Federal Victims Strategy, Mid-term Evaluation

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. Introduction

The federal Victims of Crime Initiative (VCI) was launched in March 2000. It was renewed in 2005 with a second mandate (2005-2010) with $25M in funding spread over five years. The 2006 federal budget committed an additional $7.6M per year for five years (2006-2011).  In 2007, the Department of Justice used this additional funding to expand the VCI and create the Federal Victims Strategy (FVS).

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

In order to fulfil a central agency requirement to report on progress of the former VCI and the implementation of the FVS, a mid-term evaluation was conducted. The focus of the evaluation is on the activities undertaken in 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 with a view to providing information that will assist the Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI) in strengthening the design and delivery of the FVS for the balance of its mandate.

The evaluation was conducted by the Department of Justice Evaluation Division using in-house resources.  The methodology consisted of: a file and document review including a data extraction from the Department’s Grants and Contributions Information Management System (GCIMS); a survey of 14 non-governmental member organizations from across the country that make up the Victims of Crime Advisory Committee; 28 key informant interviews with provincial, territorial and federal officials; and a survey of 18 successful and unsuccessful applicants to the Victims Fund.

The evaluation used the questions and issues identified in the 2007 Results-based Management and Accountability Framework (RMAF).  More specifically, the evaluation assessed the appropriateness of the program design to support the achievement of FVS objectives; reviewed the structure and management of the PCVI; and examined the outputs generated and short-term outcomes achieved under the following key activity areas:

2. Key Findings

During the two years being evaluated, the PCVI undertook several activities to help build the capacity of Northern service providers, including: paying the salary for three Crown Witness Coordinators (CWCs) (one in each territory); holding two annual meetings; supporting CWCs to attend victim-related training events; and developing manuals and other resources to assist in their work.  In addition to supporting the CWCs, there were a number of projects that were funded through the Victims Fund.

Overall, the Victims Fund grants and contributions were found to be directed to the objectives and anticipated outcomes described in the RMAF. The Victims Fund continues to be considered an effective vehicle to contribute to the improvement of the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system.

More specifically, the Victims Fund has helped to increase the willingness of victims/witnesses to participate in the criminal justice system by ensuring more support and accommodations. Financial assistance provided to victims or their family members has reduced the financial hardship of attending early eligibility (homicide) parole hearings and federal parole hearings.

Raising public awareness through public legal education and information materials and designing programs and policies to help ensure that victims of crime have access to support and services remain important aspects of the Strategy. These materials also give service providers and criminal justice personnel a better understanding of victim issues and legislation and the services available for victims, thereby ensuring they can better assist victims in gaining access to services. In addition, research activities assist provinces, territories and service providers in developing approaches and products for new and enhanced programs for victims.

Generally, Criminal Code provisions have been put into place as intended and are considered to be a relevant and effective way of providing a concrete, meaningful role for victims in the criminal justice system. However, there were some suggestions from some provincial and territorial respondents that there continues to be a need for work with respect to raising awareness and understanding of the Criminal Code amendments among key criminal justice personnel.  In particular, the interviewees noted that the PCVI should commit further attention to raising awareness of the provisions ensuring the mandatory usage of testimonial aids with children upon application (unless it interferes with the proper administration of justice) and the elimination of mandatory competency hearings for children.

The Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Victims of Crime provides a forum for sharing and discussing lessons learned and approaches to common issues. The meetings enable integration in two directions: firstly, by ensuring that federal policies are informed by FPT stakeholders; and secondly, that provinces and territories continue to integrate federal policies, legislation and objectives into their work. Conferences, research papers and policy and legal advice have further incorporated victims’ concerns in policies and practices.