An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (establishment of the Office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Raymond Bonin  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 28, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

September 26th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On May 31, 2006 you invited members to comment on whether Bill C-279 would require a royal recommendation.

Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, I would appreciate your consideration on whether this bill requires a royal recommendation, since the bill proposes the creation of two new indices and modifies the purposes of the existing act.

The Speaker has previously ruled that the creation of a new office or purpose involves new costs, and therefore bills proposing such new offices or purposes require royal recommendations.

On November 22, 2004 your Honour ruled that a royal recommendation would be required for Bill C-243, an Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (establishment of the Office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada). In that ruling, you noted that:

--this bill would create the position of victims ombudsman of Canada, with remuneration for such officers and employees as are necessary to perform the functions and duties. It is abundantly clear that this legislative initiative would authorize the spending of public funds.

Similarly, on June 13, 2005 the Chair indicated:

Where it is clear that the legislative objective of a bill cannot be accomplished without the dedication of public funds to that objective, the bill must be seen as the equivalent of a bill effecting an appropriation.

The purpose of the existing DNA Identification Act is to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences. I would note that this Act was accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Section 3 of Bill C-279 would add an additional purpose, which is to identify missing persons via their DNA profiles.

Section 4 of Bill C-279 would follow-up on this additional purpose by requiring the establishment of two new indices under the national DNA databank to be administered by the databank commissioner.

Given that it would create an addition purpose and new program requirements which would modify the purpose of the DNA Identification Act, and result in significant new expenditures, the bill should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

April 20th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I think you will find unanimous consent for me to withdraw my Bill C-243.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

April 20th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Finance. In accordance with its order of reference of Friday, February 25, the committee has considered votes 1, 5, 10, L15, 30 and 35 under Finance in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006, and reports the same.

(Bill C-243. On the Order: Private Members' Business:)

Second reading and reference to Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparednesss of Bill C-243, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (establishment of the Office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada)--Member for Nickel Belt

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2004 / noon
See context

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to rise today to address Bill C-243, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act which proposes the establishment of what is referred to as the office of victims ombudsman of Canada.

I was indeed honoured to second them motion by the hon. member for Nickel Belt. I know the member has given a great deal of thought to the bill, and I recognize his efforts to address an issue that is of concern to members of the House.

The government could not be more serious about addressing the concerns and needs of victims, improving the services available to them and enhancing the crucial role victims play throughout each stage of Canada's criminal justice system. In recognition of these responsibilities and the more general responsibility for improving public safety in all Canadian communities, all aspects of the criminal justice and corrections systems are under constant and rigorous review by the government.

Whereas many aspects of the criminal justice deal in objective determinations of fact, dry debates concerning the interpretation of statutes or logical considerations related to policing and corrections, the situation of victims is a unique element which touches the heart in a very profound way. Whether one has been a victim of a serious crime, is acquainted or related to a victim or is merely exposed to their stories by way of the media, their stories are often deeply poignant.

At some point, I am certain that most members of this hon. House have communicated with constituents on this issue, be they victims of crime or third parties who seek to further the cause of victims, and have personal experience regarding how heart-rendering the plight of victims can indeed be.

However, I am pleased to state that there has been in the last 15 years or so a growing awareness of victims' issues. A lot of it is by the onus of the victims themselves and their collective efforts. A good deal of progress in this area has been made at the federal level as well as the provincial and territorial levels as a result of cross jurisdictional cooperation.

In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to commend those outside of government who tirelessly dedicate themselves to advancing the interests of the victims. They have proved themselves to be invaluable partners in developing the initiatives that have been introduced thus far and in the important work that continues on this issue, which I would like to address before turning to the merits of the bill before us today.

A major step forward was taken in 1989, when amendments were made to the Criminal Code to allow for victim impact statements, for victim fine surcharges and to improve restitution in compensation measures. Three years later, in 1992, another important milestone was the recognition of the role of victims, when Parliament enacted the Corrections and Conditional Release Act or CCRA. This act replaced the Penitentiary Act and the Parole Act and became the primary legal framework governing the federal corrections system, guiding the operations of the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board. The enactment of the CCRA marked the introduction of legislatively mandated victim participation in the corrections and conditional release processes.

