Federal Victims Strategy, Mid-term Evaluation


Organizational Configuration

The configuration of the PCVI, with both core staff and staff in partner sections, leaves the FVS with certain vulnerabilities. While the configuration has worked more or less to date, there are inherent risks in its conceptualization and the way in which it has been implemented.

More core staff would be valuable to handle unanticipated activities, such as those that were required to secure the additional funding announced in the 2006 Budget, while still focusing on ongoing priorities. An expanded core would also enable more outreach work, both with the provinces and territories and with NGOs. This would enhance the PCVI’s expertise and ability to understand and advance victim issues.

Recommendation 1

It is recommended that the PCVI review its internal structure, including with respect to the addition of analysts to cope with unanticipated activities and to begin to plan for the succession of its members, most notably, the Director.

Management Response

We agree with this recommendation. Staffing action will take place, firstly by staffing the two senior policy analyst positions (PM6 – one existing and one vacant) that, along with the existing ES5, will be able to undertake a high level of work while also acting for the Director in his/her absence. Secondly, the Director position will be staffed within the next six months.

Increased Capacity to Deliver Victim Services

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 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.

Increased Participation of Victims in the Criminal Justice System

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. This is reflected in the fact that Department of Justice officials reported that the demand for the Victims Fund is increasing.

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.

However, a key issue for provincial and territorial key informants relates to the short-term nature of funding. While some jurisdictions received a sufficient amount for their needs and capacities, other jurisdictions found that their allotted amount has been too small or too targeted a contribution relative to their spending on services for victims. Key informants also noted that funding to develop new services was available but that funding was unavailable to maintain the services. New projects require conceptualization, development and implementation, including staffing and training. This is reported to lead to reluctance to develop new programming. Recipients also reported an inability to plan long-term with short funding cycles (five years) and with the short-term nature of the funding agreements.

Recommendation 2

It is recommended that, wherever possible, the Victims Fund engage in multi-year agreements that support the conceptualization, development and implementation of projects.

Management Response

We agree with this recommendation. Multi-year Victims Fund agreements will continue to be supported to the extent possible.  The results of the evaluation may support the rationale for more flexible terms and conditions for the Victims Fund when the Fund is renewed.  The PCVI is currently obligated to operate within the more narrowly prescribed Treasury Board-approved terms and conditions. The PCVI cannot commit to long-term funding which extends beyond the expiration dates of the current Victims Fund (2009-2010 and 2010-2011).

Increased Awareness

Raising public awareness through PLEI 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. 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.

Recommendation 3

Continue to work with the provinces and territories to raise awareness of the Criminal Code provisions with special reference to the provisions ensuring mandatory usage of testimonial aids with children and the elimination of mandatory competency hearings for children.

Management Response

We agree with this recommendation. The PCVI will continue its efforts to raise awareness of the expanded testimonial aids provisions through research, public legal education and informal awareness-raising through avenues such as consultations with the bar, judiciary, Uniform Law Conference, and Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials.

The FPTWG 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 provincial and territorial 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.

Although the grants and contributions through the Victims Fund have been used to expand the availability of accommodations for witnesses and victims of crime while testifying, the Victims Fund is not consistently communicated to NGOs. It is unclear what the information dissemination strategy for NGOs is with respect to the Victims Fund; it appears to be ad hoc and overly reliant on a tacit agreement with provinces and territories that they will distribute the information to NGOs in their jurisdictions.

Recommendation 4

A new communication plan should be developed in consultation with the FPTWG and the Victims of Crime Advisory Committee. The plan should include ways of better engaging and supporting Victims of Crime Advisory Committee members in informing federal policy and disseminating information on victim issues.

Management Response

We agree with this recommendation. The PCVI will develop a communication plan that will include the vehicles of the newly expanded Victims Fund and the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.  The data bank of NGOs will be used to share information about funding criteria and successes/lessons learned.  The Victims Advisory Committee will be convened more regularly. 

Increased Sharing of Information and Materials

Public legal education and information materials better inform victims so that they are made aware of the services available to them. 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. Several types of information resources, including victim fact sheets, are made available publicly on the PCVI Website. During the two years included in the evaluation, a total of 157,083 documents were accessed from the PCVI site.  This is an average of 6,545 documents being downloaded per month.  The NVCAW has also been successfully undertaken, seeing an expansion in its second year to reach a greater number of Canadians.