Federal Victims Strategy Evaluation, Final Report


This chapter summarizes the key findings of the Federal Victims Strategy evaluation with regards to program relevance and performance (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency and economy).

4.1 Relevance of the Federal Victims Strategy

The key findings regarding the relevance of the Strategy focus on its continued need, its alignment with government priorities, and its alignment with the roles and responsibilities of the federal government.

4.1.1 Continued Need for the Strategy Rates of self-reported criminal victimization in Canada indicate that there is a strong continuing need for victim services and support.

According to the 2009 Statistics Canada General Social Survey (GSS), about 7.4 million Canadians, or just over one-quarter of the population aged 15 years and older, reported being a victim of a criminal incident in the preceding 12 months. This proportion was essentially unchanged from that reported in 2004.

In 2009, close to 1.6 million Canadians, or 6% of the population aged 15 years and over in the ten provinces, reported having been the victim of a sexual assault, a robbery or a physical assault in the preceding 12 months. Physical assault was the most common form of violence, followed by sexual assault and robbery. It was not uncommon for victims of violence to report having experienced multiple violent incidents. Of those who were victimized, most reported being victimized once (74%), 16% reported that they had been violently victimized twice within the previous 12 months, and 10% said that they had been victimized three or more times.

Experiencing a criminal incident can affect victims in many ways, from emotional and financial distress to having their daily activities disrupted. The 2009 GSS also found that consequences of criminal incidents were common among victims of both violent and household crime. Even though household crime primarily targets property rather than people, victims of these crimes were just as likely as victims of violent crimes to be affected emotionally. Overall, 8 in 10 victims reported that the incident had affected them emotionally. The most common reactions were anger, feeling upset/confused/frustrated/annoyed, fear, and becoming more cautious/aware. Many victims of violent crime also reported disruptions to their daily lives. The need for the Federal Victims Strategy is more profound in the North and amongst Aboriginal populations.

A comprehensive literature review on crime victimization concludes that there is a need for culturally relevant services for Aboriginal victims of crime in northern communities.[11] Key factors that contribute to the crucial need for the Strategy among Aboriginal communities include:

The over-representation of Aboriginal people, both as a victim or as an offender, in the criminal justice system. According to the 2004 General Social Survey of Victimization, 40% of Aboriginal Canadians reported having been a victim of crime compared to 28% of non-Aboriginal Canadians.[12] The high rate of victimization among Aboriginal people is attributed to the prevalent existence of risk factors associated with offending and/or victimization, such as being young, living in a lone-parent family, living common-law, high level of unemployment, and the consumption of alcohol among the Aboriginal population in Canada.[13]

Furthermore, according to Statistics Canada (2008), crime rates are significantly higher in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Nunavut and Yukon (in this order) than elsewhere in Canada. Violent crime rates in the territories are many times the rates in southern Canada (in the NWT and Nunavut they are about seven times the national average and in Yukon it is three times the national rate). The sexual assault rate in Nunavut is almost nine times the national average, and in the NWT it is 5.5 times the national average. Nunavut has the highest homicide rate in Canada (Table 6).

Table 6 Canadian Crime Rates By Offences, By Territory, 2008*
Offences Canada Yukon NWT Nunavut
All Incidents 7,424.2 23,971.2 47,561.4 36,806.8
Criminal Code Offences [14] 6,589.2 21,804.9 43,509.0 34,867.1
Crimes of Violence [15] 931.8 2,857.2 6,547.6 7,816.1
Homicide 1.8 9.1 6.9 12.7
Attempted Murder 2.2 3.0 0.0 19.1
Assaults (level 1 to 3)[16] 714.2 2,528.4 5,912.3 6,779.5
Sexual assaults 64.5 150.9 406.6 667.8
Other sexual offences 8.9 33.2 13.9 98.6
Other crimes of violence[17] 43.3 87.5 154.8 187.6
Property crimes 3,079.5 3,910.2 5,346.2 4,264.2
Impaired driving 254.4 1,095.2 2,070.1 817.2
Breaking and entering 629.7 763.3 1,966.1 2,076.4
Drugs 306.1 639.6 1,074.3 731.4

*rate per 100,000 population

Between 1999 and 2006, the national crime rate declined by 1% in Canada and 5% in the Yukon. However, in the NWT and Nunavut, the rate of violent crime increased by 28% within the same time frame.[18]

Under-reporting of victimization in Aboriginal communities. Research indicates that the rates of under-reporting of victimization are particularly high in Aboriginal communities, ranging from 40% to 75%.[19]Factors that may contribute to this high rate include the "normalization of violence," lack of victim services to access in order to report, and a lack of culturally appropriate services where they do exist.[20]

Key informants who participated in the evaluation interviews noted that without the federal funding for victims programs in the North, the territories would be unable to provide the same level of services now considered essential. All key stakeholders recognize a strong and continuing need for the Federal Victims Strategy.

