family members of victims of homicide who incur expenses to attend Criminal Code section 745.6 early parole eligibility hearings ($175,000 per year).

Financial assistance for victims to have a support person attend PBC hearings with them and financial assistance for Canadians victimized abroad are relatively new initiatives under the Fund that were implemented in 2007-08. Table 4 provides a breakdown of the funding provided under the Financial Assistance Component of the Victims Fund from 2005-06 to 2009-10. The table shows that the number of support persons and Canadians victimized abroad who have received financial assistance has increased each year since the inception of these two programs.

Table 4 Victims Fund - Financial Assistance Component, 2005-06 to 2009-10

Persons Paid

Parole -
Support

Parole -
Victim

Victimized
Abroad

Emergency Fund

TOTAL

2005-06

N/A

124

N/A

0

124

2006-07

N/A

366

N/A

2

368

2007-08

66

378

5

0

449

2008-09

78

308

13

2

401

2009-10

82

314

49

1

446

Total #

226

1,490

67

5

1,788

Total $

$103,262

$973,319

$234,839

$26,130

$1,342,550

2.2.2 Criminal Law Reform and Policy Development

The PCVI's Criminal Law Reform and Policy Development activities are wide ranging and include research, policy development, legal analysis and case law reviews, consultations, participation in international conferences and symposia (e.g. United Nations [UN] Expert Group on the Development of Guidelines for Child Victims and Witnesses, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and the International Criminal Court's Victim Support Initiatives), and providing Canada's position with respect to international documents relating to victims of crime. The PCVI monitors and assesses the implementation of victim-related Criminal Code amendments and develops options in this respect; analyses proposals for Criminal Code amendments, and those specifically related to victims of crime; and reviews related legislation to ensure it includes a victims' of crime perspective. In addition, the PCVI provides support to litigators on Charter interpretation and litigation. The PCVI has also established an Advisory Committee on Victims of Crime that is composed of victim service providers, advocates and NGOs in order to identify concerns, develop options and strategies, share information, and develop capacity to respond to victim needs. Additionally, the PCVI participates on various FPT working groups whose mandates impact victims of crime, including the FPT Working Group on Aboriginal Justice and the FPT Working Group on Restorative Justice.

2.2.3 Federal/Provincial/Territorial(FPT) Working Group on Victims of Crime

The PCVI is the secretariat responsible for coordinating and chairing the FPT Working Group on Victims of Crime. The FPT Working Group consists of Directors of Provincial and Territorial Victim Services as well as representatives from other federal departments such as the PBC, RCMP, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), PSC, and representatives from other areas within the Department of Justice including the Family, Children, and Youth Section, Sentencing Reform, and Aboriginal Justice. Statistics Canada and others also participate on this Working Group although they are not formal members. The FPT Working Group works jointly with other working groups such as the FPT Working Group on Restorative Justice and the FPT Working Group on Sentencing. The PCVI organizes two meetings each year at a cost of $25,000 per meeting.

Over the past five years, the group has had bi-annual meetings to exchange jurisdictional information and experiences and to discuss emerging issues such as program sustainability, public awareness campaigns that highlight victim services programs, restorative justice, government bills, and other outstanding issues related to the Victims Fund and implementation of victim-related Criminal Code amendments. Each FPT Working Group meeting had a major focus on reviewing and discussing reports from jurisdictions, various sub-committees and sub-groups, and other relevant government agencies such as the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) and the RCMP. An overview of issues and events at the federal level were also presented and members were consulted regarding PCVI resources and programs. Additionally, the meetings included discussions regarding the PCVI's research and evaluation activities.

2.2.4 Public Legal Education Information

The PCVI collects and synthesizes studies and reports and acts as a clearinghouse for information on victims of crime issues. It maintains up-to-date information on available programs and services for victims in Canada. The PCVI maintains a website and prepares fact sheets, guides/manuals, and brochures on Criminal Code amendments, available funding and victim issues, and produces a quarterly newsletter. The PCVI activities related to PLEI include having displays at conferences and other events, press releases and backgrounders or summaries announcing new legislative initiatives, international developments, research grants and contributions.

