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.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

All right.

I want to come back to the new ombudsman's appearance before our committee. She also talked about a program in the United States, whereby the offender, when he starts his sentence, is involved in the working out of a plan to repay his debts.

Do you think that kind of plan could be part of a rehabilitation program?

May 10th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, As an Individual

Steve Sullivan

I think it could be. In Bill C-10 there is, I think, more of an emphasis on encouraging offenders, as part of their correctional plan, to repay restitution orders and victim fine surcharges and those kinds of things.

I know that the Province of Saskatchewan has a program whereby the province provides assistance to victims, not in federal prisons, but just overall, in getting offenders to repay restitution orders. There is a lot of innovative work being done in North America and abroad that I think promotes restitution going to the victims, which can increase their satisfaction with the process but also can encourage offenders to take responsibility.

One of the benefits of restorative justice programs, and what we know from programs in which victims and offenders have a dialogue, is that restitution is much more likely to be paid. Offenders understand the harm they have done. They often have to face the person they've hurt, and they appreciate what it actually is that they are paying for, and that it's not going just to the government, but to the actual person. That has a profound effect on offenders.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Sullivan.

We will move back to Mr. Leef, please, for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both witnesses.

Mr. Anderson, thanks very much for your testimony so far. I think you have done a commendable job of dealing with some questions that would be challenging and of providing some examples that certainly test what I think a lot of people would initially see as unnecessarily differentiating victim groups.

I must say that when you addressed Mr. Scarpaleggia's question, you articulated quite well the differences. Prior to hearing that, I myself would have been asking the exact same question and waiting to hear a reasonable response to it. I think you did a great job on that.

The question I have is this. We know that the spirit and the intention of the bill are really to provide restitution and support for victims. One of the categories in the bill is for families—family and child support. You could speak better on this topic than any one of us in the room, I'm certain, but undoubtedly, the criminality that goes on within first nations and aboriginal communities, largely contained within your own communities.... When you have an offender enter a federal institution—and now we enter the question about residential school settlements—and they are awarded that settlement, and then their family is left behind within the community, I guess the intention of the bill is to make sure that they don't become any more victimized than they already are.

Arguably, families with a mother who is left with the children are victims as well. Even if they're not victims of the actual crime, they are victims in the sense that they have lost, let's say, a father figure. While the person is in jail, they've lost a traditional leader, or somebody who can teach them the cultural traditional ways of life. We know that often, along with this, come financial burdens that just create more and more victimization.

This is an open-ended question to you, really. How would you address it within your community if we had a federal inmate who received that settlement but then maintained protection of it while families needed it and wanted it? They're your community members as well. They're as much victims of the crime and of the residential school system as well.

I guess what I'm really asking for is just some feedback, if you have a way to articulate it as eloquently as you did on the other questions, on how we reconcile that issue. Because I think that's the true spirit of the bill. Without creating offence to anyone in general, it's just to provide necessary protection and support for all of the parties involved in this.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

There's a number of ideas there. I appreciate and thank you for your comments and for describing it as an open-ended question.

The safety and security of our families are uppermost in the minds of our communities, particularly as it is a reflection of the customary law that has flowed down through and before the time of signing and entering into treaties. Some of the things that weigh heavily on our minds in looking at this pattern of impacts, from the Indian residential school system to colonization post-treaty and so forth, are reflected in harsh statistics.

For example, 88% of aboriginal persons in Stoney Mountain Penitentiary were children in care at some time, in the child and family system. That's an enormous burden that it places on families, communities, and care providers to recognize that once persons find themselves diverted in that direction in life, in many respects their life becomes, to some extent, derailed.

It takes an enormous amount of effort to bring persons back into the standards and to reconcile them with their own community. We're faced with that. We see these linkages between persons who were abused as children in the residential school system and have become abusers of members of their own family, and we're grappling with that.

So when we say that it's a community-driven preventative and restorative justice approach, an enormous amount of weight is placed on integrating the effects of all of those elements and on creating a community that provides for safety and security. When we say that it's a core vision that our communities should be the safest place for our citizens to live, then we must overcome all of these challenges and resolve all of these disconnects between the ordinary and customary flow of life and the circumstances that are happening. We must resolve this enormous disproportionality of aboriginal offenders and the enormous disproportionality of persons in the penal system who were themselves in care as children and so forth.

So we would agree with protection of the family being a priority, but the distribution of any proceeds received by an offender in prison should be arranged for between them and their family. That's an important resource for the family.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Leef.

I'm going to go to Mr. Rousseau.

Mr. Rousseau, you're going to have only two or three minutes.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

It's okay, Kevin—I mean “Mr. Chair”. Sorry.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Kevin is fine.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Sullivan, the core principle of the bill is to make offenders more accountable. Do you think this bill will really have an impact? Most of the time, offenders could not care less about the money they owe. Do you think victims view this bill as a solution to their problems in this respect? Did many victims tell you that such a bill was necessary?

4:25 p.m.

Former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, As an Individual

Steve Sullivan

I think the impact will be small simply because there are very few offenders in the federal system who have restitution orders or victim fine surcharge orders from the courts.

Certainly, we've heard frustration from victims about offenders not being ordered to pay restitution. Restitution goes to the victim, and victim fine surcharges go to the provinces, so there's frustration that offenders aren't paying. But that's probably more of an issue for guys who get provincial sentences, because often those are for property crimes, and relatively small numbers of them go to federal prisons.

So this wouldn't be an issue that I would think.... Certainly, most victims I've heard from say that their guy is in the federal system and has a restitution order and is not paying, so they want something done about it. Because it also requires him to somehow be getting an award from someone else. So I think all those dots to be crossed are pretty small.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Anderson, you spoke a lot about reconciliation, versus rehabilitation. We know that the main objective of the bill is to make inmates more accountable. Could you elaborate about this concept of reconciliation, as it is implemented in your communities?

4:25 p.m.

Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Michael Anderson

Yes, using a Cree term, it's Kwayaskonikiwin. It means achieving balance. It means setting things right.

When there's a disturbance in a person's life or in the community, the restorative justice programs and the community justice persons in our communities feel that it's extremely important to set things right by reconciling the act of an individual, the acts that have affected an individual, and certainly the relationship between the victim and offender.

So rehabilitation in an ordinary sense may be part of that, but the standard or the vision—the objective—is to truly reconcile the actions of an individual and set balance—

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Excusez-moi, monsieur

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Rousseau, please be very quick.