Fact Sheet #4: Testimonial Aids for Victims

In Canada, a human trafficking investigation/prosecution can proceed in the absence of victim participation. Moreover, access to victim services is not dependent on victims’ co-operation with law enforcement and prosecution services. However, victim support for criminal prosecution is encouraged through the provision of services and assistance to victims throughout the criminal justice process. Toward this end, Canada’s Criminal Code contains numerous provisions to facilitate victim’s/witness’ participation in criminal proceedings, including the use of testimonial aids. 

Testifying in criminal proceedings can be a difficult and frightening experience for any witness, but may be particularly difficult for victims of human trafficking who have to testify against the person who exploited them. The Criminal Code includes provisions that allow judges to order testimonial aids and other measures to make it easier for vulnerable victims and witnesses, such as trafficking victims, to provide testimony during criminal proceedings. One of the objectives of these provisions is to help reduce the trauma which may result from testifying and to help ensure that, in the case of victims, they are not re-victimized by their participation in the criminal justice system. These measures include:

  • Allowing a support person to be present during the witness’s testimony to make the victim or witness more comfortable (section 486.1);
  • Allowing a witness to provide testimony outside of the courtroom by closed-circuit television or behind a screen so that the witness may avoid seeing the accused (section 486.2);
  • Appointing a lawyer to conduct the cross-examination of a victim when the accused is self-represented (section 486.3);
  • Ordering a publication ban which prevents the publication, broadcast or transmission in any way of any information that could identify the victim or witness (sections 486.4-486.5);
  • Admissibility of video-recorded evidence for victims who were under the age of 18 at the time the offence was committed (section 715.1);
  • Issuing an exclusion order requiring some or all members of the public to leave the courtroom during the criminal proceedings, if a judge is of the opinion that it is (section 486):
    • in the interest of public morals;
    • in the interest of the maintenance of order;
    • in the interest of the proper administration of justice; or,
    • necessary to prevent injury to international relations, national defence or national security.

For more information on TIP, please consult Chapter 4.10 of the Handbook for Criminal Justice Practitioners on Trafficking in Persons.

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