Federal Victims Strategy, Mid-term Evaluation

2. FEDERAL VICTIMS STRATEGY DESCRIPTION


2. FEDERAL VICTIMS STRATEGY DESCRIPTION

2.1. Objectives of the Federal Victims Strategy

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

2.2. Overview of the Federal Victims Strategy

Within the Department, the FVS activities are administered through the PCVI, which is mandated to develop and coordinate all federal policy and legislation relating to victims of crime, ensure that the victim’s perspective is considered in the development of relevant federal policy and legislation, conduct research, develop PLEI material, provide a centre of expertise on victim issues, promote mutually agreed upon FPT initiatives, lead and support the FPT Working Group (FPTWG) on Victims of Crime, and administer the Victims Fund. With the Director of Public Prosecutions, the PCVI also supports the federal government in its responsibility for court-based victim support through support for CWCs in the three territories.

Each activity is described in more detail below.

2.2.1. Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Victims of Crime Secretariat coordination

The PCVI is the Secretariat responsible for co-coordinating and chairing the FPTWG on Victims of Crime. The FPTWG on Victims of Crime consists of Directors of provincial and territorial Victim Services from every Canadian province and territory and has representation from other federal departments (NPB, RCMP, Correctional Services Canada (CSC), PSEPC) as well as representation from other Department of Justice partners including the Family, Children and Youth Section, Sentencing Reform, and the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. Statistics Canada (Canadian Criminal Justice Statistics) also participates in the FPTWG on Victims of Crime. The FPTWG works jointly with other working groups such as the FPTWG on Restorative Justice, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Spousal Abuse and the FPT Working Group on Sentencing.

The purpose of the FPTWG on Victims of Crime is to:

2.2.2. Criminal law reform and policy development

The activities undertaken under this component include: research, policy development, legal analysis and case law reviews, consultations and conference participation, as well as international activities such as participation in meetings of international bodies such as the United Nations and providing Canada’s position with respect to international documents relating to victims.

Research activities include collecting data on victimization, developing and implementing research studies, conducting surveys, providing statistical services and analysis, assessing victim needs, undertaking polling research, and analyzing the results of research and policy implications. The PCVI monitors and assesses the implementation of victim-related Criminal Code amendments and develops options in this respect. Statistical and legal research is conducted by the PCVI to review related legislation from the perspective of victims, and identify the needs of victims and gaps in services and information.

The PCVI advises the Minister of Justice on emerging issues. It also 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. An essential element of the PCVI’s work is to consult closely with NGOs, including service providers, advocates and other criminal justice system representatives (e.g., police, bar) on victim issues, at both the national and regional levels. An Advisory Committee (the Victims of Crime Advisory Committee) to the PCVI composed of victim service providers, advocates and NGOs has been established to identify concerns, develop options and strategies, share information and develop capacity to respond to victim needs. The PCVI also provides and obtains advice on victim issues from other Department of Justice program areas that also deal with victims of crime (e.g., family violence, Aboriginal justice, youth justice, restorative justice). In addition, the PCVI provides support to litigators on interpretation and Charter litigation.

Two key changes related to victims were brought about to amend the Criminal Code in 2005:

2.2.3. Grants and Contributions through the Victims Fund

The overall aim of the Victims Fund is to improve the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system. For 2005-2006 and 2006–2007, the Fund had $2 million a year to meet its objectives. Funding was provided under three components: provincial and territorial implementation, projects and activities, and financial assistance. The objectives for each of these components for the first two years of the Strategy are described below.

Provincial and Territorial Implementation

The purpose of this component is to support implementation of FPT legislation for victims of crime, particularly provisions of the Criminal Code and the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime. Funding from this component supports the establishment or enhancement of programs to support the implementation of victim-related FPT legislation (including capital expenditures, PLEI, training).