Since the CCRA came into force in 1992, a number of initiatives have been adopted to respond to the calls of victims and their advocates for case specific and general information. For example, the National Parole Board has appointed community liaison officers and the Correctional Service of Canada has appointed victim liaison coordinators at their respective regional offices, community parole offices and correctional institutions. These officials provide victims with excellent services, such as information about offenders of interest and about the correctional system in general.

Moreover, to address recommendations as set out by the report of the all party Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “Victims Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”, Bill C-79, which was brought into force on December 1, 1999, amended the Criminal Code: to ensure that victims are informed about the opportunities to prepare and read a victim impact statement if they should choose to do so; to require police and judges to consider the safety of the victims in all bail decisions; to expand protections for young victims and witnesses testifying at trial; and to require all offenders to automatically pay a victim surcharge, that is an additional monetary penalty, intended to increase revenue for provinces and territories to expand and improve victim services.

When the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was enacted on November 1, 1992, it contained a stipulation that a comprehensive review of the act be undertaken after five years. To address this obligation, the solicitor general of the time released the consultation paper entitled--

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2004 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Nickel Belt for his hard work for victims. The points he made earlier about what he would like the government to do have been duly noted. We will work with him on those items.

I am pleased to join in the discussion of private member's Bill C-243, proposing the establishment of an ombudsman for victims of crime.

I think that this debate would be well founded by setting the context for this proposed alternative.

To this end, I will briefly set out the current state of victims in our criminal justice system with reference to recent history. In particular, I shall refer to the area of corrections where victims can participate in the administration of the sentences of those offenders who are of interest to them.

I must emphasize that the majority of victims do not seek intimate involvement in the circumstances surrounding a trial, conviction, sentencing and eventual release of the offenders who have wronged them. Many choose, instead, to leave justice to the justice system. They do not request additional information or ask that they be allowed to participate by giving information about an offender. That does not mean that those who do wish this type of approach should not be considered and considered very seriously.

The movement to provide more inclusive processes for victims of crime who do maintain an interest in the outcome of cases has gained momentum in Canada over the past decade.

In 1992, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act recognized the interests of victims and introduced entitlements relating to corrections and conditional release.

Victims could, on request, receive certain information about the offender who had harmed them. They could attend National Parole Board hearings as observers and they could receive copies of board decisions, including the reasons for the decision. The act also recognized the value of information that victims could provide to decision makers for risk assessment and conditional release consideration. Subsequently, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights issued two reports dealing with victims' issues.

In October 1998, the first, entitled “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”, addressed the significance of the interests of victims and supported their greater involvement with the corrections and conditional release. It recommended a number of changes to the Criminal Code of Canada and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The government enacted a number of amendments to the Criminal Code in June 1999 in what hon. members will remember as Bill C-79. However, changes to the corrections legislation were left in abeyance pending the report of a parliamentary standing committee then conducting the five-year review of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The standing committee report on its review of the correctional legislation was tabled in May 2000. Entitled “A Work in Progress”, the report found the Canadian federal correctional system to be basically sound. Where the need for improvement was noted, victims' issues were addressed as a priority.

Six recommendations were made to enhance the involvement of victims in corrections and conditional release: advise victims of inmate transfers; provide victims with information on offender program participation, institutional conduct and new offences; prevent unwanted communications from federal inmates to victims; allow victims to read a prepared statement at National Parole Board hearings; allow access for victims to the audio tapes of National Parole Board hearings; and establish a national office to provide information, investigate complaints and report findings.

In November 2000, in response to the standing committee, the Ministry of the Solicitor General, now Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, set out a comprehensive strategy based on consultation and involvement of all relevant stakeholders, with particular emphasis on victims and their advocates. This strategy provided balance, addressing the respective needs, concerns and privacy rights of both victims and offenders.

The response acknowledged that the portfolio, through its correctional agencies, was not the sole or primary service provider to victims. Rather, Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board are key partners with other orders of government and community based groups that must work collaboratively to coordinate and provide improved information and services for victims.

In building the strategy, the government recognized the input of victims collected in 39 consultation sessions across the country, which indicated that victims wanted more access to information earlier in the process and more opportunities to be heard and to provide information. It recognized that these things could best be achieved with an approach that sought to understand and address the underlying needs that created victims' requests and interest. In this context the response was founded on an open, citizen-centred approach that emphasized timely information and assistance for victims.

