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Results: 106 - 120 of 110573
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
View Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu Profile
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
2022-06-21 16:28
Thank you, Chair.
I would like to inform you that I will have to leave very early because I have to be at the Senate at 5 o'clock. Monsieur Lametti is there. As the deputy chair of our justice committee, I have to be with him at that time.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today regarding the study of the federal government's obligations to victims of crime.
As most of you know, since my daughter Julie was raped and murdered by a repeat offender 20 years ago tomorrow, and given that there was no legislation at the time for victims of crime and their families, I have dedicated my life to recognizing, enhancing, and protecting these hard-won rights so that victims never again feel abandoned by our federal institutions nor by our justice system.
The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, to which I personally contributed, was passed in 2015 under the leadership of Mr. Harper. The bill of rights plays a critical role in recognizing and protecting victims' rights.
I'm here to discuss improvements the federal government should make on this front. I'll start by addressing the first issue: a lack of consideration with respect to the position of ombudsman for victims of crime. This position has been vacant for nine months, despite awareness of the contract end date three years ago. In 2017, it was vacant for almost eleven months before it was finally filled.
The ombudsman plays a vital role in federal institutions by protecting victims' rights and ensuring that the government fulfills its responsibilities. They are also a voice for victims in the media, raising awareness among Canadians of the many issues the government must be asked to address. No ombudsman is currently conveying the anger of victims' families and speaking out against violations of their rights in the public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting, for example.
To keep this from ever happening again, the ombudsman must be independent. Legislation should be enacted to make the ombudsman an officer of Parliament like the Correctional Investigator, who is, in essence, the ombudsman for offenders. Finally, the ombudsman should be the defender of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and have sole jurisdiction over complaints from victims of crime.
I'd like to reiterate an important fact in support of my statement. In 2017, Bill C‑343 was introduced in the House of Commons to address this issue. All parties supported it, except the Liberals, who were against having an ombudsman for victims similar to and on equal footing with the ombudsman for offenders.
I'll now address a second issue, the five-year review of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.
Unfortunately, and as you well know, the bill of rights should have been reviewed in 2020. This further delay sends a negative message out to victims when the government has had obligations to honour since 1985 under the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.
Currently, the Canadian bill of rights doesn't include all the rights set out in the UN declaration, namely compensation and other services to victims, such as medical, psychological, legal and social assistance.
The final report released in 2020 on the review of Canada's criminal justice system shows that victims still find it very difficult to report crimes to the police for fear of retaliation or that their case will not be taken seriously. When they do end up in the justice system, they experience a lack of compassion and respect. That's why it's crucial that a five-year review be done to address any shortcomings in the bill of rights that adversely affect victims.
The 2020 progress report on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights by the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime specifically recommends nine amendments to the bill, two of which I believe should be addressed urgently.
First, when their rights have been violated, victims have no recourse before the courts. To address this issue, the report's first recommendation would be to grant them the right to appeal when their rights are not upheld.
The second recommendation concerns restitution orders. This is the twelfth recommendation. It aims to provide victims with judicial support to make offenders pay the restitution they owe.
Finally, I'd like to point out that, since 2015, I've been waiting for the Government of Canada to pass legislation to improve victims' rights. Take women who are victims of domestic violence, for example.
Does it make any sense that, in 2022, even though we have modern ways to better control men's violent behaviour, women have to risk their lives to report abuse, when the government is urging victims to come forward?
Why are murderers, even once they are in prison, allowed to post photographs of themselves with the one they murdered on social media? Why do families have to fight with social media for months to get them to take action?
That's one way the bill of rights could have been improved if you had been the ombudsman for victims of crime. When I say “you”, I mean the Parliament of Canada.
In conclusion, committee members, I would add that 20 years ago, victims made the decision to break out of their prison of silence, to speak out and to demand nothing less than to be treated fairly, on an equal footing with the accused under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Victims and their families don't want more rights than criminals. They want and deserve the same rights. It's up to Parliament to recognize that.
Thank you.
I'd be pleased to answer your questions if time permits.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Senator. I appreciate your time.
Next we have Families for Justice.
Markita Kaulius and Holly Lucier, you have five minutes between you. The floor is yours.
Markita Kaulius
View Markita Kaulius Profile
Markita Kaulius
2022-06-21 16:35
Thank you very much, honourable members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Thank you for allowing me to be here today.
My name is Markita Kaulius. I am the founder and president of Families for Justice. I am here today representing thousands of Canadian families who have lost our children and loved ones, killed by impaired drivers in Canada.
