Mr. Speaker, I begin speaking on the supply motion by congratulating my colleague from Fraser Valley West for introducing the victim's bill of rights. It is certainly a pleasure to see something concrete happening in the House regarding victims' rights.
Not all victims are the result of murder. Many victims we find in Canadian society are people who have found themselves victimized through assault, attacks or other offences. Sometimes these victims go unnoticed and unheard.
What we are concerned about with this victims' bill of rights is that there is a process and a procedure to make sure people who find themselves victimized by offenders have some recourse, some vehicle for having their story heard and their concerns addressed.
Not that I have ever wanted to but simply because of the position I found myself in I have ended up speaking to over 20 parents of murdered children. Their stories vary from occasion and from location. For the most part what I hear from the parents of children who have been murdered is they feel when they enter the court system they are being revictimized. I also hear that from parents or from assault victims who find themselves getting entangled in a misunderstanding between the federal jurisdiction over creating the law and the provincial jurisdiction over administering the law.
Caught in this conflict, these victims really feel they are being victimized for a second or third time when they enter the court process.
Two aspects of this victim's bill of rights try to deal with a couple of problems that arise. One is section 4, which asks that victims be informed in a timely fashion of the details of the crown's intention to offer a plea bargain before it is presented to the defence.
That is a fair request. Anybody who has been victimized whether from a sexual assault, assault or in the worst cases a murder has a right to be part of the process. They have a right to know when there is an intention to downgrade a charge.
A good number of the people who find themselves victimized go to court anticipating or expecting a first degree murder conviction for the criminal if that is what the criminal is charged with. They come away feeling very distraught when that has been downgraded either to second degree or to manslaughter.
When people go to court, having been victimized from a sexual assault, and find out that charge can be downgraded through a plea bargain to make sure the offender does get convicted, they may downgrade the seriousness of the assault.
Oftentimes because the victims or the families of the victims do not understand the process they feel cheated. If they were brought into the process, if they were brought into the discussions on why plea bargaining was being considered, why the need to look at downgrading the charge to get a conviction, perhaps they would feel less victimized the second or third time.
Another concern of mine is that victims should be looked after, that there should be some vehicle in our system that when there are people who are victimized through no fault of their own, there is some compensation or some accounting that they, too, need to be cared for.
The case that comes to mind is the case of a young 14-year old girl who was kidnapped out of a schoolyard after school by an older man and taken in his truck. The intent was considered when she escaped partially dressed. The offender's truck got stuck in the mud. While he was trying to deal with getting his truck unstuck she was able to get out of the vehicle and escape partially dressed. His intentions, therefore, were quite clear.
The parents of that child realized that in order to heal completely this child needed to have counselling. They went to various agencies to see what kind of counselling she could receive. They were told they had to make an application to victim's aid and that perhaps the money for the counselling would be available in three to four months.
Those parents realized that the counselling and healing had to start immediately. This 14-year old girl could not wait three or four months before dealing with what had happened to her. However, they were not a family of wealth and it took everything they had to find the financial resources to make sure that their daughter did not suffer long term consequences from this event.
We then look at the offenders who have all of the counselling and treatment provided for them, and the victims are left trying to deal with their problems on their own. That concerns me.
Another part of this victims' bill of rights which has to be looked at is the issue of the crown and the police notifying the victims why charges were not laid if that is the decision of the crown or the police.
One case more than any other brings that to my mind. Clifford Olson on New Year's Day in 1981 picked up a 16-year old girl, Kim Werbecky, and raped her repeatedly over a 12-hour period. She eventually escaped and reported the crime to the police, who arrested and charged Clifford Olson. However, the crown did not proceed with charges because she was a prostitute. It felt she would be viewed as a liar and a tramp and was not to be believed. Thus Olson was released.
At the time of his release Olson had already murdered one child and he would go on to murder another 10 children. It was not until two years ago that Kim Werbecky finally found out why charges did not proceed. She never had a chance to state her position or give her side of the story.
It is extremely important that the crown and the police bring victims into the discussions. I know one individual living in my community who is very good about dealing with not only the victims but the victim's family, of talking to them of what the possibilities are, of where this case might go, of what would be expected of them and of the pain, suffering and stress they would feel.
He takes it upon himself to deal with the realities of victims having to go through the legal system. He helps to reduce the trauma for these victims by including them in discussions before the trial and before the court case is heard. He includes them in plea bargaining, what it is all about and where it will take them.
It is unfortunate that is left to the discretion of the crown. Not all crowns are as good as this individual at bringing the victims into the process. It should not be left to the individual. It should be the rule and not the exception. Unfortunately we find that it is the exception. Most crowns are busy, have large caseloads and literally cannot be bothered to look at the whole aspect of victims when they are going through the court system.
I do not think most Canadians realize the crown is there to assume the responsibility of the victim. Society does not believe it is only the victim who has been victimized but society as a whole. Therefore the crown, on behalf of the individual, appears before the courts to get some justice and restitution.
I do not think most Canadians realize the crown is really there on their behalf. They need to be brought more into the system with the crown so they appreciate and understand that they are working together on this, that the crown is actually working on their behalf.
Victims and their families must have a statutory right to be informed about what is happening. It should not be left to the discretion of the crown or to the discretion of the attorney general. Ministers of justice and attorneys general change often. They are not standard established positions. The individuals change with the will of the people and sometimes reflect how the Criminal Code is applied.
It is very important that victims rights be written into statute so changes in government do not affect how they are dealt with.
I congratulate my colleague for his efforts on behalf of the victims in society.