While this legislation certainly does address important principles for victims' assistance, the language of rights employed in the new legislation, combined with the requirement that the rights of victims under the act are to be exercised through the mechanisms provided by law, may make it difficult for victims to identify their enforceable legal rights and corresponding remedies.
We suggest that clear, identifiable, enforceable legal rights and the corresponding mechanisms for exercising these rights will go a long way to assisting victims in navigating the criminal justice system. As Benjamin Perrin stated in his paper entitled “More Than Words”, on Bill C-32, “...a 'right' without a remedy in the event of its breach is no right at all.”
Second, responsibilities for implementing victims' rights are directed to “the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system” and not to specific agencies, which may make it difficult for criminal justice partners to identify their respective legal responsibilities. Added clarity in this regard will direct victims to the appropriate agency and, where necessary, will allow them to take up any concerns through the appropriate complaints mechanism.
As indicated, the police are the most common first point of contact for victims and their families and play a critical role in ensuring victims know their rights. The consequences of inadequate or untimely information can be detrimental to a victim. Victims should have rights to timely, relevant, and easy-to-understand information regarding safety, programs and services, and the investigative, court, correctional, and parole process. In keeping with this goal of ensuring that all victims receive the same high-quality resources and supports, funding and support to police and justice partners will be critical in the implementation of the Canadian victims bill of rights.
Firstly, to ensure that victims have access to programs and services, consideration should be given to how accurate and consistent information will be provided to victims, particularly those who live in remote locations. The CACP supports the government's intention, as outlined in budget 2014, to “provide victims with online resources that will help individuals access the federal programs and services available for victims of crime”. In addition, the CACP supports the government's intention to create a web portal that will allow victims of federal offenders to view a current photo of the offender prior to the release.
Secondly, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police requests timely and complete information for law enforcement agencies to create victim response enhancements to be integrated within current training. Chiefs of police look to the Government of Canada to coordinate with a training institution—like the Canadian Police Knowledge Network—and to provide funding to develop education and training modules. Consistent federal funding would expedite the process of implementing the Canadian victims bill of rights within the provinces and territories and ensure these important rights can be implemented as immediately as possible.
Thirdly, in order to implement and deliver effective victim services and thereby increase confidence in our justice system, funding for sufficient resources across the country is imperative. The establishment of a police victims support fund, similar to the former police officers recruitment fund, to this initiative would help to provide the necessary supports.
Furthermore, in creating and funding victim resources and services, chiefs of police stress the importance of recognizing the historical trauma, unique awareness of, and respect for tradition and culture of first nations, Inuit, and Métis groups. The Canadian victims bill of rights should respond to the needs of victims in these groups in a holistic and culturally sensitive way. lt should also consider Canada's multicultural composition, specifically in ensuring access to information in diverse languages, which is critical in ensuring meaningful participation by all victims.
The Canadian victims bill of rights should enshrine core enforceable rights of victims of crime and the effective recognition of and respect for a victim's human rights and should ensure that needs, concerns, and interests of victims are valued and considered in a participatory environment.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police victims of crime committee supports the principles advanced by the Canadian victims bill of rights. Chiefs of police stress the importance of ensuring resources are in place to ensure victims across the country clearly understand their enforceable rights and have timely and accurate access to information and services.
The CACP looks forward to continued participation during the consideration and implementation process of the Canadian victims bill of rights. We recognize that the victim-focused approach of Bill C-32 creates a solid foundation for victims and is the first step in enhancing victims' participatory and service rights throughout the criminal justice process.