On May 3, 2011, my 22-year-old daughter Kassandra was killed by an impaired driver. My daughter was driving home after coaching a softball game. She was stopped at a red light and had the right-of-way to make a left-hand turn. As she waited for traffic to pass, a white van came speeding down the curb lane. The stoplight for the van had already been red for 12 seconds. The van accelerated the last 500 feet of the intersection, got airborne over railway tracks and slammed into my daughter's vehicle. She was killed in a catastrophic collision when she was T-boned in the driver's side door. Kassandra was crushed to death by 3,000 lbs. of steel crashing into the side of her at 103 kilometres an hour. The driver then fled the scene of the collision. The driver was two and a half times over the legal limit to drive.
Sadly, instead of becoming the teacher she had dreamed of being, my daughter became another statistic of impaired driving. She lost her life because another impaired driver made the willful, reckless choice to drink and then drive while being impaired. My family and I received a lifetime sentence of being without our daughter. Sadly, Kassandra received a death sentence.
Impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. Each year impaired driving leaves a terrible trail of death, injury, heartbreak and destruction. From that point of view of numbers alone, it has a far greater impact on Canadian society than any other crime. On average, between 1,250 to 1,500 people are killed each year in Canada, and thousands more are injured. In terms of deaths and serious injuries resulting in hospitalization, impaired driving is clearly the crime that causes the most significant social loss to this country.
Since the legalization of marijuana in 2018 by the federal government, we have seen drug-impaired driving collisions rise by 43%. The percentage of Canadian drivers killed in vehicle crashes who test positive for drugs now exceeds the number who test positive for alcohol.
Criminal victimization of crime is a frightening and unsettling experience for thousands of Canadians, and the victimization is debilitating. The effects can also be long term and difficult to overcome. Not only do we suffer physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially from our victimization; we are also often burdened by the complexity of the criminal justice system.
I have spoken with hundreds of families who say they felt retraumatized after going through the criminal justice system. They never felt their needs were being addressed or listened to, which in turn made their grieving process last so much longer. Individuals who are killed never have a voice or get to speak of the trauma they endured, and their families are trying to seek justice for their loved one. The families wait for months, or even years, for the Crown to approve charges. Then they must go through numerous court proceedings, which can take years due to postponements with the lack of judges and court availability.
Then plea deals are made. Many times, charges are dropped down to a single charge altogether. When the accused finally gets to court, it doesn't seem like the accused is on trial. It seems like the investigation is on trial, and the accused has more rights than the victims. If the accused is convicted at all, they are sentenced by using case law from previous cases where a similar sentence was given out. Often these sentences are so low, the accused is back out in the community in just a few days or months. We have seen cases take longer to go to trial than the actual jail time given out, even when the offences were serious. Families feel revictimized, as the accused has paid little debt to society.
Canadians have begun to doubt not only the safety of their surroundings but also the fairness and efficiency of the justice system set up to protect them and their property. Canadians would like to see changes to Canada's criminal justice system. Canadians feel there are several justice issues, including confidence in the system, crime rates and parole. The focus should be on several aspects of the criminal justice system, particularly sentencing and correction issues and assistance for victims.
Canadians believe that the main purpose of the courts and our criminal justice system is to protect society, and Canadians believe that the system should act as a deterrent to criminals and should function to punish offenders who commit crimes against society.
Sadly, that is not the case in our Canada in our current justice system. Offenders are not being held accountable—
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Ms. Kaulius. We'll try to get more of your statement in the questions that will arise.
Next we have, from the Women's Law Association of Ontario, Jennifer Gold, for five minutes.
Jennifer Gold
View Jennifer Gold Profile
Jennifer Gold
2022-06-21 16:40
Thank you.
I'm the past president of the Women's Law Association of Ontario.
Since 1919, the WLAO has been dedicated to empowering women in the legal profession by providing a collective voice and advocating for equality, diversity and change. Our members practise in various areas of law, and we draw upon their expertise when we are asked to make submissions.
I have practised family law for over 20 years and represent survivors of family violence. In addition to my work with the WLAO, I am a board member of Legal Aid Ontario and Pro Bono Ontario.
My fellow board member and chair of our advocacy committee couldn't be here today, but she practises criminal law and contributed to these submissions.
I also speak to you from my own personal experience as the child of a survivor of family violence. I spent a significant portion of my childhood witnessing that violence against my mother. I also witnessed my father's struggles with mental illness and addiction and his experience with racism as an immigrant.
By now, you've heard about the challenges and barriers faced by victims of crime and the inadequacy of our current supports for them. It is a gender issue, as most victims of crime are women, and my remarks today, however, will focus on solutions.