The Victims Policy Centre at the Department of Justice was consulted in the preparation of an integrated model for service delivery. The response was therefore consistent and complementary with the ongoing endeavours of the Department of Justice.

In March 2001, the Department of the Solicitor General, as it then was, in collaboration with the National Parole Board and the Correctional Service of Canada, conducted national consultations with victims of crime and victim service providers. Eight meetings were held in major cities across Canada. The report of these consultations, “National Consultation with Victims of Crime: Highlights and Key Messages”, was released in August 2001.

The National Parole Board also held 31 sessions in smaller communities to seek input on how best to implement the proposed changes to the corrections and conditional release processes so they would be of greatest benefit to victims.

During the consultation process, victims told the government that they wanted a voice, a real say, in the justice process, not to be vengeful but rather to create fairness and to have their concerns considered in decisions that would have an impact on their safety, their families and their community.

In addition, they expressed a wish to be treated with respect in all dealings with the criminal justice system and its individual representatives. Victims reinforced the need for comprehensive victim centred information, information on their specific case, information regarding how the criminal justice system worked generally and information about where to obtain help and counselling.

I again congratulate the member for Nickel Belt. Our government has responded in the past to the needs of victims. There is more to be done. We look forward to working with the member in his initiative. We all share the same objective, that victims deserve our attention, they deserve the right to information and they deserve the right to participate in the justice system. As a government, we will strive to do that.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2004 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the bill brought forward by the hon. member for Nickel Belt. I congratulate him for the effort he has expended. He gave a very comprehensive speech outlining what Bill C-243 would do which, in essence, is the creation of a victims' ombudsman's office. This has been an issue that I have personally supported for a great deal of time, having worked with victims as a crown prosecutor and a defence lawyer prior to that, and having worked on a number of cases involving horrible victimization where for practical reasons there was not the necessary support there at the time.

We have come a long way in providing the type of support that is more than just financial and, as the hon. member referred to in his remarks, that is there within the community to provide support and information that allows victims to feel that their voices are being heard within the criminal justice system.

Steve Sullivan and those who work with the victims' resource centre have advocated the creation of this position for some time. I moved a private member's motion in 1998 calling for similar provisions on behalf of the government to properly fund a victims' office that would have at least the equivalent budget of the correctional investigator.

There is a terrible anomaly, which I would describe as perverse, that within our justice system we would have, for lack of a better phrase, a one stop shopping office for prisoners where they have complaints but not a similar commensurate budget and office for victims. The bill would address that anomaly. It would establish the office, provide a voice and an active place where victims and members of the family can go.

I also support the expansion of the definition of victims and streamlining a process that allows victims to access the resource to travel. With the very nature of this country and the fact that families move, in many cases they live thousands of kilometres from their loved ones. When instances occur where people have been victimized, where they have had their dignity stripped away, where they have had a personal invasion upon their being, the first people they should be able to turn to are their families. Being able to provide the necessary resources and support to get them there during a trial, during a parole hearing, in the aftermath of these horrible instances that occur is a very laudable goal.

I would suggest as well that within the context of this discussion we should talk about the ability for victims to be compensated when they are off work for considerable periods of time, which is often the result of being victimized or having a family member caught, through no fault of his or her own, in the cycle that then follows a crime when the justice system kicks in. Sadly it is a matter of delay in many instances.

Having a support network of people and resources to insulate in some cases the victims and their families from the normal stresses and trials and tribulations that come along is something we should be doing, and through this victims' ombudsman's office, we would be putting in place concrete and very real support networks.

Having said that, it has to be properly funded. The hon. member would know that the lack of funding has been a serious problem. In fact there have been recent reports, even in today's paper, regarding the discussion around the necessary support. Just to do with parole hearings, there was an estimate that it would cost roughly $1.7 million a year.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime received information under access to information with respect to travel that produced these figures and that the federal government has shied away from making that commitment. Hopefully this private member's bill will address that, will turn the government's mind to the importance of this. We need to keep this increased pressure coming. We need to see that the bill not only passes through Parliament but receives the adequate funding.

I would strongly urge the government to institute a royal recommendation to see that the bill does become law in the life of this Parliament. We need to give it priority and put it forward with the cooperation of all members, and I think we will see that. This is clearly a bill where there is unanimous support coming from both government and opposition benches.

