In April, our Government introduced a landmark piece of legislation to create a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. This is historic: for the first time in Canadian history, victims will have clear, statutory rights at the federal level.
Specifically, the Victims Bill of Rights would provide rights to more information about victims services and programs and their case; to protection at all stages of the criminal justice process; to participation so that their voices are better heard; and restitution so that justice is done.
These reforms come as a result of an extensive process where we reached out to Canadians for their opinion, including through an online public consultation and a cross-country series of roundtables Justice Minister Peter MacKay held in every province and territory to consult with victims on how the federal government could better address the needs of victims of crime all while giving them a move effective voice in the criminal justice system.
During these consultations, many victims asked why the tragic impacts of crime on their lives, families, and property were not given greater prominence. Some were frustrated at not having been provided with information about court dates or plea negotiations, or not feeling properly protected. Their candour was heartfelt and invaluable. And it was clear that they weren’t only thinking of their own experience—they were telling their stories on behalf of other victims. Their primary motivation was to improve the justice system for all.
A study released in 2011 by the Department of Justice Canada found that the total cost of crime is an estimated $99.6 billion a year – 83 per cent of which is borne by victims. This is one reason why we make no apologies for passing reforms to keep society’s most dangerous criminals off our streets and behind bars where they belong.
Canadians need to feel that their justice system is working for them. They need to feel safe in the environment they live in, and, if they are victimized, they need to feel confident that the justice system will treat them with the courtesy, compassion and respect they deserve. Justice should not just be done—it should also be seen to be done.
This is precisely why our Government will continue putting victims first.