In studying the government's obligations to victims of crime, including the vacant position of the federal ombudsman and reviewing the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, this committee has an opportunity to create transformational change.
What is meant by that change? The WLAO seeks change that is systemic, that aims to alleviate such crime in the first place and truly serve victims and their children. A solution that does not consider the entirety of the issue at hand can be akin to treating the symptoms of the disease and not the cause.
Many societal problems are symptoms of larger systemic issues. For instance, family violence against women is a symptom of patriarchy. In considering solutions, we need to employ a lens that examines society in general and the interactions of the entire justice system broadly alongside individual issues, yet we do need those band-aids to stop the bleeding while we find a cure.
Some of the solutions involve, one, supports to navigate the current system. One of the issues for victims is the lack of information readily available to navigate the justice system and understand core processes. Some ideas to remedy this issue are, one, scale up the services and support offered by victim services and create a voluntary information program, similar to the mandatory information program for family law cases that provides guidance for litigants through the court system. Additional support could include a 24-hour counselling or resource hotline for victims. This could address the limited services that are available in remote and rural communities.
Two, fund counselling for victims, their children and survivors impacted by the crime. When possible, recover the cost of such services from the accused.
Three, utilize and fund provincial legal aid systems so that eligible victims can obtain representation. As an alternative to full representation, four-hour certificates can be given to victims to obtain a lawyer and to learn about the court process and criminal law itself. Additional funding could be given to legal aid programs so that family lawyers could pursue the tort of family violence; I've cited the case Ahluwalia and Ahluwalia. Additional funding can be given to legal aid clinics to assist victims with restitution for other types of cases.
Use technology to scale up services so that communications with victims can be tracked within an organization. For instance, Pro Bono Ontario uses Salesforce software to track calls through to their centre.
Amend sections 6 to 8 of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights so that the rights enshrined in those provisions do not put the burden on the victim to request information. Victims from historically marginalized groups may not feel comfortable making such requests. In addition, placing this burden on traumatized individuals may not be practical.
Create a federal statute to compensate victims of crime.
Options that allow victims to have some influence on the process is another solution. In our current systems, victims are framed as the object, as opposed to the subject. In order to address the objectification of victims, the following may work. First is the option to be added as a party. Second is allowing the victim to opt for restorative justice for both the accused and the victim. Third is increasing opportunities in the process for restorative justice programs.
Regarding the federal ombudsman, this position should be filled expeditiously, while ensuring a proper search is conducted. That office should be inclusive and diverse.
I have other suggestions for the big-picture, systemic considerations, but I see that I'm at the end of my time.
Thank you.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Ms. Gold.
Ms. Lucier, I think we have asked if you could submit your remarks to the clerk. We will have those composed in it, because your time was shared with Ms. Kaulius, but people may ask questions of you. By all means, they are able to do that.
I will begin the first six-minute round with Mr. Moore.
View Rob Moore Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing today. This is a really important study that we're doing on how we can improve laws in Canada and services as they pertain to victims.
I want to turn it over to you, Holly. I know you have prepared some remarks, and I know you're here with a strong message to tell. I met with you in the past, and you told me that you had written three victim impact statements in just the last two years on behalf of your daughter.
It has already come up in the discussion from panellists about revictimization through the process for family members. I will turn it over to you to answer that question, and maybe elaborate on how the process currently revictimizes families. If you want to present a bit from your prepared remarks, feel free to do so at this time as well.
Holly Lucier
View Holly Lucier Profile
Holly Lucier
2022-06-21 16:48
My daughter was killed on April 15, 2018 by an impaired driver. She had been crossing a road in a marked, lit up crosswalk and was blindsided by an F-150 pickup truck.
The time it took for our offender to be eventually convicted was torture for our family. It was a long, drawn-out process. It took two and a half years for the offender to plead guilty. A month following the sentencing of our offender, he applied for day parole. We had just barely made it through the sentencing hearing, after waiting two and a half years in complete devastation. Our lives were bankrupted of every imaginable morsel that you can think of. Then we get to sentencing. He gets three and a half years and then a month later applies for day parole. I literally wrote one victim impact statement for sentencing and a month later was writing a brand new statement for parole.
There is no support. Victims and their families are left to find advocates outside of the court processes. They are left to find advocacy and help from people outside of our own institutions. I don't see the help for victims and their families that I see for the offenders.
The current legislation creates unfair hardship for victims and their families because they aren't even recognized as victims of a violent crime. We were considered victims of a motor vehicle incident. They aren't recognized as victims of a violent crime by the courts or by provincial services for victims. That is causing even more undue hardship to victims and their families.