This type of office, as I said, is a responsive, responsible and respectful approach that will provide victims with the ability to access the information they need to get the actual support required when these things occur. I would suggest as well that, as outlined by the hon. member, the research that goes into providing the type of background that victims require in many cases is very much caught up in the overall picture, the overall purpose.

In regard to information sharing, victims do not want to be revictimized by the terrible aggravation and frustration when they cannot find out when parole hearings are taking place or when they have been cancelled, sometimes at the last minute. When they have to travel to be there for court hearings they simply want to know what is happening.

It is an extremely impersonal system and victims are often left feeling out of the loop with the crown prosecutor, police, judges, lawyers and even the victims office that currently exists. We have many of those offices and many individuals working very diligently on behalf of people who have found themselves unwittingly into the justice system, people like Coreen Popowich in New Glasgow and Judy Whitman, who do wonderful work daily to support those who have found themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of being victims.

I know that at the provincial level as well there is a great receptiveness to this initiative and a great willingness to work cooperatively at all levels of government to see that this office is put in place. It is truly a measure of this country's humanity, the way in which we treat victims, the way in which we respond in a personal way reaching out, giving them a sense that somebody cares and that there is compassion in the aftermath of what could be a life-altering occurrence when people find themselves victimized. The feeling that they have had their dignity taken away is something that has to be addressed.

This system and office will have to be extremely sensitive in assuring that this is not done in a callous way and is not depersonalized further. I suggest it will require and of the system to have good people working in the office, which will require the financial commitment to which the hon. member has also referred.

The financial assistance for people to travel to national parole briefings is a big part of any success. Many terrible occurrences and many shortcomings have been outlined in recent days of parole hearings that went awry and resulted in individuals being released too early, those who were in halfway houses on mandatory release, or statutory release as it is referred to, cause a great deal of mistrust and a great deal of cynicism within the justice system itself.

I am encouraged to see this legislation coming forward from the hon. member for Nickel Belt. I am encouraged by the initial response and the initial support that it will receive I am sure today through the debate but, more important, as I said earlier, the government will have to get behind the legislation. The preference would be that the bill itself came from the government and not through a private member. To that end again, a royal recommendation is what will be necessary for this to become law.

The legislation is comprehensive. It can be added to, as the hon. member said. It is one that at least provides some parity with victims and recognizes that their rights are implicit within the justice system as well, and that they are playing an important role in some of the decisions that occur around their own lives after they have found themselves victimized.

The legislation, as it appears before the House is something the Conservative Party supports very strongly. I know my colleague from St. John's also supports this, as do members in the House. We look forward to the bill moving forward quickly. I think if it passes through the House in an expeditious way and receives the royal recommendation and the support from the minister, we could have it in law as soon as Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas gift that would be for victims in Canada to see this new victim's ombudsman office opened and providing them with the critical support and information that they so badly need and deserve.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2004 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak today in the debate on private member's Bill C-243, which I have proposed and which creates the office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada.

The prime objective of this office, which will be completely independent from the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board, is to act as a voice and an advocate for the victims of crime. It will conduct investigations, reviews of Correctional Service or Parole Board policies and studies into the problems of victims related to decisions, recommendations, policies, acts or omissions of the service or the board.

Moreover, this bill will require the Victims Ombudsman to maintain a program for communicating information to victims concerning the function of the Victims Ombudsman and the circumstances under which an investigation, a review of Correctional Service or Parole Board policies or a study may be commenced by the Victims Ombudsman. Thus, the bill concerns the rights of victims and the way these rights are respected.

The purpose behind establishing the Victims Ombudsman is the same as for all other organizations sharing the principles of justice, fairness and administrative responsibility for victims, by requiring that the public servants in the Correctional Service and Parole Board be accountable to the Victims Ombudsman when one of their decisions is directly linked to an act that harms an individual.

I stand in the House today to offer legislation that would give victims of crimes a voice and an advocate in our correctional system. The bill is founded on four guiding principles.

First, the correctional system belongs to Canadians, to our society. It is run by officials for the people of Canada. It does not belong to those officials, no matter what their professional credentials.

Second, for justice to be done it must be seen to be done. Under the current system, once an accused is convicted, custody is transferred to a correctional system that offers very little information on how sentences are served.

Corrections officials would have us believe that this process is best, that they know best, to trust them, and that they have an obligation to protect the privacy of inmates.