Projects and Activities

This component provides financial assistance through grants and contributions to government and non-government organizations to encourage the development of new approaches, promote access to justice, improve the capacity of service providers, and foster the establishment of referral networks and/or increase awareness of services available to victims of crime and their families. The following types of projects and activities may be supported:

Financial Assistance

This component provides the following:

2.2.4. Developing and/or providing public legal education and information materials and products

The PCVI collects and synthesizes studies and reports and acts as a clearinghouse of information. It maintains up-to-date information on available programs and services for victims in Canada. Specifically, the PCVI maintains a Website and prepares fact sheets, guides/manuals and brochures on Criminal Code amendments, funding available and victim issues. Provincial and territorial governments, as well as other federal departments, send new policy direction documents or training material to the PCVI for inclusion in their resource centre.

Other activities include: the in-house development of new materials (e.g., additional fact sheets, updates to a Resource Guide for National Victims of Crime Awareness Week); the development of some materials under contract with PLEI organizations and other non-governmental groups; ongoing Website development and maintenance; supporting National Victims of Crime Awareness Week (NVCAW) activities; displays at conferences and other events, as well as the distribution of material generally; and press releases and backgrounders or summaries announcing new legislative initiatives, international developments, research and grants and contributions.

2.2.5. Building the Capacity of Northern Service Providers

The rate of violent crime and victimization in the North is significantly higher[6] than similar crimes in the rest of Canada. The high concentration of victimization is further compounded by the remoteness and isolation of communities that characterize much of the North and the consequential lack of social and criminal justice services, especially for victims, in these communities.

The federal government plays a unique role in the North. Whereas Criminal Code offences are prosecuted by provincial Attorneys General, the situation in the territories is different. In Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon, responsibility for prosecuting Criminal Code offences resides with the federal Attorney General[7].

Since 2001, the PCVI has undertaken activities to enhance the capacity of service providers in the three territories.  Working with territorial governments, the PCVI provides funding for training, networking, research and consultations.  With other federal government departments, the PCVI conducts activities to increase the capacity of federal CWCs.  It provides funding for the salary of three CWCs, specialized training events and networking meetings.

Federal CWCs work within the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to undertake many tasks on behalf of court-based victims/witnesses and the Crown Prosecutors in their territory.  With the Crown, in a culturally relevant manner, they inform victims and witnesses about the criminal justice system. Their role is to explain the victim’s rights under the law and provide referral services, where they exist, and to keep victims and witnesses informed of what is going on from the beginning of the court proceedings to the end, including follow up after the case is over, as much as possible.  Central to their role, given the cultural context of the victims they assist, is that they provide key court information to victims and witnesses in a culturally relevant manner.  In addition, CWCs 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 CWC may be the only support available to the victim.

CWCs also act as a liaison between the Crown and the victim/witness. They prepare the victim/witness for what they can expect from their meeting with the Crown, and they provide feedback to the Crown about any concerns related to victim/witness, including risk and safety issues, and other issues which might impede the involvement of a victim/witness in the criminal justice system.

2.3. Federal Victims Strategy Resources

The budget for the FVS comprises two amounts of approved funding administered by the PCVI. The sum of $25 million was approved in 2005 to extend funding for the victims initiatives over five years[8] which will sunset in 2009-2010. In addition, $30.4 million was approved in 2006-2007 for enhancements to the Strategy flowing through the PCVI for four years set to sunset in 2010-2011. (The 2006 budget provides $52 million in total over four years for the Federal Strategy: PCVI is responsible for $30.4 million of that total, the remaining funds are within PSEPC and the Office of the Ombudsman.)

In total, the annual budget of PCVI is approximately $12.5 million. Of that, $7.75 million is dedicated to the Victims Fund.

Table 1: Federal Victims Strategy Resources
Year VCI Enhancements Total under FVS
2005/2006 $5M - $5M
2006/2007 $5M - $5M
2007/2008 $5M $7.6M $12.6M
2008/2009 $5M $7.6M $12.6M
2009/2010 $5M $7.6M $12.6M
2010/2011 - $7.6M $7.6M
Total $25M $30.4M $50.4M