Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this motion on victims rights.
We have heard the expression of support for the motion which has been put forward by the Minister of Justice. It is his personal intention to support the motion. Other members of the House will no doubt do likewise. It is the stated position of the minister to bring forward in a meeting of the federal and provincial ministers a proposal for the reaffirmation of the principles either as have been previously enunciated or as can be improved upon by the suggestions made by a number of the members of the House.
The original principles governing the principles of justice for victims of crime were originally set forward in 1988. They were as follows.
Victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and with respect for their dignity and privacy and should suffer the minimum of necessary inconvenience from their involvement with the criminal justice system.
Victims should receive through formal and informal procedures prompt and fair redress for the harm which they have suffered. Information regarding the remedies and mechanisms to obtain them should be made available to the victims. Information should be made available to the victims about their participation in criminal proceedings and the scheduling, progress and ultimate disposition of the proceedings.
Where appropriate the views and concerns of victims should be ascertained and assistance provided throughout the criminal process. Where the personal interests of the victim are affected, the views or concerns of the victim should be brought to the attention of the court where appropriate and consistent with criminal law and procedure.
Measures should also be taken when necessary to ensure the safety of victims and their families and protect them from intimidation and retaliation. Enhanced training should be made available to sensitize criminal justice personnel to the needs and concerns of victims and guidelines developed where appropriate for this purpose.
Victims should be informed of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance so that they might continue to receive the necessary medical, psychological and social assistance through existing programs and services.
Victims should report the crime and co-operate with law enforcement authorities.
These are the principles that were agreed upon by the federal and provincial ministers responsible for criminal justice.
Since 1988 and in an effort to bring these principles into reality, the federal government has enacted a number of pieces of legislation to enhance the role of the victims within the criminal procedure of the land and throughout the process so that they will indeed not be victimized twice but rather will feel as much as possible a part of the process.
In addition to federal action, provincial governments across the land which have the constitutional authority for the administration of justice and the constitutional duty to administer justice have introduced in a number of cases provincial statutes dealing specifically with victims of crime and how they are dealt with throughout the process of the administration of justice. In addition to that, a number of programs have been put forward by provincial governments across this land in conjunction with communities to better enhance and protect victims throughout the criminal justice procedure.
In my own community of Prince Albert, funding from the provincial level is made available to the community. The community working in conjunction with the police and the justice system has developed a program to better assist victims of crime through the court procedure and subsequent to it.
All across the country steps like this are being taken. More public awareness is being focused on the needs of the victims by victims groups and communities. Certainly this field is evolving. We all want to do our part at the federal level, at the provincial level, at the municipal level, at the community level and at the individual level to assist this evolution. In these times of very tight resources for all levels of government while it is difficult to do immediately all we would like to do, the process which is in place to enhance the role of victims, to protect victims of crime and to ensure their healing as much as possible in a timely fashion will continue.
In addition to assisting victims of crime, perhaps some of the best ways to ensure a reduction in victimization is with the co-operation of all levels of government to look more seriously at the prevention of crime.
First would be looking at and eradicating the social conditions which lead to crime. More and more people and communities are turning to early intervention in the lives of young people to work with them before they end up in conflict with the law and start down the path to a life of crime. This is a very productive form of prevention which in the long run will reduce the number of victims within our society.
In addition, it is important to introduce and pass appropriate pieces of criminal justice legislation which will make it very clear to the population what types of behaviour are not to be tolerated. The types of behaviour which are not to be tolerated must be given appropriate negative sanctions so that crime can be deterred.
But sadly, crimes are committed. We need to deal with victims of crime to ensure their involvement with the justice system, while it can never be painless or easy, is made as easy as possible in some sense. The government has enacted a number of very specific provisions which deal with victims of crime and their involvement with the justice system.
For instance, amendments have been put forward to section 745 of the Criminal Code. When there is a section 745 application, victim impact statements will be considered. This is a positive step in the right direction. Both the Criminal Code and the Young Offenders Act now require that victim impact statements where available be heard by the courts. This is yet another positive development. In some cases it is appropriate to have the identity of victims of crime protected throughout a criminal proceeding. Those amendments have been brought forward.
Power has been given to police for instance in the gun control legislation, under appropriate circumstances to remove firearms from the house of an individual who has shown violent behaviour or who has threatened individuals. Thus, the likelihood of harm from firearms would be reduced. This also assists the victims of crime.
The department is also reviewing a number of other areas in which to assist victims of crime such as when the therapeutic records of victims of crime would be released to the courts.
All of these areas have been looked at, introduced or are under active review by the department. It is important that we cannot pick and choose remedies we want to bring forward to assist victims of crime. We need to support provisions such as gun control which victims groups across the country want and applaud.
Although it may be tough, we cannot back away from assisting the victims of crime. Whether it is introducing the appropriate criminal justice statutes, whether it is establishing the proper prevention programs or whether it is establishing a victims bill of rights which would more clearly delineate how victims are dealt with in the justice system, all these issues need to be dealt with.
Certainly the minister will be supporting this motion. It is imperative that all levels work together, the federal and provincial governments, and the communities through whatever means, volunteerism, et cetera to each do our part to assist victims of crime. I thank the hon. member for putting forward the motion.