Others see it in another way. It is a convenient way to make decisions that cannot be justified to the public and certainly a more convenient forum in which to hide mistakes. And by way of leaks and reports provided to reporters, we know that there are mistakes.

All we have to do is look at the case of Michael Hector, who was released from penitentiary and then murdered three people. What of the case of Constable Joe MacDonald, who was executed by two individuals, Suzack and Pennett? A few short years after his conviction, Suzack was transferred from maximum to medium security. Joe MacDonald's family and the community were hurt, offended and outraged, but that did not matter to corrections officials who believed they knew better, so nothing was done.

Third, Canadians are reasonable, intelligent and wise. They understand fair play. They understand the importance of rehabilitation and can distinguish between a proper and improper way of administering a sentence.

The air of secrecy surrounding how sentences are served and administered only fuels distrust of our corrections system. Open the doors and windows into the system and it will be found that Canadians will support reasoned approaches to corrections and some of that distrust will fade away. In the end, a better system will emerge.

Finally, and most important, victims want and need a voice and advocate in the corrections system. When a crime is committed, public policy dictates that it is to be prosecuted and treated as a crime against society. That is a fair way to proceed to ensure a fair and just penal system as long as we stop to consider the individual who has actually suffered the loss and hurt. That individual and that individual's family carry the physical and emotional burden of the crime. Any fair and just system must take those views into consideration, notably in the administration of a court ordered sentence.

In my life, I have met victims and their families. Those meetings are not easy and can be very emotional. However, it has always struck me that their requests are so very simple: explain the process to me; keep me informed; who can I talk to when I have a question; and, how and when are my needs and views taken into account?

For whatever reason, the federal corrections system has failed to adequately respond to victims on all those matters. How do I know? Victims have had to contact me, their member of Parliament, to get basic information that should be provided in an automatic fashion.

In one case, a unilingual anglophone victim was given a contact number in which the voice mail was in unilingual French. Despite attempts to correct the situation, the victim had to contact my office to get results. That is simply not acceptable and is the result of a system that is insensitive and not responsive to the needs of victims and their families. It is neither equipped nor eager to serve the legitimate needs of victims.

I firmly believe that this must change. A victim needs to know that justice is being done and how it is being done. This information does not always heal the wounds, but it can help bring closure to a hurtful situation. One thing is certain: a corrections system that does not respond to the needs of victims does add to the hurt and unnecessarily prolongs the healing process. That is simply no longer acceptable.

How would this bill help? Simply put, this bill would establish an independent ombudsman for victims within the corrections system. This ombudsman would be the bridge between the corrections system and victims. He or she would be independent, educate victims, investigate their complaints and ensure that corrections officials properly respond to their needs.

The ombudsman would also work to ensure that the system becomes more sensitive and responsive to the needs of victims. This would include reports to Parliament on how the system is doing and what changes are required.

All in all, the ombudsman would make sure that those victims and their families will be able to understand the process, be kept informed, ensure that a qualified and competent official is available to answer their questions, and make sure that their needs are responded to and their voices are heard.

Having an advocate for victims in the corrections system is a reasonable and logical measure. There are three sides to every crime: the offender; society as represented by the state; and the victim who suffers the hurt and loss. In our corrections system, the offender is represented by the correctional investigator, who acts like an ombudsman for prisoners, and the state is represented by corrections officials, but the victim has no representative. It is time to change this unacceptable and unfortunate situation.

It is my hope that this Parliament will see the wisdom in establishing an ombudsman for victims. I trust that members of Parliament will reach the consensus that providing victims with a voice and an advocate will improve our corrections system and that by providing a mechanism by which victims can have their complaints investigated we will advance the transparency and accountability of the system.

Victims need and want to be heard. I trust that the House is listening. While something has been accomplished for victims over the years, much remains to be done. With the goodwill and effort of everyone in the House, I know we will get there, but there are specific improvements that I am calling on the government to make.

First, we should change the law to make it clearer that victims have the right to make a statement at National Parole Board hearings. The board does this in practice now and I applaud it for making this change, but the law needs to make it clearer that we can never backtrack on this.

Second, we should expand the definition of who is a victim so that the people taking care of injured victims or young victims can have the same access to information as any other victim. Where the victims are not able to speak for themselves, there has to be respect for those around them who can speak for them.

