Legislation & Policy Related to Victims in the Criminal Justice System

Overview

There are several acts and policies governing the treatment of victims in the criminal justice system, including the:

  • Victims of Crime Act
  • Canadian Victims Bill of Rights
  • Crime Victim Assistance Act
  • Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) policy
  • Referral Policy for Victims of Power-Based Crimes

Victims of Crime Act

The Victims of Crime Act provides victims with the right to:

  • Be treated with courtesy and respect by all justice personnel, without discrimination
  • Receive information on the justice system, victim services and related legislation
  • Receive, on request, certain case-specific information regarding police investigation, prosecution, sentencing and release of the offender
  • Be given a reasonable opportunity to provide victim impact information for presentation to the court before sentencing of the offender
  • Receive independent legal representation, provided free of charge where they cannot afford it, if an application has been made for disclosure of their personal records

Complaints about compliance with Victims of Crime Act can be made to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Canadian Victims Bill of Rights

If you are a victim of certain offences, including all offences under the Criminal Code, the federal Canadian Victims Bill of Rights provides you with the:

  • Right to information - Victims have the right to receive on request general information about the criminal justice system, the victim services and programs available to them, including restorative justice programs, and their right to file a complaint if they believe their rights have been denied or infringed. Victims can also request certain case specific information about the status and outcome of the investigation and prosecution.
  • Right to protection - Victims have the right to have their security and privacy considered at all stages of the criminal justice process, and to have reasonable and necessary protection measures from intimidation and retaliation. Victims also have the right to ask for a testimonial aid or to have their identity protected when appearing as a witness at court appearances.
  • Right to participation - Victims have the right to present victim impact statements and have them considered in court. Victims also have the right to express their views about decisions that affect their rights.
  • Right to restitution - Victims have the right to have the court consider making a restitution order and have an unpaid restitution order entered as a civil court judgment.

Crime Victim Assistance Act

Under the Crime Victim Assistance Act, victims injured as a result of certain crimes, immediate family members of an injured or deceased victim and some witnesses may be eligible for financial assistance or other benefits. For a list of general benefits (e.g., medical services, dental services, counselling services) and who may qualify see 161/2002 - Crime Victim Assistance (general) Regulation. For a list of income support and vocational services or expenses benefits see 162/2002 - Crime Victim Assistance Regulation.

Violence Against Women in Relationships Policy (including Protocol for Highest Risk Cases)

The Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) policy (PDF) directs the justice and child welfare systems to emphasize the criminality of violence within relationships and to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of women and children who may be at risk. This policy relates to the continuum of violence that occurs in relationships. It applies to a range of criminal activities from harassing telephone calls or mischief to aggravated assault.

Referral Policy for Victims of Power-Based Crimes

The Referral Policy for Victim of Power-Based Crimes: Family Violence, Sexual Assault, and Criminal Harassment (PDF) is intended to ensure that victims of power-based crimes are referred as soon as possible to the appropriate Victim Service Program to receive assistance. “Power-based Crimes” refers to violence in relationships. The Referral Policy for Victims of Power-Based Crimes is supported by in provincial and police force policy including the Ministry of Attorney General’s Violence Against Women In Relationships Policy (VAWIR), the RCMP “E” Division Policy, and municipal police department policies.

The policy states that victims identified as victims of violence in relationships will be referred to the appropriate community-based victim service program. This helps ensure the victim’s safety and increase the likelihood the victim cooperates with the criminal justice system.

Community-based victim service programs are located in community agencies and are mandated to support all victims of power-based crimes. In some communities there are specific programs for women, children, youth, male survivors of sexual abuse, Aboriginal peoples or ethno-specific communities.