Evidence of meeting #39 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 victims.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Steve Sullivan  Former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, As an Individual
  • Michael Anderson  Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you.

I'm going to go to Mr. Sullivan now, just to change direction a little bit.

How much time do I have?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have a minute and a half.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Sullivan, from the work you've done on behalf of victims and with victims, can you tell us a bit about what it means to victims—even the psyche of being a victim—to have, for example, a government not recognize that an offender should be held accountable by way of being asked to pay restitution? We've heard some testimony that some judges aren't always awarding restitution, and then there's a problem, because obviously you can't collect what hasn't even been awarded.

It's not about the money, because money can never repay or redo the harm that has been done to victims. But I think there's a message that has been sent in the past, and I think it is one of the things this bill is trying to change. The message has been that offenders, because of where they are located, aren't necessarily under the same rules as the rest of Canadians, even in terms of their civil obligations to pay debts.

Can you explain to us, from the work you've done, what it would do for a victim to know that if a restitution order has been placed on the offender and the offender comes into money, it would be paid to them?

3:50 p.m.

Former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, As an Individual

Steve Sullivan

I can say that restitution is unfortunately rarely ordered by the courts, and most often it is for property offences. One of the requirements of the code is that you have an actual set amount. If it's a broken TV and I know that my TV cost $500, I can give that to the court.

Courts have discretion around providing orders of restitution in non-property related expenses, but those are often difficult to quantify. So when it comes to a sentence that often takes place quickly because there's a plea bargain and all those things, restitution is rarely part of the sentence.

It often can be very frustrating for victims who expect to receive the restitution. Often, it's coupled with probation orders. A guy would get a provincial sentence and a probation order, and if he doesn't pay the restitution order at the end of his sentence, it's up to the victim to go to civil court to try to get that money back. That's not a practical process for most victims of crime. They just don't have the means or, frankly, sometimes the energy to go through that.

So it's doubly frustrating when someone is ordered to pay restitution and doesn't do it. What we know from the research is that victims often appreciate even the attempt to provide restitution. Let's say someone owes you $1,000, is making efforts to pay it back, and gives you $100. So it might take years, but that attempt is more meaningful for victims than government compensation.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Hoeppner.

We'll move to Mr. Garrison, please, for seven minutes.

May 10th, 2012 / 3:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both witnesses for appearing today.

I want to start with some questions or remarks from Mr. Anderson. We very much appreciate your testimony, in particular with regard to the problem of awards through the Indian residential schools settlements.

I'd like to pursue that a little more with you but also let you know that we on the NDP side have prepared an amendment to exempt those settlements because of other concerns we've heard. If I understood correctly what you were saying, there are a couple of problems if they are included.

One is that including them takes reconciliation out of the cultural context. The other seems to be that it takes away agency from the person who needs to make his or her own decision to pursue that reconciliation.

Is that a correct understanding of what you were saying?

3:50 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

Yes, those are both components of what we were saying. But also, of course—and importantly—the payments themselves are reconciliatory in their root; that is, intended to reconcile the adverse impacts upon the individual of the Indian residential school system. They're intended as an important part of that individual's healing process. So this undoes the intent and objective of that award.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Have you seen—

3:50 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

The other aspect—

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I'm sorry. Go ahead.

3:50 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

The other important part, though, is this. I mentioned our emphasis on restorative and community-based justice systems. We place a great deal of significance on those initiatives, because within our communities we want to bring victims and offenders face to face to resolve the issues between them. We believe that reconciliation—as distinct from enforcement and incarceration approaches—is absolutely critical to public safety in our communities and, we would say, also to all Canadians.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

You've actually just covered my second question, so I have one last question I would ask today.

Have you seen examples of settlements through the Indian residential school agreements that have been part of the reconciliation process and have been shared out to others in the community?

3:50 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

Well, as a matter of restitution with a person who they may have offended in some manner in their life...?

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Yes.

3:50 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

I do know that the settlement payments can be distributed within the communities to do good things in terms of the purchase of needed hunting and harvesting equipment to improve the lives of individual families.

In some cases, that may indirectly improve the lives of persons they may have adversely affected. I don't have an example of direct correlation that I can speak to at this point.

Generally, the concept in our first nations is community. When someone begins to take steps within the community to share the benefit of their healing process and also the physical outcome of that in terms of equipment that might be needed by the community to harvest, to make repairs to homes, and things like that, those steps are benefiting a large number of individuals and in general more widely benefiting the community as a whole.