moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House today for the second reading of my first private member's bill, Bill , an act to establish the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Criminal Acts and to amend certain acts.
The position of ombudsman for victims of crime was created in 2007. Like the ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the ombudsman for offenders, or correctional investigator, the ombudsman for victims of crime exists for a reason: to defend the rights and interests of those in need of such advocacy.
Unlike the other federal ombudsmen, the ombudsman for victims of crime currently operates under a Justice Canada program and therefore is not independent from that department.
The main goal of Bill C-343 is to make the position of ombudsman for victims of crime equal to the position of correctional investigator. Commonly referred to as the ombudsman for offenders, the correctional investigator is federally appointed and operates at arm's length from the Department of Justice, unlike the ombudsman for victims of crime.
The ombudsman for victims of crime is currently not independent from the Department of Justice and is required to submit all her annual reports to the department instead of Parliament. Accordingly, if the ombudsman for victims of crime makes a recommendation or criticism in her report that is unfavourable to the Department of Justice, the department can remove it from the report at any time and thereby directly circumvent one of the chief purposes of the ombudsman for victims of crime, which is to be a voice for the victims and represent their rights and interests.
For victims of crime, having a voice and fair and equitable representation before the Department of Justice is critical to their healing process, which is all too often a difficult one. After experiencing a terrible trauma that is incredibly hard to survive, victims far too often have to fight to get their rights recognized at every stage of their journey.
The road to rehabilitation and healing is long and daunting. Victims have to provide a statement and testimony at trial, they have to be able to understand and digest all the legal jargon, and they might have to challenge a ruling. They also have to duly fill out a multitude of forms, even just to have the right to receive information.
Given that the ombudsman's responsibilities have significantly evolved since the position was created in 2007, particularly with the enactment of the victims bill of rights in 2015, it goes without saying that the rights of victims of crime must be respected and that, if they are not, the ombudsman for victims of crime must be able to properly represent those victims, independently of the Department of Justice. That is particularly true when a problem arises that is directly related to the department in question.
The rights of victims of crime are grouped under four categories in the bill of rights: the right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation, and the right to restitution.
It is important that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights be updated to make the ombudsman for victims of crime an agent of Parliament who is independent from the minister and who is responsible for providing feedback and oversight.
For victims of crime, having an independent body to protect their rights is a matter of survival. All aspects of the Canadian justice system need to be fair and equitable.
Victims of crime and criminals must have equal rights, and ombudsman positions must also be equally independent.
Making the victims' ombudsman as independent as the criminals' ombudsman would be a big step in the right direction in proving to victims that they matter, and that all members of the House agree that it is unfair that in 2017, victims' rights are still not given the same importance as the rights of the criminals who destroyed their lives, that this must end, and that we need to give ourselves the legislative tools necessary to do just that.
For victims, passing Bill would ensure that the federal ombudsman for victims of criminal acts will operate at arm's length from the Department of Justice, and this is critically important to all victims. The ombudsman could do a better job of defending the rights and interests of those victims when they file a complaint against federal departments, particularly the federal Department of Justice.
I invite my colleagues to imagine themselves as someone who has suffered a terrible trauma after being victimized by a violent crime, someone whose basic rights enshrined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights have been violated during the court proceedings and who now wants to file a complaint against the federal Department of Justice. After a quick search on the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime website, they will soon realize that that office is an agency of the Department of Justice, and therefore an extension of the same department that is responsible for the wrongdoing.
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of a victim who thought they could rely on solid representation before the courts, when in fact they cannot count on the independence of the ombudsman representing them to the same extent as our soldiers and even criminals can count on their ombudsman. Who can such a victim turn to?
A very important part of the ombudsman's work involves identifying issues that affect victims of crime and issuing recommendations to help the federal government make its laws, policies, and procedures more compassionate toward victims.
The ombudsman must also help criminal justice system personnel and decision-makers develop a better understanding of victims' needs and identify systemic issues, some of which are created by the Department of Justice itself, that can have negative repercussions on victims. I believe that this part of the ombudsman's job is crucial for victims, and I have to wonder whether it can be done properly without full independence.
Not being fully independent makes things difficult for both the victims ombudsman and victims themselves. Trying to defend clients' interests before the Department of Justice without the independence and power to conduct a formal investigation to determine whether a complaint is legitimate and make recommendations to right a wrong is frustrating for the ombudsman, and it is frustrating for victims too.
Victims of crime deserve strong and independent representation. It should be a fundamental right, a right that criminals have always had. By passing Bill , the position of ombudsman for victims of crime will no longer be a program. The victims are calling for a meaningful recognition of the office to ensure its long-term existence.
The time has come to make the victims ombudsman an agent of Parliament. Passing Bill provides the current government with an ideal opportunity to strengthen its position on transparency in the selection process for this type of appointment. Passing Bill is an opportunity to send a strong message to victims of crime.
In other words, everyone here in the House believes that it is high time we gave victims of crime equal rights relative to the rights of criminals, and that their recognition is in no way partisan. Every party is concerned about the well-being of victims. This is not a one-party issue.
In closing, for victims of crime and their loved ones, I hope that every member will support Bill .
Madam Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating my colleague on all her hard work on this bill.
I am pleased to speak to Bill an act to establish the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Criminal Acts and to amend certain Acts. This bill has been sponsored by the member for . It seeks to establish a new office for the federal ombudsman for victims of criminal acts.
As I am sure all members know, there is already an Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. It has been in place since 2007, and Sue O’Sullivan has very capably undertaken the role of federal ombudsman for victims of crime since 2010. The new office proposed by Bill would entail a drastic expansion of the role, mandate, and powers of the federal ombudsman for victims of crime.
While I support the need for a federal office for victims of crime, I cannot support this new, proposed office for the following three reasons.
First, the bill would require additional resources, beyond those currently provided, to establish a new department for the victims ombudsman. This issue was raised on a point of order by the on May 12, who reminded us that section 54 of the Constitution requires that bills that appropriate any part of the public revenue must be recommended to the House of Commons by the Governor General. Standing Order 79(1) similarly prohibits the House from passing any bill that requires the appropriation of funds without the support of the Governor General. He also noted at the time that the bill would attempt to circumvent the requirement for a royal recommendation by tying it to a coming into force clause. Bill would establish a new office, which, according to precedent, may require a royal recommendation.
The second reason, unfortunately, I cannot support the bill is that it would make the federal victims ombudsman an agent of Parliament. Agents of Parliament have broad powers they are able to exercise at their own discretion. They do not require the approval of parliamentarians for their actions, and there is no avenue for members of Parliament or senators to direct their activities.
There are currently only eight officers of Parliament whose roles include the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Privacy Commissioner.
The sponsor of Bill states that the bill would make the powers of the victims ombudsman equal to those of the correctional investigator in terms of independence and accountability to Parliament. This is, in fact, incorrect. The correctional investigator is not an agent of Parliament. Rather, the correctional investigator is appointed by the Governor in Council.
While the sponsor has noted that the responsibilities of the victims ombudsman have evolved since the coming into force of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, this does not justify elevating the victims ombudsman to the position of an agent of Parliament who would enjoy largely unrestricted independence. The victims ombudsman is already able to provide a second level of review for alleged infringements of victims' rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights once the internal complaints mechanisms of federal departments have been exhausted. A new agent of Parliament should not be created without first undertaking a rigorous analysis, and unfortunately, in this case, such an analysis has not been carried out.
The third reason I cannot support Bill is that it proposes new and unrestricted investigatory powers and an overly broad mandate for the victims ombudsman. The bill's proposed mandate would allow the ombudsman to investigate complaints against any federal department. The ombudsman's current mandate allows for investigations of complaints related to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or CCRA, as it is known, and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. This is in keeping with the limited number of statutes and programs for victims of crime at the federal level due to the constitutional division of powers. This is also in keeping with the powers of other ombudsmen.
The overly broad mandate proposed by Bill raises concerns regarding an overlap between the mandate and duties of the victims ombudsman and other federal ombudsmen or oversight bodies. For example, the Canadian Armed Forces has its own ombudsman. Similarly, the victims ombudsman currently does not have the authority to review complaints regarding the RCMP, as this is the responsibility of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. It would be unwise to create a regime that could undercut or interfere with other oversight bodies that already exist.
As I mentioned, the bill's sponsor states that Bill is modelled on the correctional investigator, who is responsible for investigating and addressing complaints of federally incarcerated offenders. The investigatory powers granted to the correctional investigator are necessary due to the nature of the complaints being investigated, which can include allegations of mistreatment and human rights violations. The need for such broad investigatory powers does not exist for the victims ombudsman, who operates in a substantially different context. The role of the victims ombudsman is closer to that of other federal ombudsman, such as the veterans ombudsman, who does not have the power to compel documents or sworn testimony.
Our government is committed to a criminal justice system that keeps communities safe, protects victims, and holds offenders to account for their actions. Our government's ongoing support for the victims ombudsman is one such example of this commitment. However, I cannot support this bill for the significant substantive and procedural reasons that I have just highlighted.
Any proposals for changes to the ombudsman's mandate should be informed by evidence, rather than speculation. I am not aware of any evidence, such as an evaluation of the office of the victims ombudsman, that demonstrates any shortcomings in the current mandate of the ombudsman or that officer's ability to carry them out. In fact, as the numerous reports released by the ombudsman's office shows, the ombudsman's mandate has allowed for a broad range of work in the criminal justice and corrections systems in order to effect change for victims of crime since the office was first established in 2007.
I am also unaware of any evidence supporting the need to grant the ombudsman the additional discretion and independence that comes with an officer of Parliament position.
I am also unaware of any evidence supporting the need to grant the ombudsman the additional discretion and independence that comes with an agent of Parliament position.
An evaluation of the office of the victims ombudsman would allow for a measured consideration of the need for changes to the ombudsman's mandated powers. It would also allow for a careful assessment of the office of the victims ombudsman's current arm's-length relationship with the Department of Justice in order to determine if further independence would be required. In the absence of an evaluation of the current office, there is insufficient evidence to support a broad expansion of the ombudsman's mandate as proposed in the bill.
For all those reasons, in spite of all of the work of my hon. colleague, which I began by commending at the outset of my remarks, unfortunately we on this side are not able to support it. I would encourage all my colleagues to vote the bill down.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill because I believe that victims' issues are of utmost importance.
The bill that my colleague from the Quebec City region introduced addresses this issue. The ombudsman's office is currently a program within the Department of Justice. My colleague's bill will make that program a permanent, independent office. It will no longer be merely a Justice Canada program. The office will be much more independent. I think this is a very good idea, especially when the ombudsman has to intervene regarding problems within the Department of Justice itself. With more independence, the ombudsman will be able to do that properly.
I think this is a very good bill that really deserves to go to committee. I am sure there are probably other repercussions, but I think the committee can get to the bottom of that. I sincerely hope this bill will make it to committee.
It is important to give the ombudsman's office more independence because that will facilitate victims' access to federal programs and services. Once we have examined the bill more closely and maybe amended it to make it even better, it will achieve that goal.
I think it is important to point out that, too often, indigenous victims get completely overlooked. I believe that making the office of the ombudsman more independent would allow it to provide more assistance to indigenous victims of crime. Indigenous communities are often very isolated. Unlike other Canadians, the people who live in these communities cannot just go to the nearest courthouse for information. They have to get their information online or over the phone in a language that is not their mother tongue. That is why I believe it is especially important to highlight the circumstances indigenous victims often get trapped in. Whereas criminals with limited means are entitled to legal aid, victims are often left to chase down information for themselves and struggle to understand what is going on. Unfortunately, this can make victims feel overlooked.
Given the badly mismanaged missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry going on right now, I understand why indigenous victims fear and distrust the Canadian justice system. An independent ombudsman's office would be able to help them get more justice. It would also be in a position to issue recommendations so these women can get more resources and support and the reality of small communities can be better understood.
For people who live in Waskaganish or in the small village of Kangiqsualujjuaq in my colleague from 's riding, the courthouse is not next door. There are no victims services in their community. What is more, victims of crime committed locally might be forced to live with the person who committed the crime or with that person's family, which makes the situation even harder for a victim living in those communities. They might want a bit of privacy, but everything is out in the open in those communities. That is tough to go through.
I think that the ombudsman could focus specifically on the issue of services provided to indigenous victims who live in those communities. With greater independence, the ombudsman will not be afraid to make recommendations calling for swift action from the Department of Justice. That might be a bit harder to do for someone who is not fully independent.
Then, we might manage to truly improve the lives of women living in the north, but also of men who might be victims of crime.
We see what is happening with the Jordan decision, where criminals are being released without punishment. Lack of access to justice in the north is already an extremely complicated problem. Having a more independent and effective ombudsman whose term is secure will go a long way to improving justice in the north. I think it is worth sending this bill to committee so that we can truly understand how beneficial this role can be. By passing a bill like this one we might bring more justice to people who are far too often forgotten in our current justice system. I am talking about first nations in northern Quebec, but also across Canada.
Madam Speaker, what a pleasure, honour, and privilege to speak to this bill introduced by my colleague, the very patient and very committed hon. member for . Toward the end of my comments, I will have a chance to touch on the circumstances surrounding this bill, but especially the circumstances surrounding that member's commitment.
Bill C-343 seeks to establish the office of the ombudsman for victims of crime. It is not written anywhere, not in any bill, civil code or criminal code, but there is a principle of justice whereby justice must be served, but most of all there must be the appearance of justice. That is exactly what this bill is trying to do.
We acknowledge that there has been an ombudsman for victims of crime in Canada since 2007. However, as the hon. member who introduced this bill said so well, the ombudsman is an honourable person who is diligent, earnest and professional, but unfortunately is in a conflict of interests. Why? Because the ombudsman works under the authority of the Department of Justice.
Because of the painful situation they are in, victims of crime may understandably have grievances against the Department of Justice. As a result, the ombudsman, despite all of his good will and professionalism, as well as the thoroughness, intensity, and quality of his work, finds himself in a conflict of interest when it comes time to determine whether the Department of Justice did its job properly.
That is the spirit in which the member introduced the bill now before us. The bill seeks to ensure that the ombudsman is independent from every level of government, organization, and service that victims may be in contact with.
It is a bit like saying that the ombudsman will now report to judges. That would not work. If victims feel as though they have been mistreated by a judge, that would constitute a conflict of interest. It would also not work to have the ombudsman report to crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, or the prison service. The ombudsman needs to be completely independent since he protects victims of crime.
When I read the bill introduced by the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, I was surprised to learn that this was not already the case because it just makes sense. How can the protector of victims of crime not be independent? It goes without saying that such should be the case. Therein lies the genius and the wisdom of this bill. It implements a fundamental principle of justice: independence.
We must protect that basic principle, and this bill not only protects it but literally enshrines it in the very definition of the ombudsman's role and, most importantly, puts victims of crime first.
As the member explained very clearly earlier, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights recognizes four categories of rights: information, protection, participation, and restitution.
All four are very present in this bill, which will ensure that victims get relevant information when they feel they need help from the ombudsman. Protection is critical, and anyone who has been in contact with a victim of crime knows very well that the first thing they ask for is protection. Victims have already been victimized, and they do not want to be victimized again by the system or, worse still, by the person, people, or institution that victimized them in the first place. That is why this right is such a prominent part of the bill before us.