There needs to be a bill brought forward for victims' rights that would allow victims and their families to be recognized for the damages and suffering that they endure. It is time to change the narrative for victims and their families. It is time to change legislation and the entire way that impaired driving is regarded, so families don't have to keep living through this in the name of justice.
I think a number of things could be changed in our system to provide better support for victims and their families. The accused—the offenders—are provided free counselling as soon as they enter a guilty plea. There's no free counselling for victims and their families. We have to find that on our own. If you don't have the resources, if you've lost your job or you can't afford to pay for your own family anymore or keep a roof over your head, you can't afford therapy. It's a hardship that doesn't have to look like this for victims across the board. Families wouldn't have to suffer like this if we had better supports available through victim services.
The time it takes for matters to go through the courts is unnecessary. If the courthouses had better triage of their matters and actually had a person who was looking at the matters that are set down for trial by the Crown, we would be able to triage the courthouse files and get matters out of docket. We're taking too much time at the courts and it's actually costing innocent people and the families who are waiting.
Thank you for your time.
View Rob Moore Profile
Thank you, Holly.
I met with both you and Markita in the past. I'll turn this over to either one of you to answer.
You mentioned some of the supports that victims need and how you've found that these were totally lacking. That led you to become part of the organization you're with now to help other families who are going through similar things.
How should the system, which you already recognize provides a lot to offenders.... What types of services do you think victims' families are most in need of right now in Canada?
Holly Lucier
View Holly Lucier Profile
Holly Lucier
2022-06-21 16:52
I think that families going through the court processes are in need of mental health supports, financial assistance and we need to see our rights being recognized. I think a big part of it is the financial assistance for families and the mental health supports, not to mention the advocacy for their matter. Victim services will walk you through when your court dates are, when the next appearances are and what to expect for those types of things, but then you're left on your own. When many of the families go into court, they are blindsided. They come to me afterwards. I have spoken with many families, my own included. They come out of court and don't understand what just happened. They don't understand the process. They don't understand the decisions that were made and why. There isn't anybody there to follow up with them.
I think we need a number of things ranging from the supports for mental health to the financial assistance to proper advocacy, so our own establishment is helping the victims and their families and it's coming from within, not from the outside. It sends a dangerous message that offenders' rights are more important and that their lives are more valued than ours, yet we're the ones who are going through this. We're living it.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Moore.
Ms. Dhillon, you have six minutes.
View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank all the witnesses for coming today and sharing their very painful stories with the committee.
I'd like to start my questions with Ms. Gold.
As you know, recently the Supreme Court rendered a decision about extreme intoxication, and this has caused a lot of concern for victims organizations. Last week the government tabled legislation to address what the Supreme Court said.
What do you think of the government's swift action on this issue?
Thank you.
Jennifer Gold
View Jennifer Gold Profile
Jennifer Gold
2022-06-21 16:54
I applaud the government's swift action on this issue. I am aware of the decisions in R. v. Brown and R. v. Chan. Our association was at the technical reading of that bill, and at this stage all I can say is that we approve of the direction this government is going on it.
I didn't believe in a separate defence of extreme intoxication, so at this point that's what I can say. I need to take a proper, closer reading of the bill since it just came out.
View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much for your frank answer.
You also spoke about racism and systemic discrimination. Over the last few months our committee has studied Bill C-5 and passed it. This bill aims to address the overrepresentation of Black and indigenous people and people of colour in the criminal justice system.
We've heard some people saying that the bill is too soft on crime and pits community safety and victims' rights against constitutional rights and common sense in criminal law policy.
Do you think this bill would address the overrepresentation issue and that it necessarily goes against victims' rights when we talk about trying to balance both?
Jennifer Gold
View Jennifer Gold Profile
Jennifer Gold
2022-06-21 16:56
I can't speak to the bill specifically because I haven't reviewed it; however, speaking on a higher level about these issues, I would say there are rights that need to be balanced.
For instance, there was recently a report done in the city of Toronto regarding the targeting of Black and indigenous people. They are more likely to experience having a gun pulled on them when they are unarmed than is somebody who is white. I think that speaks to why we have a system in which indigenous and Black people are overrepresented in our jail system.
However, with respect to victims, I believe they also have a charter right to security of the person, which also needs to be balanced. You're talking about some pretty big issues here, but I think we have to recognize that our system has flaws with respect to systemic racism, patriarchy and the fact that little attention has been paid to victims.
I am not suggesting that we not fund legal aid to represent offenders or the accused. I am just suggesting that we provide some additional funding to support victims and to give them agency in the system.
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