Thank you for that introduction and for the opportunity to speak to crime victim issues in front of this committee.
I want to add to the introduction two or three things that I think are relevant to what I'm going to say.
I was involved in a major study in the seventies on the needs of crime victims and how we could meet those needs. One of the things clearly identified in that study was their need for restitution. I was also on the Hugessen committee that in 1973 brought victims and police officers onto the National Parole Board, something that continues to this day.
The award that you mentioned was for my role in getting the UN General Assembly to agree to human rights standards for crime victims. Those standards are very important for this committee to look at.
I'm going to be really reinforcing what the federal ombudsman on victim issues told you earlier, but I'm going to go a bit beyond what she told you and say that I think we need a lot more than is in Bill C-350 and a lot more than she called for to ensure that the needs of victims for reparation are met through restitution in this country, and at a level that meets international standards.
I want to make a more general point that the situation of crime victims in this country is way behind that of comparable jurisdictions, jurisdictions such as the United States, France, or Australia. That's not just my opinion, that's the opinion of several committees. The committee in 1989 that was chaired by David Daubney made a series of recommendations in restitution. The committee report “Victims' Rights - A voice, not a veto” in 1998-1999 made a series of recommendations about victims, most of which were ignored or implemented in a very unsatisfactory way.
If you look at what has happened in Ontario, which is the only place we've really had a serious look recently at what happens for crime victims, the Ontario ombudsman wrote a report that said the compensation system in Ontario, not the restitution system, was adding insult to injury.
In response to that report, Roy McMurtry, recently retired Chief Justice of Ontario, who will be known to all of you, completed a report making recommendations. Those recommendations used the UN standards from 1985. They talked about what the role of police should be to inform victims more about what is available. And they talked about the importance of having an advocate at the provincial level to get action.
Another important critic has been the Prime Minister's Office, which in the material prior to Bill C-10 talked about the damage that is done to victims by crime in this country, talked about the famous 83% of $100 billion. I prefer talking about $83 billion. That's actually the figure that comes from Justice Canada. I think it's a reasonable figure. It is, of course, the damage done to adult victims. It doesn't include victims under the age of 15. And $83 billion is a very important figure for what I'm going to have to say.
The Prime Minister's Office also talked about the abysmal proportion of victims who report to the police in this country, 31%. And if you look at sexual assault, it's actually only 8%. This is way below any comparable country, such as the United States or the United Kingdom. I think we have to ask ourselves very much why so few victims in this country are going to the police. They're very professional police, very highly paid police. But it is a very low proportion.
If we do, in fact, scratch at those figures to understand why, what we see is that victims of property crime are going to police because they expect some sort of reparation. That could include restitution, but it could include also other ways of paying back, which would include, of course, insurance.
If we look at victims of violent crime, then we see what they want is the offender stopped, and I want to emphasize “stopped”. I didn't say “punished”, I said “stopped”. It's actually a relatively small proportion who are going for some very heavy penalties.
It's a serious situation, and I hope your committee will choose to encourage not only the adoption of something along the lines of Bill C-350, but much more serious attention to meeting the needs of victims, in terms of their losses, and the ways in which those losses can be repaired.
My third point basically relates to international standards. We have, since 1985—Canada of course was a leader in getting those adopted—UN standards, and within those there are basically five issues. One of those issues is restitution for the victim from the offender.
In your introduction, sir, you mentioned the much later guidelines, around 2003, that have been adopted by ECOSOC, in relation to child victims. Those also refer to restitution.
Both of those documents have in the resolution or in the actual documents themselves a heavy emphasis on prevention. This country needs to reduce the $83 billion in harm to victims, and the way to do that is to invest in what is well established and well known and would reduce violence and property crime, everything from examples like Winnipeg, which reduced car theft by 87% within three years, to the Alberta strategy, where comprehensive matching of smart enforcement with smart treatment with smart prevention has been going now for nearly four or five years, with a plan and with evaluation and with the driving energy of the Alberta strategy being reducing harm to victims.
Some of the other international standards that I think your committee needs to look at are those, of course, of western Europe. The European Union has a framework decision from 2001, and is studying a directive at the moment, and those refer to restitution. Victims are represented with legal aid in France in the court process, and roughly 50% of all cases in France are resolved by the payment of restitution from the offender to the victim and there is no other action taken. This is undoubtedly a model for us. It's the model that influenced the International Criminal Court, of which Canada is a strong supporter, where victims are represented by legally aided lawyers.
The U.S. has a range of different things that relate to restitution. In California, for instance, their corrections system monitors the restitution orders, it takes payments on the minimal amounts that prisoners earn in prison, and it also takes payments out of what prisoners might get if they get a paying job as part of their sentence. There are other U.S. states that have something similar. Florida, for instance, has something similar. Vermont, just south of the border, actually pays restitution up to about $2,000, I believe, and then collects from the offender. So there are a number of interesting options within the U.S.
Probably the most important is the Justice For All Act. As you may or may not be aware, the current Vice-President of the United States has been the lead on three major pieces of legislation.
The Victims of Crime Act in 1984 puts about $1 billion into victim assistance and compensation every year by using a victim fine surcharge, which is way more advanced than ours, because it is applied not just to individuals but companies. Pfizer, for instance, paid a $1.3 billion fine that went into that.
Vice-President Biden also supported the Violence Against Women Act, a very important act, because not only does this look at what responses there should be to victims, it also looks at prevention and evaluates it.