Madam Speaker, before I commence the formal part of my address, let me simply add that all members in the House know of some event or some circumstance which has impacted either on them or on close friends whereby the victim has had some long term scarring and
would appear to have had very little public recourse in terms of addressing that level of hurt.
My colleague for Erie who will be sharing my time with me, will be adding to my comments today. I personally support the thrust of the proposal members opposite are making today.
Throughout the country over many years there have been attempts to put something in place. Manitoba has had some pilot projects on victims services. I am sure that is true of other parts of the nation as well. Various municipalities have engaged personnel to attempt to assist a family or the victim of a crime, whether it be vandalism, theft, or some other sort of violation. A system has been put in place because of the difficulty in handling life after the fact.
The hon. member's concern for victims of crime is very admirable. We have often heard the public criticize the judicial system for placing the rights of the offender ahead of the rights of victims. That was addressed to some degree by the previous member with regard to justice for all. One cannot defend one side or the other on that one.
I agree that more needs to be done to protect the rights of a victim. I would also emphasize that we must be cautious. It is not to imply that one way to achieve protection of a victim is to diminish the rights of an offender. Therein lies the tricky part; not to allow the legislation currently in place in human rights legislation or in the charter.
We would ask ourselves whether there is a necessary trade off between competing rights. Is justice better served by somehow reducing the rights of an accused person? The emergence of the victims' rights movement in Canada is one of the most important criminal justice trends we have seen in the last 20 years. Yet I doubt any victim organization in Canada would advocate eliminating the right of an accused to a fair trial, the right of due process, the protection of habeas corpus or the protection of an accused against self-incrimination. Do I need to remind the House there are rights guaranteed to all Canadians under sections 7, 10 and 11 of the charter of rights and freedoms?
I will not dwell on this matter of comparing the rights of the accused with the rights of the victim, but this may be necessary in considering the content of a bill of rights. I believe a more constructive approach is simply put to determine where and how the victim should be involved in the criminal justice process.
The concept we should embrace is access to justice for the victim. At what point in the criminal justice process does the victim deserve to have input? There were some suggestions in my colleague's speech and I would not attempt to diminish the thrust my colleague was putting forward.
However, are there various points along the process where we can examine with close scrutiny where access should be made? Should there be input to the police, to the investigation, to the trial of the accused, at the sentencing stage and later at the parole decision making stage and finally when the offender is released from custody assuming that guilt is determined in the issue?
If we can provide the victim or the victim's family with appropriate access to the criminal process in a timely fashion, maybe we can be a little less concerned about who has more or who has fewer rights.
Let us examine the progress made over the last two decades both in terms of general recognition of the needs of the victim and specific measures. Much of the policy and programs dealing with the victims is derived from a report by a federal-provincial task force on justice for victims of crime in the early 1980s, which offered 79 recommendations to both levels of government for improving social criminal justice and health responses to victims of crime.
In 1985 Canada co-sponsored the United Nations declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. It was widely and universally accepted that Canada was a leader in this movement. This document soon became the basis for a unique Canadian statement of principles. This statement was endorsed by the federal government, the provinces and the territories in 1988. It has provided a reference point for provinces to develop their own policy and legislation on victims' rights, and most jurisdictions now have victims oriented legislation.
It is important to note provinces' perspectives since provinces' responsibility for the administration of justice means that not all access to justice issues are under federal control.
The law now provides for victim impact statements. Section 735 permits provinces to determine the forum for the victim impact statement in their jurisdiction. In effect this provision creates flexibility, for example, by allowing police based victim witness service programs to generate victim impact statements or alternatively crown or court based services as appropriate.
Victim fine surcharge provisions were also added to the Criminal Code by Bill C-89. The victim fine surcharge is an additional monetary penalty imposed on an offender at the time of sentencing. A victim fine surcharge is required to be imposed in addition to any other punishment imposed on an offender convicted or discharged of a Criminal Code offence or an offence under part III or part IV of the Food and Drug Act.
In addition to these surcharges, several provinces have passed legislation to impose a victim's surcharge on provincial offences and this revenue may also be used for victims' services in those provinces.
I will do my personal best to bring forward concerns and information which will support this thrust by members opposite.