There was consensus among all key informants that there is a strong and continuing need for the Strategy. They indicated that the Strategy is needed to:

Key informants also explained that the rationale for the Strategy has strengthened over the past five years given increasing attention and funding for victim issues at the federal level, broader recognition of the role of victims and types of victimization (e.g. domestic abuse, bullying, elder abuse), and increasing awareness of and demand for victim services.

4.1.2 Alignment with Government Priorities The objective of the Federal Victims Strategy is consistent with federal government priorities and the strategic outcomes of the Department of Justice.

One of the main objectives of the Federal Victims Strategy is to ensure that victims of crime and their families are aware of their rights and roles in the criminal justice system. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech at the 6th Annual Gala and Fundraiser for the Canadian Crime Victims Foundation (June 2008) explains the importance of victims' rights: "We believe that the central purpose of a criminal justice system is not the welfare of the criminal. It is the protection of law-abiding citizens and their family. Of course criminals have rights. We believe those rights must be balanced with responsibilities, and we believe victims have rights too."[21]

In addition, as part of the recent announcement by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (October 7, 2010) with regards to funding for the creation and enhancement of Child Advocacy Centers[22] across Canada to help better serve young victims and witnesses of crime, it was confirmed that "The Government is committed to supporting victims of crime, particularly the most vulnerable among us - our children...Today's investment will assist in making it easier for children's voices to be heard throughout our criminal justice system."[23]

In the Department of Justice's 2010-11 Report on Plans and Priorities, the Federal Strategy falls under the strategic outcome of "a fair, relevant and accessible justice system that reflects Canadian values" and is further depicted under the program activity "justice policies, laws and programs". The expected results of this activity relevant to the Strategy include "Canadians have a positive perception of the criminal justice system, equitable access to the justice system, and increased involvement of Aboriginal communities in the local administration of justice." Furthermore, one of the Department's key activities is to "continue implementation of the Federal Strategy for Victims of Crime and the Victims Fund" (RPP, 2010-2011, p. 11-12).

To illustrate the consistency between the Strategy and federal government priorities as well as the strategic outcomes of the Department of Justice, key informants referred to the government's robust criminal law agenda and focus on the safety and security of families. They also referred to Prime Minister Harper's Opening Remarks at the 2010 National Victims of Crime Awareness Week Symposium in Ottawa, Speeches from the Throne (2006-2010), the creation of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, the commitment to victim issues in the 2010 Federal Budget, and the legislation that the government has introduced to support victims (e.g., Bill C-2: Protection of Children and Other Vulnerable Persons, and Bill C-10: Mental Disorder: Victims of mentally disordered offenders have permission to read their Victim Impact Statement at Review Board Hearings).

Evidence of the alignment of the Strategy with government priorities is also present in recent Throne Speeches. The May 2010 Speech from the Throne stated that: "Justice must be effective, swift and true. It must also be fair to victims of crime...Our Government will also offer tangible support to innocent victims of crime and their families. It will give families of murder victims' access to special benefits under Employment Insurance. It will introduce legislation to give employees of federally regulated industries the right to unpaid leave if they or members of their families are victimized by crime. And our Government will introduce legislation to make the victim surcharge mandatory, to better fund victim services." The October 2007 Speech from the Throne also addressed victim issues indicating that: "in addition to tougher laws, our government will provide targeted support to communities and victims."

4.1.3 Alignment with Federal Roles and Responsibilities There is a legitimate and necessary role for the federal government in addressing issues related to victims of crime.

Following the United Nations' Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime (1985), the Canadian government developed its own Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime in 1988. In 2003, Federal and Provincial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice renewed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime. The new Statement recognizes that all provinces and territories as well as the federal government share the responsibility and obligation to improve the experience of victims in the criminal justice system while working within each jurisdiction's respective mandates. The provision of victim services and assistance is primarily a provincial responsibility under their jurisdiction for the administration of justice. Federal jurisdiction for victims of crime is found in the federal power for the criminal law; consequently, federal initiatives for victims of crime are criminal law and policy reforms, funding to implement or promote criminal law, assistance to victims of federal offenders and assistance related to prosecutions in the territories.

Furthermore, the report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 1998 entitled "Victim's Rights - A Voice, not a Veto," stated that: "victims ask for a voice in, not a veto over, what happens at each stage of the criminal justice process. They ask for information and notification - about how the criminal justice system functions, about the programs and services available to them, and about the various stages of the case in which they are involved. ... They identify as a critical problem the uneven availability of victims' programs and services both between provinces and territories, and within them. In their view, addressing all of these issues will restore the imbalance they see in the criminal justice system."

Key informants perceive a strong role for the federal government in ensuring that victim issues have a high profile at the federal level, raising public awareness, and providing coordination, collaboration, and information sharing among jurisdictions. Some of the responsibilities of the federal government as identified by key informants are consistent with the key activities of the PCVI and include:

4.2 Performance - Achievement of Expected Outcomes

The key findings regarding the performance of the Federal Victims Strategy focus on the achievements and outcomes of the PCVI's five key activities including the Victims Fund, Criminal Law Reform and Policy Development, Federal/Provincial/Territorial Secretariat Coordination, PLEI and Capacity Building in the North. The findings are presented in accordance with the expected outcomes for each line of activities as identified in the RMAF for the Strategy. This section presents a synthesis of findings from multiple lines of evidence for each key activity.

4.2.1 The Victims Fund

The Victims Fund was examined to determine its overall performance as well as the extent to which it has increased awareness and understanding among criminal justice system (CJS) personnel, service providers, and victims of victim issues, legislation and available services; increased willingness of victims to participate in the CJS; increased access to services for victims; and reduced financial hardship for victims who participate in the CJS. The projects supported through the Victims Fund generate impacts across all key outcomes of the Strategy.

A file review of a sample of projects funded under the Provincial/Territorial Component and Projects and Activities Component of the Victims Fund indicates that the characteristics and targeted outcomes of the funded projects are consistent with the objectives of the Fund and support the intermediate results of the FVS (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Targeted Outcomes of Projects and Activities and Provincial/Territorial Projects[24]



Most recipients of Projects and Activities funding (95%) and Provincial/Territorial funding (77%) through the Victims Fund reported that their projects achieved their expected outcomes. Almost all case study respondents cited collaboration and consultation as a major factor that contributed to project success. Respondents noted that their project partners helped raise awareness about the project and increase buy-in among target groups. Some recipients of Projects and Activities funding reported positive unanticipated results, including greater project success than originally anticipated (e.g. overwhelming demand and uptake by participants in a Death Notification Training Program for police officers, and greater than expected uptake of a trainer's toolkit on the abuse of women). Project funding recipients indicated that the resources produced and learning that occurred during their project have extended beyond the funding period and, although their project is complete, they continue to use materials and knowledge that were produced during the project in activities such as training of new staff, preparing presentations on specific areas of victimization, implementing regional victim-related legislation and strategies, and developing new materials (e.g., adaptations of tools/materials for Aboriginal communities). The Victims Fund has made significant progress in increasing awareness and understanding of victim issues, legislation and available services among professionals, service providers, and victims.

Increased awareness and understanding of victim issues, legislation and available services among professionals, service providers, and victims was the outcome most commonly targeted by the projects that were reviewed (see Figure 1). The reviewed projects contributed to this outcome through the development of informational material (e.g., a report on "Responding to the Needs of Canadian Victims of Terrorism") and training courses for CJS professionals on victim issues and implementation of testimonial aid provisions in the Criminal Code. Additionally, the primary theme of eight of the 11 case study projects funded under the Projects and Activities Component was to increase awareness through the development of materials or the provision of training.

Interviews with FPT Working Group members and PCVI staff also indicated that the Victims Fund has contributed to increased awareness and understanding amongst CJS personnel, service providers and victims. Interviewees referred to the following examples: Projects supported through the Victims Fund have helped increase access to victim services.

A majority of the provincial/territorial projects (76%) that were included in the file review aimed to increase access to services for victims by, for example, expanding victim services office hours, providing financial assistance to victims to travel to access counseling, providing court preparation services, and providing services to unserved or underserved populations.

All groups of key informants (i.e. federal and provincial/territorial members of the FPT Working Group on Victims of Crime, advisory committee members and PCVI staff) pointed to the positive impacts of the funding for Aboriginal populations which instigated outreach projects and expanded services in small, underserved communities. Key informants explained that, by supporting outreach projects, the Victims Fund has enhanced services particularly in rural and underserved communities.

The case studies for this evaluation revealed a successful example of this aspect of the Victims Fund (see Case Study #1 below).

Case Study #1 - Outreach Youth and Victim Worker Project

The Outreach Youth and Victim Worker project (2005-2006 to 2009-2010) was conducted by the Yukon Department of Justice.

The overall goal of this project was to provide services to youth and adult victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in all Yukon communities. Although services for victims are provided on a consistent basis to the population of Whitehorse, the main urban center in the Yukon, and on a half-time basis to the people of Dawson City and Watson Lake, the other rural communities are so remote that very little service is provided. The residents of the communities of Old Crow, Burwash Landing, Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks, Carcross and Ross River were the beneficiaries of this project. All of these communities have high or majority First Nation populations.

Through the Victims Fund, the Yukon Department of Justice received funds to staff one full-time Outreach Youth and Victim Worker position, with the intended outcome of providing support and services to victims of crime who would not normally be able to easily access these services and to better educate outlying community populations and agencies on victim issues.

The project activities have resulted in the expansion of victim services to Yukon communities that previously did not have access to such services. A representative of the project who was interviewed as part of the case study indicated that there was one community in particular with which the Victim Worker had difficulties building connections at the beginning of the project. The Victim Worker is now able to go to the community once a month and has people waiting for his/her services.

The project has also increased local, particularly youth's, awareness and interest about victim issues. The project continues to increase its presence in communities by recruiting local victim workers, attracting volunteers (e.g., students) from the First Nation communities, and creating partnerships. Following the completion of this project, the Victim Services and Community Justice Unit received additional support from the Yukon Government to create two new full time Outreach Youth and Victim Worker positions. Currently, the project includes three full-time Victim Services workers who are also responsible for youth outreach.

The Victims Fund has also increased access to victim services through the provision of funding for the purchase of testimonial aids within the provinces and territories. In 2009, case studies were conducted to assess projects funded through the Department's Victims Fund that support the implementation of legislative amendments to facilitate the testimony of vulnerable witnesses. These case studies, hereafter referred to as the 2009 case studies on testimonial aids, focused on equipment purchases (i.e. fixed and portable CCTV systems, witness screens, other audio and visual equipment, and equipment for child-friendly waiting rooms) to enhance the ability of provinces and territories to meet the testimonial support provisions of the amendments. The results of the 2009 case studies on testimonial aids show that the jurisdictions need the PCVI funding and support to implement testimonial aid legislation. Funding is needed for not only the purchase of testimonial aid equipment, but also for training and other support to increase use of the equipment. The 2009 case studies on testimonial aids found that the funding has increased the capacity of the jurisdictions to provide a greater number of higher quality testimonial aids for vulnerable witnesses. In the absence of funding, some projects could still have been implemented but on a more limited scale while those in smaller jurisdictions could not have proceeded at all. The Victims Fund has helped increase the willingness of victims to participate in the criminal justice system.

Key informants indicated that the Victims Fund has contributed to an increased willingness among victims to participate in the justice system and referred to the support provided through the use of testimonial aids and financial assistance in particular.

Testimonial Aids

During the 2009 case studies on testimonial aids, which relied on interviews with victim services workers and Crown prosecutors to describe the impacts that the funded equipment are having on the vulnerable witnesses who use them, interviewees indicated that providing witnesses with the option of testifying with a testimonial aid increases their willingness to testify and helps reduce the anxiety of not only witnesses but of their family and/or supporters. The following example illustrates how a testimonial aid can influence a victim's willingness to testify:

"The person who used CCTV had never been able to enter the courtroom with the accused in the room. So we felt it would be almost impossible to get her to testify in an appropriate manner. She was able to participate mainly because it was done by closed-circuit."

In the case of Prince Edward Island, the Department funded equipment for a child-friendly waiting room. Victim services workers said that providing the option of using the room makes witnesses and their families visibly relieved, knowing that they will have a "safe place" in the court building for them to wait. Giving them the option of using the room makes them more comfortable to come to court and testify.

The 2009 case studies on testimonial aids also revealed a number of ways in which the use of the funded equipment helped to improve the experience of victim/witnesses in the criminal justice system. During court preparation and orientation, victim services workers outline the accommodations available to witnesses. Providing the option of testifying with a testimonial aid reduces the anxiety of not only witnesses but of their family and/or supporters. As one person noted, "Even just presenting the option of the testimonial aid really helps alleviate (the witness') fear of having the accused in their line of vision." This relates to another important benefit of the testimonial aids, which is to reduce the stress and anxiety of their parents and supporters, thereby improving their experience in the justice system. The testimonial aids often do not eliminate the stress of testifying entirely but reduce it considerably. This was described by a criminal justice system professional who participated in the case studies as:

"I find that when you have a new client, parent or child and tell them they need to testify, their anxiety is at 100% and when you are able to say to them one option is CCTV it really helps get the parents on board, lessens the anxiety of the witness when they hear that."