National Victims of Crime Awareness Week (NVCAW) is an annual outreach initiative of the PCVI which includes a range of activities featuring a particular theme each year. The key goal of NVCAW is to raise awareness about the issues facing victims of crime and about the services, assistance and laws to help victims and their families. Each year, the PCVI develops a "Resource Guide" to help community groups and organizations plan and host activities and events during the Week. Limited funding through the Victims Fund (up to $10,000)[6] is available for projects that support the goals of NVCAW and include a variety of activities (e.g., workshops, training, newspaper/TV ads). Between 2007 and 2009, 151 organizations received funding to hold NVCAW events across the country.[7]

As part of its PLEI activities, the PCVI developed and maintains an electronic directory of victim services that provides a comprehensive listing of services for sixteen different types of victimization across Canada. With an average of 1,450 hits per month, the Directory is searchable by city, type of service, or type of victimization.

The PCVI website also contains over fifty online publications, research products and reports grouped under the following categories:

2.2.5 Capacity Building in the North

2.2.5.1 The Northern Program

In 2007, the PCVI established the Northern Program, which uses a number of policy and funding levers such as the FPT Working Group on Victims of Crime and the Victims Fund, to build the capacity of northern service providers in their work with victims of crime. The Northern Program includes funding for new activities and initiatives (e.g. Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund) and supports existing programs for victims in place across the North.

The PCVI's Northern Program advances capacity among territorial victim service providers by:

  • organizing a pan-northern conference that brings together northern service providers, advocates, academics, governments, community organizations, and criminal justice professionals to access training, networking and information sharing;
  • supporting victim service providers to attend "site visits" to other agencies (northern and southern) to explore best practices, approaches, experiences, and to see how particular activities (e.g., counselling programs, interagency collaboration) were developed and being operated; and
  • developing electronic and paper materials that are designed particularly for the North.
Crown Witness Coordinators

The federal government has a unique role in the territories regarding victims of crime, which flows from the federal responsibility for prosecuting Canadian Criminal Code offences. The PCVI collaborates with federal colleagues in the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) to support Crown Witness Coordinators (CWCs) (e.g. salary dollars for seven of fourteen CWCs, public legal education, annual meetings bringing together all northern CWCs and specialized training sessions in areas such as child victims and witnesses, domestic violence, self care, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and working with victims of homicide victims). From 2005-06 to 2006-07, the PCVI funded three CWC positions. This number increased to seven from 2007-08 to 2009-10, which included a new position within the PPSC to undertake policy and program development for CWCs in the three territories.

Federal CWCs work within the PPSC to undertake many tasks on behalf of court-based victims/witnesses and the Crown Prosecutors in their territory. Their role is to explain the victim's rights under the law, provide referral services (where they exist) and keep victims and witnesses informed from the beginning of court proceedings to the end, which may include following up after the case is over. CWCs provide key court information to victims and witnesses in a culturally relevant manner. In addition, they provide significant support to victims given that many communities in the territories have no services for victims to draw upon. As a result, the federal CWCs may be the only support available to some victims. CWCs also act as a liaison between the Crown and the victim/witness.

2.3 Budget

The aggregate budget for the Federal Victims Strategy (FVS) consists of funding approved in 2005 and in 2006-07. In 2005, $25 million was approved to fund the Victims of Crime Initiative (VCI) over five years. The VCI was renewed in 2010. Another $52 million over four years was approved in 2006-07 to build upon the work of the VCI and to create the Federal Victims Strategy. Under the Strategy, $13 million per year is allocated between the Department of Justice ($7.6 million), the Parole Board of Canada ($0.5 million), the Correctional Service of Canada ($3.4 million) and the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime ($1.5 million). This funding will sunset in March 2011.

The combined annual budget for the Department of Justice FVS (including enhancement dollars) is approximately $12.5 million per year. Of this total, $8.8 million was dedicated to the Victims Fund in 2009-10, which was distributed among the Provincial/Territorial ($4.82 million), Projects and Activities ($1.02 million), and Financial Assistance ($2.95 million) Components.



Date modified: