Evidence of meeting #36 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was restitution.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Ross Toller  Deputy Commissioner, Transformation and Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada
  • Alexandra Budgell  Counsel, Department of Justice
  • Susan O'Sullivan  Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

5 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

From my perspective, it's basically saying that the priorities are in line with what the provinces see, and I think most Canadians would think that if there is an award, it should go to pay to support offenders' victims and issues around that.

I understand there were some other comments in other areas that aren't my expertise. I'll leave those to people who are better prepared to answer them.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Based on your extensive experience in community, as well as with victims, would you agree with the prioritized list that has been proposed?

5 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

Yes. My understanding is that there were discussions with the provinces and the territories, and that it's very much in line with what their priorities are as well.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Thank you for your time.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have another 30 seconds. We'll just give them to Mr. Scarpaleggia.

Mr. Scarpaleggia, you have seven minutes.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I'll step forward, as they say.

Thank you for your appearance and testimony.

To continue along the lines Ms. Young was following, in terms of the established order in the bill for distributing the proceeds from court awards.... Actually, I'll go off on a tangent. Mr. Lauzon was quite adamant in insisting that the families of offenders are victims as well. He talked a lot about that. I'm just curious as to how you view those comments. Obviously, they were not the object of the crime per se, but they have to live with the consequences. The idea here isn't to rank the victims. Obviously, the victim of the crime is the bigger victim.

How do you see this idea that the family members are victims as well?

5 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

I think you can look at that statement. I think it's reflective of the data that I used in my opening comments. When I used the data from 2009 for homicide, they indicate that 33% of the victims are family.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I'm talking about secondary victims, if you will, the affected family.

5 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

I think what's presented here in this bill is the right priority. I don't want to minimize any of the comments that talk about—

5 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

No, I'm not asking you to. But do you agree that in some way they're secondary victims and that's not to be ignored?

5 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

I'm here to speak about victims of crime. When you talk about victimization, there are many aspects to that, but I think that the priority laid out here is appropriate and is very much in line with what....

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Maybe my next question isn't pertinent, but once we've gone through the priority ranking, the bill says that if there's any money left over, it can go to the offender.

Do you think that residual amount should maybe be topped up or go to the direct victim? Do you think it should go to the dependants of the offender, who are secondary victims? How do you feel about the idea that if an amount is left, it can go into the offender's bank account?

5:05 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

I commented earlier that when we look at balance, after the courts have viewed a set of circumstances and information and have made a decision to award, we need to consider the needs of victims of crime and the payment of those debts. Therefore, when it comes to the balance, the priority will be there to ensure that the victims' needs are met through restitution, the federal victim surcharge, and child support. The remainder is something that the courts have determined.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

So you would say that the restitution order is just. When a court makes a restitution order, I imagine its says that the victim should be compensated so much. It's an imperfect world. They're trying to compensate the victim justly, but as you say, the victim lives with this for the rest of their life.

I suppose it's the best the court can do in certain circumstances, but we all know it is nowhere near enough. It never is enough. If somebody loses a family member, maybe there's restitution, but it never comes close to compensating for the loss of that family member. I understand that legally it's probably “correct”, but we all believe that the victim should get more.

You don't need to answer, because you mentioned why it's not appropriate for you to answer. That's why I'm saying that maybe the residual amount should go back up the list and compensate the victims, over and above the restitution order, or compensate the secondary victims, who are the dependants. They've lost their breadwinner because the person has committed a crime and is in jail, and so forth.

Anyway, you don't need to answer that.

5:05 p.m.

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Susan O'Sullivan

I think there's a bigger issue here. From what I've seen from the data that we can gather, there aren't going to be huge amounts of money. The bigger issue here is what are we doing in this country to ensure that we have proper restitution in place, that we are gleaning restitution and looking for ways to ensure that victims have the tangible supports they need? We need to be looking at avenues to do that.

There are some recommendations in the report we have put forward, Shifting the Conversation.

We also need to be looking at better solutions, on top of those, to ensure that victims have access to the services they need in a timely way. I could go on, but I know you have time limits. Sometimes services are available, but there are huge gaps and expertise is required, depending on the type of counselling the person is getting. There are people who specialize in trauma counselling.

I don't want to get too much into the service level, but we need to look at frameworks in our country that ensure that we properly look at restitution, that we look at other ways to ensure there are tangible supports in place for victims of crime. It's much bigger than what could potentially come out of these awards, from what I'm hearing on the data.