Evidence of meeting #10 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was office.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

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

4 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

I can tell you that this issue was a priority for us almost immediately: making sure that law enforcement had access to the information they needed to not just find the offenders but to sometimes actually find children, find victims, in those homes and stop abuse.

I remember in 2007, then Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Stockwell Day, said that the government was not going to move in that way. They wouldn't allow warrantless access to information about name and address. We began a dialogue with the government. We said that this was the wrong way to go. You have a report.

I was actually pleased to see the government change its position and actually move in that direction. I think it was a really important thing. It's not a new idea. It was around when the former government was here. There was a similar bill introduced.

We were really pleased to see it. I had hoped that it would come back. I think it's a priority issue. I think there's a lot of talk about justice reform. I think those are among the priority issues, giving law enforcement the tools they need to find offenders, because when they go into an offender's home, they find kids, and those kids are being abused. I've talked to officers who have done this. They've actually walked in and found children they never knew were in those homes. They save a child's life, and that is tremendous. That bill will help law enforcement do that.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

We'll go over to Mr. Davies next, please.

April 20th, 2010 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you, Mr. Sullivan.

First, I want to congratulate you for having the courage of your convictions and for having integrity, because you're speaking out on some things that don't please the government. They don't please the opposition. That tells me that you're talking about things that you think are important, and I think we all, as parliamentarians, should thank you for that.

You've been quoted as saying that millions have been cut in grants for services groups and projects that support victims. Mr. Holland went over the numbers. The grants for the victims of crime initiative has had $350,000 cut. The contribution to the victims of crime initiative, by my math, is $2.7 million, so that's about $3 million. Is that the $3 million of cuts you see happening to the victims file?

4 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

Yes; the money is in the 2010-11 main estimates.

4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Often what we hear in debates is that one thing is cut but there's more money going elsewhere. You're an expert on victims policy in this country. Do you know if that represents an overall cut to victims services in this country, or has it been made up by the federal government in some other area that we're not aware of?

4 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

It may be. I haven't looked at other departments, but I know there is $6.6 million in the new budget over two years. It might be taking money out of one area and then putting money back in, but I haven't reviewed the other budgets.

4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Well, it's with the budget you're familiar with, because you said millions had been cut in grants for services, groups, and projects supporting victims.

4 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

Yes, and we're referring to the Department of Justice budget.

4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

So in the Department of Justice there's a cut overall.

4 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

That's according to the main estimates.

4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Second, I'm going to read another couple of quotes back to Mr. Sullivan, because I think they will be of interest to our committee, which has been studying at great length the federal corrections system.

You said:

By focusing solely on sending guys to prison longer, we're not serving the majority of victims of crime out there.

Another quote:

We have to broaden our perspective of meeting victims' needs, and sentencing might be part of that, but it's a very small part for most victims.

Now the government tells us they're doing that because it's what victims want, or it's what Canadians want. I think you've identified that victims' needs are much more complicated than that. I'm wondering if you can elaborate a little more on that and tell us if you think we're going down the wrong path by focusing on locking more people up for longer and perhaps in harsher conditions, at least vis-à-vis victims.

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

I'm sure the committee has had debates about the value of the government's bills and their approach. I'm not here to speak about that. There's evidence that suggests it's the wrong way, and there are other people who think it prevents crime. That's a debate you'll have in Parliament.

It should not be considered as a way to meet the needs of victims. I spent the entire day today with victims groups and with victim service providers yesterday, and that didn't come up at all as a way to meet the real needs. Every day we hear from victims, asking how we get those issues solved. That's just not part of the equation in most cases.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

So to paraphrase, it may be good for some other purpose, arguably, but from what you know, it's certainly not going to help victims in this country.

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

That's right.

I should mention briefly that I appreciate your comments from the start. I've actually always been encouraged by any minister we've had to speak freely. I respect that the government has given us this opportunity to do that.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I think we all do. I think all parliamentarians respect that.

You talked about the child advocacy centre and you said that even a small portion of the money going to prisons could fund a child advocacy centre in every major urban centre—and you've elaborated on that a bit today—to help sexually exploited young people and finance programs designed to prevent re-victimization. Did you ever bring the suggestion for a child advocacy centre directly to this government and recommend that they do that?

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

We recommended a national strategy in our Internet report last June. We haven't gotten a response to that report yet. We also recommended this budget and last budget that there be a small pot of $5 million. We knew it was a small amount of money, but we also knew the fiscal times we were in and we wanted to be realistic. So we had asked the government to set aside a $5 million fund to help communities develop these centres.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

So you did, for those centres.

Did you ever receive any answer from the government as to why they chose not to...?

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

Other than the acknowledgement of the letter, we didn't actually receive a response yes or no.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Okay, thanks.

I don't know how much time I have left, but I'm interested in another part of the equation, which is prevention.

I've read your report and your recommendations. I think they're very thoughtful and helpful. I'm wondering, from victims' points of view, do you hear any ideas from them, or in the course of your work, that would help us figure out how we could prevent crime? A lot of times we're dealing with victims, which is after the fact, and we're dealing with the carnage and pain of that. Are there any suggestions that you might give us as to how we might prevent crime from happening in the first place?

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

Yes, I think there are many different ways. I think a lot of it depends on, to be blunt, with scarce resources, what crimes do you want to prevent?

I think we could focus our efforts in an area of importance, which has always been children, with advocacy centres. We know there's a segment of children who are abused who will go on to abuse others or themselves. With young people who are being trafficked on the street, if we get one child off the street we've prevented that child from being victimized thousands of times. That's crime prevention.

We often know who is most likely to be victimized because they've already been victimized once. If we can help those people understand what the risks are, we could actually prevent those people from being re-victimized. In those kinds of areas, there are actually some very specific things we could do to prevent some very specific horrific crimes.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

The literature I'm familiar with tells me that a very high percentage of people who are sex offenders as adults were themselves sexually abused as children. Is that correct?

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

Yes, but it depends on what study you have. Certainly some studies suggest that sex offenders might exaggerate how much they were victims to minimize what they've done, but there is a segment of those who abuse children who themselves were abused. I mean, our prisons are full of people who have been abused. That's a reality.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

So if we wanted to crack down on sex offenders, I take it you'd agree with me that funding things like your child advocacy centre dealing with youth who are sexually exploited would be a significant way we could deal with that.

4:05 p.m.

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

Steve Sullivan

I believe it would be. And with regard to the exploited youth on the streets, if we could change the public discussion from being that these are just hookers on the streets and we don't need to care about them to being that these are our children on the street who are being sexually assaulted every day, that would awaken the minds of those who are actually engaging in those activities as well.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Although you've twice recommended that to this government, all you've ever received is an acknowledgement from them saying that they received your recommendation.