The bill will also ensure participation by all stakeholders, especially victims, and it includes the restitution element, which is very subjective, of course.
That is precisely why we need to have an office that will rigorously, but above all independently, handle the requests of victims of crime. In 2007, when a parliamentarian decided to introduce this bill, that was merely the beginning. It goes without saying that experience leads us to want to make changes, but when I hear the government's argumentation, I think it is unfortunate, perhaps even suspicious, with all due respect.
First of all, the Liberals argue that this is an insult to the current ombudsman, when that is not at all the case. On the contrary, we want to give the protector of victims of crime even more tools and powers so that the office can take meaningful action, and more importantly, remain independent. This is a fundamental part of our justice system.
Furthermore, contrary to what the government is suggesting, this will not require any additional money, since the ombudsman already has a team in place. With a budget of over $300 billion, the Government of Canada can certainly come up with the money needed to guarantee such a fundamental function, namely, the position of victims ombudsman.
The staff in the ombudsman's office are doing a fine job, but unfortunately, they are not independent, since they fall under the Department of Justice. We would simply need to put them somewhere else and change the name plate, which would not cost much. I am hardly exaggerating. Obviously this could be done. The cost involved should not be a concern.
Not to get too off-topic, but is it really the Liberal government saying we need to count every penny, the same Liberal government that is accumulating deficits 80% larger than it promised? The Liberals have no idea when the budget will be back in balance, yet they have the nerve to lecture us about spending. Let us take what they say with a grain of salt.
For all of these good reasons, we believe this bill should proceed to a clause-by-clause study so it can be improved in committee. The process itself demands it.
As I said earlier, it is an emotional experience for me to support this bill, because I have the privilege of being acquainted with its sponsor, the member for . She was first elected in 2006, and as luck would have it, I was working as a journalist at the time, assigned to cover the federal election. I was in the basement of a restaurant in what is now the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent when I spotted this brave woman, whom I had met during the election. She was accompanied by her leader, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the member for , the member for , the member for Beauce, and the rest of the team. They were all having fun celebrating their victory.
I will never forget this woman who was at a table with at most four other people, and who had just been elected by her peers. That is the beauty of democracy. These people worked hard, ran for office, offered their services, and were elected.
Without getting too melodramatic, I would remind my colleagues that this member was defeated in 2011. It happens. I have not experienced that yet, but it could happen one day, although I am in no hurry. What I am trying to say is that a setback in politics is no reason to give up altogether. On the contrary, the member ran again. She faced the popular vote in 2015, and the people of her riding, Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, placed their trust in her, which is to her credit.
In closing, this is a good bill that guarantees the independence of the protector of victims of criminal acts. That office protects us, and we need to ensure the independence of that institution. The office, as it is proposed in this bill, guarantees precisely that, and also ensures that Canada enjoys not only justice, but also the appearance of justice.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Bill , and perhaps take a different approach on it.
I believe all members of the House understand that tragedies take place in all regions of our country. When there are victims, we want to extend whatever we can to assist them in whatever manner we can. For a number of years, when I sat in opposition, I would often talk about victims, understanding that when an offence took place, there needed to be a consequence. We have to be very sensitive to victims.
I served for many years as the chair of the Keewatin youth justice committee. We dealt with young offenders in the communities we represented, in a volunteer capacity. One of the things that sparked a great deal of interest was how we could assist victims. We had great discussions about restorative justice, believing this was one way to do that. The victim and the individual who has committed the offence are brought together and we try to build some sort of consensus as to what kind of consequence that youth should have to pay to make the victim feel there has been some justice. Even though we really did not get too heavily involved in that area, there was a great desire to pursue it.
When I have the opportunity to address issues of this nature, I always like to highlight that there are different ways to work with and support victims, understanding and appreciating in many ways some of the things victims have to go through. Therefore, I have a great deal of sympathy in dealing with these types of issues.
