Crime bill won’t help victims, say advocates

We have seen a lot of criticism from the Canadian public concerning the omnibus crime bill that is to be introduced in the fall, so much that it almost seems pointless to mention it. The legislation is so bad that most Canadians are just willing to accept it is an inevitability we can do nothing about. The following article is critical of the bill from the point of view of the “victims”, a catch word our government likes to us ad nauseum. So here it is. Please read the original article on the Ottawa Citizen website. Otherwise it is included below:

The Conservative government’s omnibus crime legislation to be introduced this fall may put too much focus on offenders, leaving victims in the dark, crime victims advocates say.

The legislation, likely to be sweeping in scale and scope, will be bundled into omnibus bills that represent a larger group of about a dozen bills the government was unable to pass in the previous minority Parliament.

Advocates for victims of crime are concerned the bill – expected to dramatically expand mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes, harshen sentencing for certain sexual offences against children and affect the privacy of young offenders – puts more weight on punishment than prevention, and won’t go far enough to help victims.

The government has said harsher sentencing will help victims of crime by ensuring offenders stay off the streets and behind bars.

But the answer isn’t that simple, said Sue O’Sullivan, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

“It’s not an ‘either/or,’ ” she said. “It’s a balance. And what’s missing is that attention to victims of crime. The legs of the stool aren’t equal right now.”

O’Sullivan, the former deputy chief of Ottawa police, is the second ombudsman in the office, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government created in 2007.

When it was launched it was given a mandate to help victims of crime – individually and collectively – access federal programs, address their complaints about federal programs and increase awareness among criminal justice policy-makers of the needs and concerns of victims.

Funding for the office has been steady – it continues to receive an approximately $1.5-million annual budget, the same as when it was launched.

But because the office has no legislative power, it has to go through the Justice Department to get important reports tabled or to make funding requests.

In 2007, the Conservatives committed $13 million per year for four years through the Federal Victim Strategy, a package of programs and services that included the creation of the ombudsman’s office. The government renewed funding for the strategy and the ombudsman’s office in the 2011 budget.

But the money being funnelled into the government’s crime agenda is off-balance, leaning steeply toward offender-management instead of victim-management, Sullivan said.

To help balance the funding, former ombudsman Steve Sullivan, in his new role as executive director of Ottawa Victims Services, submitted three recommendations for the 2012 pre-budget consultations, a process through which Canadians can present funding ideas for the minister of finance to consider while developing next year’s budget.

In October 2010, the government decided to establish a $5-million, five-year fund to help support the growth of Child Advocacy Centres – something the ombudsman’s office had asked for a year prior. But the day before the justice minister announced funding for those centres, the public safety minister had announced $150 million in prison spending.

Sullivan had noted the government had been idling on a commitment it made in the 2010 Throne Speech, to make victim fines surcharges necessary, something the current ombudsman is pushing for.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


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