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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

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

I'm a little over the time, but we're going to make sure Mr. Garrison gets his full time.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I do want to say thank you. We haven't had a chance to meet before, and from what I've seen today I have a lot of confidence that victims have an able and articulate advocate in your office.

5:20 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

I've got a great team.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

You also raised an important issue that we'll keep monitoring on this side, which is that you've opened a lot of new files. Our side will be monitoring the funding of your office and making sure that you're adequately funded.

You mentioned your recommendations and you said that you'd let us look at them again. Given that we're taking about Bill C-350, I wonder if there is any one of those recommendations you think might particularly relate to this bill that you would like to highlight for us?

5:25 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

I think one of the things that resonated with me when we listened to the information from the Correctional Service of Canada is that we lack even the mechanisms and frameworks to be able to look at how offenders could pay.

Again, I think we need to make sure that we have mechanisms in place, that there are frameworks that allow us to do that. It would appear that we can't even get comprehensive data on how many awards there are, who has them, where they're held, and those kinds of things.

I balanced my comments and did share with you the point about whether there is a willingness to participate in that. That's why I referred to that example of a program in the United States, the inmate financial responsibility program there. Having that in place and teaching those skills can go way beyond that, once an offender is back in the community.

I recognize some of the comments from one of the members here in my saying that at the end of the day these are debts that are owed. It is about responsibility and accountability.

We just have to put in place a longer term view around that. Again, we may be able to be deal with it quickly, but it may also require a longer term. We need to be thinking about those things.

I'll go back to the actual recommendations in the report. When you look at our recommendations, I think it's mainly an issue of having a framework in place that's going to allow us to monitor and to be accountable for everything from the federal victims surcharge through to restitution orders. But we also need to look comprehensively at these issues in our country around restitution and tangible financial supports for victims.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much.

I want to ask you a question about the distinction between restitution and compensation, but not in the sense of trying to attack the recommendations or your emphasis on them.

When we talk about restitution, we're talking about the individual offender paying back, and when we talk about compensation, that was the model we talked about from earlier in the nineties when it was the government doing that. Do you think the emphasis on restitution leaves it somewhat to chance which victims will actually get the compensation? That's my concern, because you talk about having to pursue offenders who may not be willing to pay. For some victims, an offender may both have resources and willingness to pay and the victim will therefore receive the restitution, whereas for others, they are left at the mercy of the deadbeat who is never going to pay.

5:25 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

So it's not a case of either/or. We need both structures.

When I used the word “variability” in regard to what you are seeing across our country.... For example, I'm sure everyone here is aware that criminal injuries compensation is the responsibility of the provinces and territories, as per the member's comments, and when you look at that, there is variability across this country. Depending on which province or territory it is, there will be a different framework—and in some cases, there is no framework. So it's not an either/or. We need to be looking comprehensively at how we can ensure that tangible supports are in place, including both provincial or territorial compensation and restitution.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

When you were talking just in passing, you commented that when this bill had been improved, there had been conversations with the territories and the provinces. I'm just wondering where that comment came from. Were you part of any of those dialogues?

5:25 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

No, I was not part of those dialogues. That was the information we were able to glean, that in fact this part of it was congruent with what the provinces and territories had wanted.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Is this the first opportunity you have had then to have input into this bill?

5:25 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

Yes. We were asked a couple of weeks ago whether we'd be interested in presenting here.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I guess I would say in conclusion that on both sides here we've talked about improving this bill, if it's possible to improve. So when you go away from here, if you have further thoughts on how we could improve it, we'd all be very interested to hear them.

5:25 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

Thank you for that opportunity. I will get back to you in writing.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

All right, I think that pretty well concludes our time.

Again, we want to thank you, Ms. O'Sullivan, for appearing and for your good work as an advocate in looking out for victims. We appreciate your attendance here today, and we would welcome any further ideas; or when you go home, if you think of a question that you could have answered differently or expanded on, we would certainly welcome that too.

5:25 p.m.

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

Susan O'Sullivan

I will follow up with a submission. Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

The meeting is adjourned.