We should be looking at ways to prevent victims from becoming victims in the first place. We can do that through different types of programs and promotions, for example, getting young people more involved in different types of programs. We all have a responsibility, as local members of Parliament, to encourage and promote this, and to get citizens involved as much as possible.
I was always a very strong advocate for community policing and programs like the neighbourhood watch. In fact, we have the Bear Clan in Winnipeg's north end. It is well served by that group of outstanding citizens, who are volunteers and committed to improving conditions and making our communities a safer place, and thereby, in many ways, preventing individuals from becoming victims. Other groups are working within our communities, and most often it is in a volunteer capacity. I truly applaud their efforts and the types of things they do to make their communities safer.
With respect to Bill , I did get the opportunity, back in April or May of last year, to make reference to the fact that there was a cost to the implementation of the bill. Both Conservative members have attempted to address that issue. From the government's perspective, there is a significant cost factor to what has been proposed, and it would require a royal recommendation. Collectively, we need to be somewhat concerned about that. If we say that bills that have a cost to them do not require royal recommendation, we open up a whole new window. We know the former prime minister and House leadership team of the Conservative Party would never have supported that.
This is something we have seen as a parliamentary tradition in the House. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to raise concern with respect to that issue.
It is also important to get a sense of what it is we are talking about with respect to the bill, and what is being asked by the member opposite. The current Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime was established back in 2007.
The current ombudsman was appointed by Governor in Council. We know that. The ombudsman currently deals with complaints of victims regarding compliance with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act; promoting awareness of the needs and concerns of victims, and the laws that benefit victims of crime; identifying and reviewing emerging and systemic issues, including those related to services and programs administered by the Department of Justice and Public Safety Canada that impact negatively on the victims of crime; and facilitating access of victims to federal programs and services by providing information and referrals. It also includes things such as examining any matter that relates to his or her powers, duties or functions, which is like a catch-all.
My colleague, the , questioned if there has ever been any sort of an analysis done. Where does the member across the way get the information to say that this office should now become an agent of Parliament? I do not think that she has made the case as to why that should happen.
If we look at the numbers, there are a significant number of files that the ombudsman has ultimately looked at and reviewed. All in all, I believe that the office has done a fairly decent job at representing the interests of victims, and no doubt will continue to do so. However, I do not believe there has been an argument with respect to why it is that the office should become an agent of Parliament, given the fact that it has been there for almost a decade.
From what I understand, there has not been any thorough analysis, report, or ask for that to be the direction for that office to move in. That is something that would definitely be warranted before we want to move forward. That is not to minimize the thoughts of the member opposite on the issue, but to say there needs to be a lot more work done on the issue. We need to have a better understanding of what is taking place, and an appreciation of the actual numbers, as has been pointed out with respect to the correctional investigator.
As there are other ombudsman offices out there, what about the potential crossover of responsibilities? That is something we feel has not really been addressed. The member should be looking at some of those numbers. For example, we know that in one year there were 453 contacts for which there were files opened. Half of those files, some 224, involved some form of a complaint. If we look at the Office of the Correctional Investigator, it responded to 25,600 contacts, over 6,500 complaints from federal offenders, and it conducted over 2,000 offender interviews.
It is really important that we get a better understanding of the role the member across the way is envisioning, but for now it is best that maybe we not see the bill go further but rather for the member to give it—
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House this evening for the debate at second reading of a private member's bill. This bill was introduced by my colleague from , with whom I have had the pleasure, honour, and privilege of working since 2006. I commend her for choosing to introduce this bill.
The position of ombudsman for victims of crime was created in 2007 by our former Conservative government. Every weekend, I hear nostalgic people say that it was a good government and that they look forward to the Conservatives' return to office in 2019.
As is the case with the ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the ombudsman for offenders, the correctional investigator, the mandate of the ombudsman of victims of crime primarily involves standing up for the rights and interests of those who need such representation. Unlike the other federal ombudsman positions, the ombudsman for victims of crime currently operates under a Justice Canada program. The ombudsman is therefore not independent of the department.