Third, when victims are unable to attend the hearing or do not want to attend but still want to know exactly what went on, arrangements should be made for them to listen to a tape recording of the parole hearing.

Fourth, we should authorize the National Parole Board and the Correctional Service to provide victims with the gist of information about an offender's participation in treatment and programs. Victims are not interested in revenge. They want to know that the offender who has harmed them is getting treatment, hopefully, and will not again harm anyone. Years can go by with victims having no idea if the offender is doing anything productive or is just doing time.

Fifth, we should provide financial assistance to victims who wish to attend parole hearings. This is something we hear from victims constantly. They would like to attend the parole hearing and they have the right to attend the parole hearing, but they cannot afford the cost.

Sixth, we should create a dedicated independent position that would have the authority to receive questions and complaints from victims, follow up on those matters and report to the minister through the deputy minister. This is what I have been trying to do with my bill. It is absolutely essential that this office be independent and separate from the parole board and the Correctional Service and that it have the ear of the minister. Victims need to know who to call. They need to know that they will not be passed from pillar to post.

These are all measures under the authority of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Let me also say a few words about what I am calling upon the Minister of Justice to do.

I would like to see greater coordination and leadership of all federal government victim programs so that we are sure every department is playing the full role it should in responding to victims' needs. It may be, for example, that a victim is a war veteran and we would need to be sure that Veterans Affairs is coordinated with other partners.

I would like to see more comprehensive policy and legislative development so that we can be proactive and not always play catch-up in meeting victims needs. We also need more research to identify the effectiveness of our victim programs and to identify new trends or issues.

We should not forget that sometimes Canadians are victims abroad. For example, Canadians were injured in the tragic bombing in Bali last year. We need to be able to support them when they need help. We need to be sure that our embassies have the right training to do so.

I am also calling on the government to do more to help victims in the three northern territories, where the Attorney General of Canada is responsible for criminal prosecutions. Not only are there challenges in the north due to the remoteness of some communities, there are particular cultural issues that must be addressed in meeting the needs of victims.

I would also like to see better information about existing victims' services and how to assess them. This should also encompass making sure that there is consistency in victims' services across the country. I have just referred to gaps in the north, but this applies in other areas as well.

Last, I call on the government to expand the resources it has to develop new programs and services. Many of these can be done by community organizations if they have the money. I know that the Minister of Justice is a firm believer in restorative justice, and that approach is centred on helping communities help themselves.

If the government would take action on all these fronts, then maybe there would be fewer complaints from victims, less frustration and more chances for victims to heal and to move forward with their lives. We all want that. and victims deserve nothing less.

It is time for action. Victims of crime need our support and expect that their elected representatives in this noble institution will act as quickly as possible to give them a voice and an advocate who can protect their rights from a system that seems, increasingly, to care nothing for the safety of ordinary citizens.

I look forward to a fruitful debate on the bill and I invite members who support a stronger voice for victims of crime to lend their support and speak in favour of Bill C-243.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2004 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

The Speaker

The Chair has examined Bill C-243, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (establishment of the Office of the Victims Ombudsman of Canada) to determine whether its provisions would require a royal recommendation and thus prevent the Chair from putting the question at third reading.

As its title suggests, this bill would create the position of victims ombudsman of Canada, with remuneration for such officers and employees as are necessary to perform the functions and duties. It is abundantly clear that this legislative initiative would authorize the spending of public funds. In accordance with Standing Order 79(2), such a bill must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Therefore, in its present form, I will decline to put the question on third reading unless a royal recommendation is received for this bill.

Today, the debate is on the motion for second reading which will continue as scheduled.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2004 / 11 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

moved that Bill C-243, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (establishment of the Office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada)be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

October 28th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-243, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (establishment of the Office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada).

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to table my private member's bill entitled, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, establishment of the office of victims ombudsman of Canada.

The bill is about a more accountable correctional system and a system that is more sensitive and more responsive to the victims of crime.

By creating an office of ombudsman for victims, the House will send a strong message that our justice system must be more responsive to the hurt, loss and needs of victims. By establishing a formal system of assistance and advocacy for victims, their perspectives will receive proper consideration and attention within our correctional system. This will improve the system as well as enhance accountability to the public.

I invite all members interested in the issue of victims' rights and the improvement of our correctional system to join in a serious and reflective debate on this important issue.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)