Good afternoon, members of the committee.
I would like to begin by sharing with you the experience crime victims go through. I will then give you examples of essential services victims of crime need. Finally, I will explain why Bill meets the objective of making criminals accountable.
When police officers told me my father had been murdered, I felt like someone had dealt me a crushing blow to the head. I could no longer function. I could no longer do anything. I lost my appetite and couldn't sleep. I could no longer drive my own car, prepare my meals, shop for groceries or do my housework. In short, I could no longer take care of my basic needs. I was no longer a contributing member of society. Yet that's what I had been my whole life, until that tragedy.
When someone becomes a victim of crime or loses a loved one in a murder, they immediately need a whole range of services they would not normally need. For instance, I would have needed a response team to reach out to me and help me meet my basic needs, such as preparing my meals, doing my laundry and driving my car. All those small daily tasks had suddenly become too difficult and insurmountable. Those tasks are not complicated nor do they constitute a luxury. Those kinds of services would have helped me tremendously through this traumatic ordeal.
Becoming a victim of a criminal is not a choice we make. We don't prepare for it in advance. It is a state we find ourselves in as a result of criminals' choices and actions. When a criminal harms another individual, it is logical that they should pay the price for that crime. That's a principle set out in the Criminal Code. The damage caused by criminals should not be paid by society as a whole.
All the law-abiding Canadian citizens who are victims of criminals should have the right to the same basic services. For instance, Ontario's Victim Crisis Assistance & Referral Services program sends response teams specializing in practical support for victims to help them make meals, do their shopping or do the dishes. Other basic services include crime scene clean-up, psychological services and assistance for covering funeral costs. Those services should be available everywhere—regardless of the province of residence and of the province in which the crime was committed. The federal government has shown its leadership; the provinces should do the same by providing better services.
Currently, victims are treated differently from province to province. In addition, some victims of crime have practically no access to any services. Yet, they're all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. All the law-abiding Canadians who are victims of criminals should have the same rights. The provinces should use the federal government's leadership as inspiration. Therefore, I invite the various levels of government—federal and provincial—to find a way to agree in the interest of victims and harmonize services across the country.
In civilian life, many fines are mandatory, as judges have no discretionary privileges with regard to that. For instance, a violation of traffic regulations can easily result in a fine of $200 or more. So I don't see why it shouldn't be the same when it comes to the Criminal Code. Accused people awaiting trial do not hesitate to raise significant funds for bail. By comparison, the victim fine surcharge is a nominal amount. I have no sympathy for criminals who have to pay it. The damages they have caused by far surpass the victim fine surcharge amount.
There is another important point. Currently, all taxpayers are paying for the damages inflicted by criminals. The victim fine surcharge covers only a fraction of the cost of assistance for crime victims. Increasing the surcharge would lighten some of the burden currently placed on all law-abiding citizens. The criticism that the $200 amount is too high for poor criminals does not hold water, as they can work to pay it off.
As a victim, I am relieved to see that the current government is implementing legislative measures to remedy the historical imbalance between victims' rights and criminals' rights. It has the political courage to legislate in order to make criminals accountable to their victims.
I encourage all the members to fully support this bill.
Thank you for inviting me and for listening to my comments on this bill, which is so important for victims of crime.
Good afternoon, everyone.
My name is Michel Surprenant. I am the father of Julie Surprenant, who disappeared on November 16, 1999. Following the disappearance of my daughter, I founded, with the help of Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared.
I am here to speak to you as the president of the AFPAD. I congratulate the Conservative government on Bill . I want to explain why this bill is so important for victims. This piece of legislation will enable the provinces to raise the money they need to provide more services to victims.
In the wake of a crime or a disappearance, victims' needs are huge. Being a victim involves all kinds of unexpected costs. When my daughter disappeared, I had to deal with unexpected costs. Let's take psychological care as an example. Currently, Quebec covers only 20 counselling sessions. In murder cases, the province covers 30 sessions. That's insufficient for victims in that kind of a situation. Victims of sexual predators serve a life sentence. The consequences stay with them for the rest of their lives.
There is an urgent need to increase the funeral cost portion reimbursable by the provinces. Currently, the Government of Quebec pays only $3,300 for funeral costs, which come up to about $12,000.
There is a major need to help victims cover the costs of cleaning up the crime scene. That's why it is very important for the provinces to follow the federal government's example. They must increase the victim fine surcharges, as the conservative government is currently doing.
It's also very important for the provinces to use that money intelligently. The money should not be lost in red tape. It should be used to really help victims.
That's why this bill should be passed urgently without amendment.
My name is Bruno Serre, I am the Vice-President of the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared. I am also the father of Brigitte, who was assassinated in 2006, at the age of 17.
I want to thank the members for inviting us to testify on this important bill, which will help thousands of victims in Canada every year.
With Bill , the government is showing once again, as it has been doing since 2006, that victims are a priority. This bill is greatly appreciated and applauded by the AFPAD. Our association has about 550 members. It was founded by victims and for victims. Our association provides a wide range of services to the loved ones of assassinated or disappeared persons.
In 2005, a year before the death of my daughter, Mr. Boisvenu received a $600 cheque as compensation for losing his daughter. He was in disbelief over the fact that, when dealing with a crime, the state's only responsibility was to send a $600 cheque.
In terms of politics, the AFPAD won a major victory when Bill 25 was passed in December 2006. As a result, compensation for funeral expenses increased from $600 to $3,300, and psychotherapeutic support could be provided to victims' families. The only drawback is that the Government of Quebec does not apply that measure to minors because they have not contributed to the Régime des rentes du Québec—Quebec pension plan. So, no compensation is provided in such cases.
The AFPAD applauds the new obligation whereby judges must impose a victim fine surcharge. It had become unacceptable for a section of the Criminal Code to be so unused. The fact that a component of the Criminal Code was so little used was an insult to victims and a lack of respect towards them.
Studies conducted in 1992 and 1999 showed that only 15% of victim fine surcharges were imposed and that only 2.7% were actually collected. That's too low. Victims need that surcharge to benefit from the quality services they are entitled to.
In addition, criminals having to pay a certain amount of money is a step toward their rehabilitation. That being said, regarding those who may not have the money, we feel that the criminals who do not pay should have administrative penalties imposed. For instance, the issuance of a driver's license or any other provincial administrative service should be blocked until the victim fine surcharge has been paid. I want to point out that the surcharge is not in the thousands of dollars. We are talking about relatively small amounts.
It's normal for a criminal who has murdered, raped, mutilated or assaulted another person to contribute to victim services. The more criminals pay, the less law-abiding taxpayers will have to contribute to those services. In addition, it may help make criminals accountable for their crimes.
We agree with the very healthy objective of Bill —to promote a sense of responsibility and rehabilitation among criminals.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Ms. Jong, Mr. Surprenant and Mr. Serre, thank you for joining us. I really appreciate your being here.
I'm very happy to have the opportunity to work on a bill that will hopefully make things better for victims of crime and their families.
In Quebec, there is an alternative justice organization called L'Autre Avenue. This organization made me realize how limited, even non-existent, the support to crime could be. We still have a long way to go. You have listed certain avenues other than the financial options, such as the victim fine surcharge. Thank you for that. It will give us food for thought and contribute to our dialogues with our provincial partners.
One of the conclusions we could have drawn from the application of the victim fine surcharge, almost 20 years ago, was that the original promises were not fulfilled. The provinces did not receive as much money as they had hoped.
We had a few concerns about this bill. One of the things we were wondering about was whether another similar deception may not be involved. We realize that some convicted criminals do not have the means to meet those obligations. They must use other ways to pay.
The bill talks about options for paying a fine with regard to programs applied in the provinces. In other words, convicted individuals could accumulate credits for the work they do. Those programs exist in certain provinces. However, that won't necessarily generate hard cash. It's almost impossible to measure what that will represent.
Is that a concern for you?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you for your attendance today. I very much appreciate it.
First of all, my heartfelt sympathy to all of you for your loss. I can't imagine what it would be like, but I can imagine that it would not be fun. I want you to know that we all feel that pain here today, especially when we hear your testimony.
My dad was a World War II veteran also. Madam Jong, I know that your father was, and I know that he was also a farmer and rancher. My father was as well. He settled in Westbank instead of Quebec, hence the last name that has a ring of French in it.
You testified some time ago in relation to the Safe Streets and Communities Act. I think it was in October 2011. You said:
||Sentencing serves a number of purposes, including ensuring compensation for harm caused to victims or the community. Compensation must therefore be an integral part of the sentence. However, compensation is currently optional and imposed only if the amount can easily be determined.
Maybe that's in part why we're here today. Congratulations on that, and for speaking for victims.
I was a lawyer for some period of time and I saw it waived on a continual basis and I couldn't understand why that was. Often these people would have the ability to pay, but it was waived just as a matter of principle. In fact, in up to 90% of cases, it's waived. That is troubling indeed.
What I was curious about in relation to this was what you thought of the agenda itself. There are three things in particular. We're doubling it. We're making it mandatory. We're also going to try to make sure in cooperation with the provinces that they have a fine option available as there is in Alberta.
What do you think of those three particular strategies? Are they consistent with your view of protecting victims instead of criminals?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Debates like this are always a bit heartbreaking. First of all, we don't know what it's like to walk in your shoes.
Second, you've been through a devastating ordeal, and yet we have a specific role as lawmakers. We cannot just act selectively. We must examine what we can do to create an environment that delivers greater justice. We must also find a way to help our fellow citizens who are struggling. With that in mind, I have a few questions.
Our compassion for victims crosses all party lines. But we may have different ideas on how measures should be implemented and what should be done.
In my riding of Bourassa, we have some problems. Mr. Serre knows what I'm talking about. Rehabilitation is also important. Can we rehabilitate while protecting and helping victims? That is my question. That is the first step, in my eyes.
The bill seeks to double the victim surcharge, the idea being to make the offender convicted of the crime more accountable. Why not raise the surcharge three, four or fivefold? How much is enough?
As a lawmaker, I personally want to make sure we actually help victims. I appreciate that some may say it is not society's responsibility to pay for everything, and yet in the meantime, you're struggling, you're dealing with awful circumstances, as you said earlier, Ms. Jong. We aren't going to wait until the criminal has finished paying.
The role of a government and a state is to ensure it gives you the tools and the resources you need. Do you think $200 is enough? Would you say that, at least, the criminal contributed something? I don't want to get into party politics, but if we truly want to support victims, should we not give them the tools to help them through their ordeal, considering what they've been through and will continue to go through? They will never be able to fully recover, of course. Wouldn't it be better to give you the tools and the resources? We will work with the committees and agencies that will help you. We will help your association because it does incredible work.
It's a bit unfortunate that the support happens only between victims. You need more assistance. You understand, then, that progress is made on that side of things.
How do you think the government should help victims?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to add my voice to how difficult it is, the circumstances that you've all gone through. As a parent, I can't imagine the situations you've gone through, and, Madam Jong, of course, with your father.
Madam Jong, you made a great point and I'm going to repeat it, because I think it's important for people on this committee to hear it again. It's that victims don't make a choice; the criminals do. That's important for us all to remember when we look at these kinds of things. That's why the term is “victim”. They and their families have been victimized.
I think what we heard just now from Mr. Coderre is his complete lack of understanding of the legislation, because what we're not doing is saying that criminal A has to give $200 to victim B. That's not what's happening. The $200 would go into the victims fund, and the victims fund would then be used by the provinces to fund various programs to assist victims. These are great programs; I know many of them. I have a friend who works in the victim and witness assistance program in Ontario. She has a fabulous job.
While we're here at committee, perhaps we could ask all of you to comment on the types of programs these funds would fund. It's not just the doubling; the issue is that 80% to 90% of the time it was waived. There's going to be a significant increase in revenue for victims programs. If you could comment on that for me, please, so perhaps Mr. Coderre can be educated, and he will go back and tell his caucus, and they might support this legislation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank the witnesses for being here this afternoon.
I want to start by telling you that the NDP supports victims of crime and their families. We support the recommendations made by the ombudsman for victims. I want to convey my deepest sympathies for all the physical and emotional suffering you have been through. I understand that you will feel powerless, regardless of what you are given.
Money for crime scene cleanup, psychological counselling and funeral services will certainly help you. But, honestly, what I think will truly benefit you is an enhanced victims fund and better programs. What's more, I realize that the trial lasts longer than a month or two; it can go on from one to four years, and decisions are sometimes appealed.
So taking care of victims is important. As you so articulately explained, victims can remain victims for years, if not their entire lives. Nothing can ever make up for the person they have lost, unfortunately. But they need assistance. And I am not convinced that Bill really delivers the solutions you need. I fully agree that you need assistance, be it emotionally, physically or otherwise, to be able to move forward.
If more money were invested in the victims fund in order to deliver better programs to victims of crime, would that help you through your trying ordeal?
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and honourable members. Thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the committee on Bill .
My name is Yvonne Harvey. I am the chair and the co-founder of Canadian Parents of Murdered Children and Survivors of Homicide Victims Inc.. I am here today in support of Bill , which is intended to double the federal victim surcharge amounts and make them mandatory in all cases, thereby eliminating judicial discretion to waive the surcharge during sentencing.
My presentation will focus primarily on the importance of ensuring that the waiver option is removed in reference to undue hardship to the offender.
First, I would like to give you some background by addressing what represents, for victims of crime, undue hardship of a non-financial nature, and following which, I will give you tangible examples that define, for victims of crime, what is unquestionably financial undue hardship.
Few people can appreciate the true impact of murder on a family, yet any one of us could find ourselves in this position. One day we are leading a normal life and the next day we are thrust into a foreign world, through no choice of our own, having to deal with police, lawyers, courts, as well as intrusive media. Our lives are no longer private.
The day that changes one's life rarely comes with a warning, yet in an instant, the time that it takes to pick up a telephone, life as we once knew it disappears, and the future becomes a struggle between moving on and hanging on. We are left with a hole in our soul. We are now challenged with reconstructing our lives. There is no guidebook to tell us how to do this, because everyone's journey is as unique as one's fingerprint. Living in the aftermath of murder is a constant emotional and spiritual struggle. These are challenges that threaten to destabilize, and often do, the entire family unit.
What does financial undue hardship mean to us? As the mother of a murdered child and as the chair of CPOMC, I can attest to the unexpected and unpredictable undue hardship that victims of crime suffer. I will use my own experience as an example; however, let me assure you that my situation is not unique. Thousands of other Canadians who have become victims of crime have suffered worse challenges, including bankruptcy.
Immediately following the murder of my daughter Chrissy, I and my family were confronted with notable financial expenses.
It cost $3,000 to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland to secure my daughter's remains.
Travel expenses to bring my daughter's remains home to Ottawa from St. John's, Newfoundland, and funeral expenses in St. John's and again in Ottawa combined for a total in excess of $8,000.
There was a legal bill in excess of $60,000 in order for my brother and his wife to obtain permanent custody of my granddaughter. This was done to ensure that the person who had been charged with murdering my daughter would not have custody of my granddaughter.
I contribute to ongoing support payments of $600 a month to help with the additional expenses that my brother and sister-in-law sustain in order to give Ireland, my granddaughter, a comfortable, stable, loving environment in which to grow.
As a self-employed nurse, I had to absorb a considerable loss of income while I tried to deal with the overwhelming grief of having lost my only child to murder.
I currently receive counselling for post-traumatic stress resulting from the murder of my daughter. I pay a rate of $175 an hour, biweekly. That is ongoing.
These are undeniable financial hardships.
The implementation of Bill , which amends subsection 737(2) of the Criminal Code, would increase the victim surcharge from $100 to $200 for offences punishable by indictment. This new amount could cover one hour of post-traumatic stress counselling, but it's still a positive step forward.
When the court waives a federal victim surcharge, it is required to provide reasons why it is not imposed and to enter the reasons in the record of the proceedings.
In 2006 an operational review documented the imposition and collection of the federal victim surcharge in provincial courts in New Brunswick. In 99% of 831 cases reviewed where the federal victim surcharge was waived, there was no documentation of reasons for the waiver in the file. There was no documentation indicating that the offender had established to the satisfaction of the court that undue hardship would result, yet all judges interviewed consistently cited the offender's inability to pay as the reason for waiving the surcharge. Therefore, a number of judges in exercising their discretionary powers to waive the victim surcharge are not fulfilling their responsibility to justify their actions.
Once again, the victims suffer because funds that could provide them with crucial services are not being made available to them. Bill provides the opportunity to make the federal victim surcharge more effective. Therefore, I ask the committee to support these amendments and make offenders more accountable for their actions. These measures will force offenders to demonstrate concrete actions in terms of rehabilitation. This is another positive step.
In conclusion, I applaud the Conservative government's proposed amendment to the victim surcharge provisions in the Criminal Code, but once enacted, I trust that the provinces will be accountable for administering the victim surcharge and its proceeds in an effective and consistent manner.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and honourable members. Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to be here and to speak on behalf of victims across Canada.
To attend this meeting is an honour for me. I have carefully reviewed the legislative summary of , and I am in agreement with all the provisions stated in it. I would like to commend the Conservative government for honouring the issues addressed in this bill by focusing on victims' needs, acknowledging their losses, and looking at ways to serve them with the highest possible regard.
My name is Christopher Ducharme. I am both a victim and a survivor. By the age of 30, I had lost five people to homicide, both personally and professionally, through my work as a youth worker in the downtown eastside of Vancouver.
In 1996, when I was 14 years old, my mother, Patricia Grace Ducharme, was strangled, beaten, and murdered by her live-in boyfriend and former Vancouver police officer Brock Joseph William Graham. This experience was horrific and unimaginable and unmanageable for years. Thankfully, I was able to find the right people to connect with to build a support network of my own, a system that did not exist for homicide victims in Canada in the Canadian criminal justice system, and still does not to a deserving level, in my opinion.
I am the president of the BC Bereavement Helpline, an organization initiated in 1986 by a number of concerned caregivers in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The organization became a registered charitable organization on June 15, 1988, and has served over 37,000 callers to date. We currently work with 300 groups and agencies in 76 communities across the province of British Columbia to provide education, support, and advocacy for professionals, the bereaved, and their caregivers.
To respond to the growing requests of homicide victims, I founded BC Victims of Homicide in 2011, an initiative of the BC Bereavement Helpline. Fifty-two victims were served in the first three months of the program's operation. In addition, I was able to connect with over 400 homicide victims internationally.
Given my experience, I am honoured to relay this feedback to the government to assist with future decision-making processes about this bill and others. It is of utmost importance to adhere to the victims' voices to ensure they are getting the support they expect, need, and deserve. It may sound simplistic, even cumbersome at times, or pointless to just listen, but when I see a victim interact with another victim, there is a magical moment of release. Over time, this relationship will flower into more relationships. What was once a heartbroken group of individuals becomes a lasting community of love, hope, and direction with purpose, laughter, and even joy. Finally, validation fills the void.
Also, there is much frustration and disappointment from both victims and professionals regarding inconsistent interprovincial policies. This incongruence and disparity of values is complicated for victims to understand, and does not rationalize their ineligibility for funding or support services.
With more consistent provincial support legislation, victims would feel they are being treated more fairly. From my understanding, provincial victim service budgets, under the Victims of Crime Act, have different mandates specific to each province. Some of these mandated allocations of funds simply do not appear appropriate or even relevant to what I see and what I'm getting feedback on from victims as being their primary need and priority.
Bill has clear intentions to solicit the resources necessary to implement victim services operations while reducing the unfairness felt by victims. It is truly actions like Bill C-37 that empower victims to find trust in humanity and government as they move forward from their victimization experience. This validation of victims' losses and needs yields most successful results.
Thank you for considering my recommendations for the betterment of the health and well-being of those who have been harmed.
The following concerns have been brought to my attention. It is important that each province address these issues on its own terms so that victims are treated with complete respect and fairness:
At least one peer support group should be mandated in the capital city of each province.
The counselling subsidy should be available to families even when the victim was supposedly involved in crime. It is unfair that sometimes these families are ineligible because the deceased was involved in crime.
There should be safe houses and respite homes in each capital city for when victims have to travel to other cities for hearings. There should be a safe place for them to go to get mentoring and to learn about the court system. We don't learn that from the victim service programs.
With regard to travel costs to get to hearings, the situation is different in every province. Sometimes they are funded and sometimes they're not.
The NCR—non-criminally responsible—issue is huge. I spoke just yesterday with Carol de Delley about the beheading on the Greyhound bus and justice. Victims don't ever feel as though they're going to find that justice. Their anger is actually directed toward the offender, not toward the system, but they take it out on the system. If you create a place where these victims can come together to share their stories, that is truly how we're going to help victims progress and move forward. I know this because I've gone through five murders.
In missing women cases or unresolved cases, some of those victims aren't eligible for support, which is also unfair.
There is also the issue of eligibility for support services in areas outside the province where the crime occurred. For example, in Yvonne Harvey's case, the crime occurred outside Ontario, and she was not eligible for support.
With regard to national and provincial referral systems, it took me 10 years to find support for family members of homicide victims. It didn't even exist in western Canada, except in Edmonton.
Compensation amounts vary between provinces.
With regard to applying for grant funding from the provincial victims services, I think it would be great if we could allocate a small portion to charities to apply and see what they can do, because sometimes the non-profits are more efficient. I say this with respect, because I highly respect our government, but I also respect the charities.
In the case of victims abroad, there is support, but most of the professionals, caregivers, and victims services workers don't know about it.
Provinces should increase their victims services charges to ensure that this money is collected. I don't understand how it all unfolds, but they should ensure that this money is collected.
This is just an update. In British Columbia, victims services have approximately $12 million coming into the account. Over the past several years, they've been going into a deficit on an annual basis. Most of the funds they bring in come from traffic fines. Out of that $12 million, a $2 million chunk goes to the Rick Hansen organization. I highly respect Rick Hansen and the program; however, it's for neurotrauma. I think maybe there could be a reassessment. Maybe they could look at homicide victims or suicide victims specifically.
Overall, I think our provinces, as much as we're making significant progress, are also lacking as far as what we should be aspiring to as Canadians. We have an amazing country, and I think we're all very proud to be here.
I thank you for your time.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I will start with you, Mr. Ducharme.
One of my most vivid memories when I took office is a discussion I had with a lawyer. He told me it was my constitutional right to access services in French. In fact, it is a constitutional right to receive services in an official language. He encouraged me to fully exercise that right so I could clearly articulate my thoughts. He told me never to feel embarrassed doing so.
You have my sincerest sympathy. You have been through a horrible ordeal. We cannot know what you've experienced. It defies comprehension.
I was in Rome on the weekend for the canonization ceremony of Kateri Tekakwitha. I spoke to many Canadian clergy members, including one who works in Vatican City. He spoke with heartfelt passion. He could not understand how a country as rich as Canada could turn its back on so many and tolerate so much injustice. His words resonated with me. That is the reason I am involved in politics. I share the feeling of injustice you have and rightly so.
If we support Bill , it means we believe that every additional resource that can be made available to benefit victims is welcome. As I stated earlier, I hope it will be enough, but I have my doubts. There have been no guarantees, but that is another matter. We will examine the bill alongside our government colleagues to see if we can't do more.
In any case, the intention to increase the compensation fund for victims of crime is a long-standing commitment on our part. It's absurd that the fund should be held hostage because of other considerations, including a lack of base funding as a result of broken promises regarding the implementation of the victim surcharge.
I don't know how both of you find the money to fund your organizations and run them. How would you rate your financial standing, your ability to act, your ability to help and support victims of crime and their loved ones?
With regard to funds, we have received some project funding from the federal government, which has been instrumental in moving us forward. First of all, we're in the process of developing an educational package that we would like to deliver across the country eventually. It is a package that deals with certain things that are very important when homicide is involved, especially the notification process, socio-economic problems, health problems, and that sort of thing. There have never been any studies or any research done, at least in Canada, on those issues as they pertain to homicide victims. As Chris said, it's a piece of project funding, and that's it.
With regard to operational funding, right now we are operating under the passion that we have to help one another. We do not have a staff. My husband acts as executive director. I'm the chair. I still work part-time as a nurse. I gave up 40% of my practice so I could dedicate time to this. We get phone calls at all times of the night, during the day and on weekends, and we make ourselves available to talk to families, to talk to survivors. We have developed the legal framework, the articles of association, so people can develop their own support mechanism in their area. Ultimately, that's what we would like to have, but it's very hard to do these things without any kind of funding.
I don't know if that answers your question, but—
Yes. Now you're here today and you have certainly opened our eyes to the fact that you've had further costs in addition to those expenses. At that time, I think, you felt that your costs were around $75,000. There are also the ongoing costs for your own recovery, which continues.
I want to thank both of you for being here. Not only are you advocates, but you've also lived this, and I think that's what makes you such superior advocates. We all feel terrible about your loss.
With respect to your previous testimony, Ms. Harvey, you mentioned that we all pay for this. You said that we pay for it in “taxpayer dollars, but also the loss of human life, which is immeasurable”. You also said at the time, “Equally immeasurable is the loss of family, the loss of law and order, and the loss of faith in the criminal justice system and in our government's ability to protect society.” I understand where those comments are coming from, particularly when dealing with the subject we are discussing today: victim surcharge. We see that waiver happens in close to 90% of the cases, and then, even when it is charged, the percentage of collection is very low.
Because at the present time that victim surcharge is applied with discretion, the revenue that perhaps was hoped for—and I think my colleague Monsieur Côté said that it was a hoped-for victim surcharge system—has fallen woefully short of expectations. We know that victims need money, and the victims aren't just the specific victims, but the families of the victims.
In Bill , we're proposing to remove the waiver option and make it mandatory. I'd like to know, Ms. Harvey, what you feel about making this a mandatory provision.
These kinds of discussions are always tough. We can see how much you have suffered and how hard this still is for you.
As I have said from the get-go, we cannot show partisanship and say that we like you more than others. We all have compassion for victims. But since the beginning, I have realized that you are in need of assistance.
I believe that a parliamentary secretary to a minister who is responsible for a portfolio like justice should realize that we need to start by addressing phase two, so you get the tools you need. We can't be content with simply imposing a fine on the killer. We also need to find ways to give you something that is ongoing,
what you call “sustainable funding”. That's what you need, because you need help.
I've been a minister of the crown myself. Of course we don't want to bug you with constitutional and jurisdictional issues, but because there has been collateral damage from all that, what we need to do, and it's our role, is to make sure that the Minister of Justice acts as a leader to find a way to bring everybody to the table, including the provinces. That's why I'm not sure Bill is sufficient.
I believe we need to provide you with sustainable funding. You're alone. You're here as a witness. We are offering you our condolences. We feel for you. But after that, you go home and you're still stuck with the issue. We have to find a way to be responsible as legislators, and at the same time to be partners. All of society is suffering right now as a result of what happened, and in your case specifically.
With regard to my first question, I'm not sure I understood something. I believe it's not up to politicians to tell judges what to do. I believe in discretion. I believe in the justice system. Some people may be against that, but this is what I believe. You have to separate the legislative, executive, and judicial powers.
As to whether we believe we should necessarily provide a mandatory surcharge, or we should say provide a list of.... You have to understand that I'm French Canadian so maybe the tone is not necessarily accurate. But instead of saying it's $200 for everybody, should we say that for some specific crimes those people should pay more?
Do you understand what I'm saying? Should we have a list of charges and let the judge use discretion, or is it up to us to determine the charge and that's it? I think that's a fair question to ask as a start.
Madam Harvey and Mr. Ducharme, could you address that?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I appreciate Ms. Harvey's and Mr. Ducharme's being here this afternoon to share their stories with us. I realize that you don't get any warning, you don't choose to be a victim.
Ms. Harvey, you talked about the hole that is left in your soul and the need to rebuild your life from scratch. The work you both do with your associations is indispensable. Victims indeed experience post-traumatic stress. They have to put their lives back together emotionally and financially. Running a victim support association is very expensive. Some victims endure long trials at tremendous expense, running up huge legal bills.
As I have said, the NDP supports victims of crime and their families; we agree with the recommendations made by the ombudsman for victims. However, I am not convinced that Bill makes it possible to access the funding needed. We need to shore up the victims fund and enhance support for victim programming.
Like the three witnesses who appeared before you, you talked about the enormous costs involved. It's not possible, of course, to replace the loved who has been lost, but it is often necessary to replace lost income. On top of that, there are funeral expenses, counselling costs and cleaning bills. No doubt, I'm forgetting some.
Do you belive it's important to make sure the funding does indeed go to victims?
I would echo that as well.
When I first heard about Bill , I was borderline reluctant to come here because it seemed to focus on just the funds, the money. That's not why I am here. I am here because I want to know where that money is going That's all that matters to me.
I think it's great that we have this establishment so it's coming from the offenders.
To get back to the other question about the list, I know it's a bit off topic, but if I have a murder case and there's $200, and you have something else, and I don't know the scale, but I would support a sliding scale.
I think it's great that we're getting some funds from the offenders. The Department of Justice victims fund is an amazing thing, but it's not sustainable funding. We can only apply for one year at a time right now. It used to be three years or five years.
It is hard to run an organization when you're serving victims. They are the most vulnerable people out there. It's very hard if you have to tell them you don't know if there's going to be a group in a couple of months.
I want to talk about the cost effectiveness of that too. The going rate for individual counselling is $170 an hour, but for $170 you could have two facilitators do a lot more work than that and multiple people would benefit.
I'm sorry if I come across as pushing the support groups, but it's what Canada is asking for. I was a national spokesperson for National Victims of Crime Awareness Week last year. Everybody at the conference, every province, stood up and said they want to support groups. That's all I need to say. I really need to stress that.
The people I deal with, some people have been bereaved for 20 years, 18 years, 12 years. They're not any further ahead than they were back when the child was killed or other loved one was killed. Granted I am talking about homicide.
When there is a murder, there is always an element of trauma attached to that. I have learned, not only intellectually but personally, that if you don't deal with that trauma, you can't move through the grieving process. That grieving process then becomes grief upon grief upon grief and then you're faced with complicated grief. What we're promoting in this organization is we want to help people to find a sense of purpose and hope, and trust again to re-engage in their communities with that sense of hope and purpose.
We are responsible people. We are working people. We are taxpayers. We are law-abiding people. Sometimes it's very hard. Some people lose their jobs because emotionally they just collapse.
Our job is to try to create a support mechanism where we can help these people. I should mention that when Chris mentioned about having a facilitator who could facilitate a trauma group of maybe half a dozen or a dozen people, that's a wonderful concept. In fact, that's what we've been talking about over the last year. How can we do this? How can we get the funds to start a trauma group for homicide victims?
I know that they have one in B.C.—
Mr. Christopher Ducharme: They have five now.
Ms. Yvonne Harvey: They have five in B.C. We don't have anything here. We don't have anything in other parts of the country. We need to address this now. If we don't deal with it now, I'll be calling in 20 years' time because my life will still be unmanageable. I'll still be unhappy. I still won't be taking any joy in the things that I should be enjoying. That's what victims' services is for. We need them now. We need to address the problem now so that we can, for the want of a better explanation, accept and move forward.
Many people don't do that, unfortunately, and it has a far-reaching effect. It reaches the families, the siblings, the spouses.