Bill mainly seeks to make the position of ombudsman for victims of crime equal to that of the correctional investigator, commonly known as the ombudsman for offenders. The correctional investigator falls under federal jurisdiction and is independent from the Department of Justice, unlike the ombudsman for victims of crime.
Not currently being independent of the Department of Justice, the victims ombudsman has to submit all annual reports to the department, not to Parliament. If the victims ombudsman includes a recommendation or a criticism in a report that reflects poorly on the Department of Justice, the department can remove it from the report whenever it wants, thereby nullifying one of the main reasons the victims ombudsman exists, which is to be a voice for victims of crime and represent their rights and interests in Canada.
For victims of crime, having a voice and fair, equitable representation in dealings with the Department of Justice is vital to their healing process, a process that is difficult for so many. Not only must victims survive horrible, unspeakable trauma, they must also, in far too many cases, fight for their rights every step of the way through the process. From reporting a crime to testifying in court, they have to be able to understand and internalize all the legal jargon, challenge rulings, and fill out innumerable forms properly just to exercise their right to get information. Theirs is a long and difficult journey even as they go through the rehabilitation and healing process.
The ombudsman's duties have evolved tremendously since the role was created in 2007, most notably with the adoption of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in 2015. It goes without saying that the rights of victims of crime need to be respected. When they are not, the ombudsman for victims of crime needs to be able to enforce them adequately independently of the Department of Justice, especially when a problem arises that directly involves that very department.
The rights of victims of crime fall under four categories in the charter: the right to restitution, the right to participation, the right to protection, and the right to information. Every one of those rights is important. It is important that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights be updated to make the ombudsman for victims of crime an officer of Parliament independent of the minister whose work the ombudsman is tasked with monitoring and assessing. I think that is clear, simple, and straightforward.
As hon. members might imagine, for a victim of crime, having their rights respected in an independent manner is a matter of survival. In Canada, our justice system has to be administered fairly and equitably for the entire population every step of the way. The rights of victims of crime should be equal to the rights of criminals, and ombudsman positions should also be equally independent. We are asking that victims have the same rights as criminals. That is not too much to ask in our country.
Unfortunately, here in Canada in 2017, that is not yet the case, either for victims' rights versus criminals' rights in the justice system or for the independence of each ombudsman position.
Making the victims' ombudsman as independent as the ombudsman for offenders would be a major step in the right direction. It would show victims that they matter and that every member in this House believes it is unjust, in 2017, for victims' rights to not always be considered as important as those of the criminals who destroyed their lives. It would send a message that this state of affairs needs to end and that we need to develop the necessary legislative tools to achieve that goal.
For victims, the passage of Bill will serve as a kind of legal recognition that the federal ombudsman for victims of crime is independent from the Department of Justice. This is of paramount importance to victims. The ombudsman will be better positioned to defend victims' rights and interests when they are filing complaints against federal departments, including the federal justice department.
For example, imagine for a moment a person who has been seriously traumatized as a result of a violent crime and whose fundamental rights, as set out in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, have now been violated in the administration of justice. She wants to file a complaint against Justice Canada, but when she goes to the website of the federal ombudsman for victims of crime, she discovers that the ombudsman is nothing more than a Department of Justice official, or an extension of that same department towards which she is already feeling distrustful.
How would the victim feel when she thought she could get some help and find someone to properly represent her before the department?
Who can victims of crime turn to and who can they trust if they cannot even count on the independence of their ombudsman like our troops can with theirs and like offenders can, too?
A very important part of the work involves identifying the issues that affect victims of crime and making recommendations to the federal government so that it can make its laws, policies, and processes more responsive to victims' needs. The ombudsman must make criminal justice system staff and decision-makers aware of victims' needs and identify any systemic issues that have a negative impact on victims, issues that are sometimes caused by the Department of Justice.