Frequently Asked Questions- Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) contains a number of measures that will improve the corrections and conditional release systems for victims of crime by helping to ensure that they are informed, considered and protected. 

Q1:

What is the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights (CVBR)?

Answer:

The Victims Bill of Rights Act was introduced in the House of Commons as Bill C-32 in April 2014 and received Royal Assent on April 23, 2015. This legislation creates the CVBR and amends other existing laws, including the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA).

The CVBR provides clear rights for victims of crime at the federal level and creates the following statutory rights for victims of crime:

  • The Right to Information
  • The Right to Participation
  • The Right to Protection
  • The Right to Restitution

If you are a victim you will also have the right to make a complaint if you believe that your rights have not been respected.

Q2:

When does the CVBR come into force?

Answer:

The majority of the provisions and amendments included in the Victims Bill of Rights Act, including the creation of the CVBR, and amendments to the Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act, and Employment Insurance Act, came into force on July 23, 2015.

Some additional amendments to the CCRA came into force on June 1, 2016. These amendments are the sharing of information related to an offender's correctional plan, the sharing of the most recent photo of the offender, and the need to consider victims' concerns prior to removing or varying a condition that was imposed on an offender in the community to protect the offender's victims.

Q3:

Will victims be informed of these changes?

Answer:

Yes. If you currently receive information from CSC you will be receiving a letter from CSC's Victim Services Unit to determine if you wish to receive the new information provided under the CVBR.

If you are not registered to receive information but would like to, please contact the Victim Services Unit in your region.

Definition of Victim

Q4:

Has the definition of a victim changed?

Answer:

Yes.  A victim is now defined as an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss as the result of the commission of an offence. 

The following individuals will also be able to exercise your rights when a victim is dead or incapable of acting on his or her behalf:

  • The victim's spouse or common-law partner;
  • A relative or dependant of the victim; and
  • Anyone who has custody of the victim, or is responsible for the care or support of the victim's dependant.

Q5:

Are there any exceptions to the definition of a victim?

Answer:

Yes.  A person who has been charged, convicted or found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder for the offence that resulted in the victimization cannot be defined as a victim in relation to the offence. For example, if a parent has been charged with abuse of their child, that parent cannot exercise the child victim's rights or the rights of a parent of the child under the CVBR.   

Right to Information

Q6:

What information will victims be able to receive from CSC?

Answer:

Upon request, you will receive:

  • Information on the criminal justice system and the role of victims;
  • Information about services and programs available to victims, including restorative justice programs and victim-offender mediation services;
  • Information about the review of an offender's conditional release, and the timing and conditions of that release;
  • Information about your right to make a complaint if you feel your rights have not been respected;
  • Information about an offender's progress in relation to his or her correctional plan;
  • The offender's release date, destination and conditions of release 14 days prior to the release unless the disclosure would have an negative impact on public safety;
  • Notification when a federal offender has been removed from Canada by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA); and
  • A current photo of the offender prior to certain releases or the end of the offender's sentence.

Q7:

What kind of information will victims receive regarding an offender's progress in relation to his or her correctional plan?

Answer:

In addition to receiving information about the offender's program participation and serious disciplinary offences, you can also receive information related to the offender's progress against the objectives of his or her correctional plan.

When offenders come under CSC’s responsibility, CSC gathers information about their lives and their crimes, including information from the courts and police. As offenders go through a process called “intake”, CSC gives them special tests and comes up with ratings about a number of key aspects of their lives, such as mental health, education, and substance abuse. With this information CSC evaluates offenders’ needs in the following eight areas:

  1. Education – level of education, vocational training
  2. Employment – work skills and experience, history of unemployment
  3. Marital/Family – history of relationships, family abuse, parenting skills
  4. Associates – criminal friends, isolation from pro-social people
  5. Substance Abuse – history of drug and/or alcohol abuse and its link to offending
  6. Community Functioning – ability to manage finances/housing, involvement in pro-social recreation/leisure activities
  7. Personal/Emotional Orientation – problem-solving skills, self-discipline, interpersonal skills, anger management
  8. Attitude – rationalization for crime, attitudes towards the law and criminal justice system

All of this is used to write the offenders’ Correctional Plan, which states if and how these factors contributed to their criminal behaviour. The Plan also lists the goals the offenders are expected to meet while serving their sentence - for example, the programs that the offender needs to participate in.