Testimonial aids not only help reduce the stress of testifying, but they give child witnesses and their supporters choices and a sense of empowerment in the criminal justice process: "It's almost like a security blanket. The child going to court, they don't have any control but if you give them a choice in the court process, they get a little control in the process when they usually don't have any." Financial Assistance to Attend PBC Hearings

One of the important entitlements of crime victims in Canada is the opportunity to attend hearings conducted by the PBC. Victims may attend these hearings as observers or to present a victim impact statement. Attending PBC hearings often involves travel and accommodation away from home. Since late 2005, the Victims Fund has been offering financial assistance to registered victims who wish to attend hearings related to the offender who harmed them. A survey of registered victims of federally supervised offenders who received financial assistance for travel and accommodation to attend a PBC hearing between 2006-07 and 2008-09 found that 22% of those surveyed would not have attended the hearing without the financial assistance received through the Victims Fund. In addition, an almost equal number (20%) indicated that they did not know if they would have attended the hearing without financial assistance. The following quotes from survey respondents illustrate the importance of the funds:

Since April 2007, financial assistance has been available for a support person to accompany registered victims attending a PBC hearing or provide child or dependent care to enable victims to attend the hearing. The majority (81%) of 58 support persons who accompanied a victim and responded to a feedback survey between 2007 and 2010 also noted the importance of available financial assistance in helping them to attend the hearing. Nearly one-third (31%) of respondents indicated that they would not have or were not sure if they would have attended the hearing without the funding. The Victims Fund has helped ease the financial burden of victims and their family.

The FVS is intended to lessen the financial hardship posed by criminal victimization in Canada as well as for Canadians victimized abroad by providing financial assistance to victims or their family members. According to the IFMS, approximately 1,800 persons received financial assistance through the Financial Assistance Component of the Victims Fund from 2005-06 to 2009-10.

The survey of registered victims who received financial assistance to attend a PBC Hearing reported that 96% of respondents perceived the amount of funding they received as helpful or very helpful. Even though over half (55%) of respondents indicated that they would have attended the hearing had financial assistance not been available, some indicated that it would have been extremely difficult given the financial burden of having to travel a long distance and that it would have created financial hardship for them during a difficult time. Although most respondents indicated that the financial assistance was helpful, they suggested that reimbursement should arrive sooner. Another frequent suggestion was that full advanced funding or vouchers should be available, especially for those who cannot afford to pay any costs up front.

During the evaluation interviews, 60% of PCVI staff noted that the funding for Canadians victimized abroad is a key program component which reduces the financial hardship of victims of crime by allowing them to travel to attend hearings and testify in foreign countries. Use of the Victims Abroad Component has increased significantly from 5 to 49 recipients a year since its inception in 2007-08. A PCVI staff member noted that, in one instance, the fund allowed for a Canadian victimized abroad to travel back to the country in which he/she was victimized to testify. This testimony was instrumental in putting the accused in jail and helped give the victim closure.

Key informants also referred to the Northern Victims of Crime Emergency Fund, a component of the Victims Fund that provides support to the territories to directly assist victims of crime with emergency costs in order to reduce the financial burden of victims and their family. To date, one such Fund has been implemented by the NWT and was examined as part of the case studies (see Case Study #2 below).

Case Study #2 - GNWT - Territorial Victims of Crime Emergency Financial Assistance Fund

The Community Justice and Community Policing Division of the Department of Justice in the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) was provided funding to set up and deliver a Victims of Crime Emergency Financial Assistance Fund, which provides direct, limited, emergency financial assistance to victims of serious violent crime in exceptional circumstances for emergency situations where no other source of financial assistance is available. Costs could include child-care costs, emergency dental/optometry costs, crime scene cleaning, emergency travel assistance, and other costs which are necessary to ensure a victim's safety.

The Fund has been in operation for one year, as of September 2010. During the first year, there were 32 applications for funding, 24 of which were approved, resulting in a disbursement of $7,457.

A victim service worker described the Fund as "a foot in the door" for victims of crime to have their immediate needs met and gain access to some victim services. The Fund has also been used to prevent further violence and victimization (e.g., for a lock change and cell phone minutes). One instance was described in which a client needed to have the funding to replace a door that had been broken by her spouse.

The Emergency Fund is administered by the GNWT Justice in partnership with Inuvik Justice Committee. The advantages of the fund are:

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