The Plan is reviewed and the ratings are updated throughout the sentence, based on the offenders’ progress and whether they are meeting the goals set out in the Plan.

CSC also looks at the following:

  • how much offenders take responsibility for their crimes;
  • whether offenders are willing to actively work on meeting the goals of their Correctional Plan;
  • whether offenders want to and are willing to make the effort to change; and
  • offenders’ ability to return to the community without committing crimes in the future.

You can receive reports with information about an offender’s correctional plan dating back to the beginning of the sentence. These reports also include information about the offender’s progress toward meeting the objectives of the plan.

For more information please visit CSC's Correctional Process page.

Q8:

How will victims be receiving information relating to an offender's correctional plan and the most recent photo of the offender?

Answer:

CSC and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) have created a Victims Portal so that you can have electronic access to information about the offender, including the most recent photo prior to certain releases. The portal also allows you to submit information and/or victim statements to CSC and PBC for consideration in case management and parole decisions. If you do not have access to the portal, the correctional plan information and photo may be shared by mail.

If you would like to access information online, please go to the Victims Portal. You will need to create an account and request to have it connected to your existing file.

Q9:

What happens if a victim feels that their rights have been denied or infringed (violated)?

Answer:

For information about how you can make a complaint please visit CSC's Victim Complaint page.

Q10:

What happens when a victim no longer wants to receive information from CSC?

Answer:

CSC always respects your decision if you no longer want to be contacted or receive information about the offender who harmed you. To stop receiving information, please communicate this in writing to CSC or PBC.

Right to Protection

Q11:

How will victims' safety be taken into consideration?

Answer:

You will have the right to:

  • Have your security and privacy considered by criminal justice personnel;
  • Be protected from intimidation and retaliation; and
  • Ask the court that your identity not be released to the public

You may want to have access to a photograph of the offender so that you are aware of their appearance at the time of release, particularly when the offender has served a lengthy sentence. CSC will provide you with access to a photograph of the offender at the time of the conditional release or at the end of sentence unless doing so would have a negative impact on public safety. This photo is accessible on the Victims Portal.

Right to Participation

Q12:

How will victims be able to participate in the criminal justice system?

Answer:

You will have the right to convey your views about decisions being made by criminal justice professionals at various stages of the justice system and have them considered. You will be able to designate a representative to receive information on your behalf. You will also be able to waive your right to receive information from CSC. You will have the right to submit a victim statement describing the harm, property damage or loss suffered as a result of an offence.

Q13:

If a victim does not want to directly receive information about an offender, but still wants to exercise their participation rights, what can they do?

Answer:

You may designate a representative to receive your offender-related information, including the offender's photo, on your behalf.  You must advise CSC and PBC of the representative's contact information. The representative can forward statements that you have written, but cannot submit statements for consideration in their own name.

Right to Restitution

Q14:

Will victims have the right to seek restitution?

Answer:

Yes. You will have the right to have the court consider ordering the offender to pay for any financial losses that you incurred as a result of the offence and to have any unpaid amount enforced through a civil court.

A judge can order restitution for financial losses related to:

  • Damaged or lost property due to the crime;
  • Physical injury or psychological harm due to the crime;
  • Physical injury due to the arrest or attempted arrest of the offender;
  • Costs for temporary housing, moving, food, childcare and transportation due to a spouse, common-law partner or child moving out of the offender's household (this only applies if a victim has moved because they had been physically harmed or threatened with physical harm due to the offence, arrest, or attempted arrest of the offender); and/or,
  • Costs that victims of identity theft had to pay to re-establish their identity, or to correct their credit history and their credit rating.

CSC does not have the authority to enforce a restitution order. If a restitution order is not paid, you can have the order entered as a civil court judgment which can be obtained at a provincial court house.