Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 33 - Evidence for March 27, 2013


OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, met this day at 4:16 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good afternoon, and welcome honourable senators, invited guests and members of the general public who are following today's proceedings on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We are meeting today to continue our consideration of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, dealing with victim surcharges. As a reminder to those watching these committee hearings, they are open to the public and are also available via webcast on the parl.gc.ca website. You can find more information on the schedule of witnesses on the website under ``Senate Committees.''

To begin today's hearing, on panel one, our witness is a familiar face at the committee deliberations. We are pleased to welcome back Sue O'Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

[Translation]

Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

[English]

Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss Bill C-37, which seeks to amend the federal victim surcharge provisions in the Criminal Code. I am very encouraged by the introduction of this legislation as it responds directly to recommendations that our office has made to better meet the needs of victims of crime in Canada.

First, I would like to take the opportunity to discuss my role as Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. As you might know, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime was created to provide a voice for victims at the federal level. We do this through receiving and reviewing complaints from victims; promoting and facilitating access to federal programs and services for victims of crime by providing information and referrals; promoting the basic principles of justice for victims of crime; raising awareness among criminal justice personnel and policymakers about the needs and concerns of victims; and identifying systemic and emerging issues that negatively impact on victims of crime.

The office helps victims in two main ways, individually and collectively. We help victims individually by speaking with victims every day, answering their questions and addressing their complaints. We help victims collectively by reviewing important issues and making recommendations to the federal government on how to improve its laws, policies or programs to better support victims of crime.

I would like to begin by stating that our office is very encouraged by the proposed amendments to the victim surcharge provisions in the Criminal Code being examined today. The three changes proposed in Bill C-37 are a positive step forward in addressing the needs of victims of crime.

The first amendment would ensure that the surcharge is imposed in all cases, without exception, by removing a judge's option to waive the surcharge.

Second, offenders who are unable to pay the surcharge would be able to participate in provincial-territorial fine option programs to discharge the amount owing.

Third, the amount of the surcharge that an offender must pay would double under this legislation. In terms of implementation, this would translate into a surcharge of 30 per cent when a fine is imposed or, when no fine is imposed, $100 in the case of an offence punishable by summary conviction and $200 in the case of an offence punishable by indictment.

In effect, these changes would ensure consistent application of the surcharge provisions across Canada, holding offenders more accountable to the victims whose lives have been affected. Due to the benefits of these proposed amendments from the perspective of victims of crime, I would like to express our full support for the passage of Bill C- 37.

The changes to the victim surcharge provisions have been a priority for our office because we hear from victims on a daily basis about their difficulty in accessing the services they need after a crime. Victims also express their frustration when offenders are not held accountable for paying their court-ordered debts, including restitution and the federal victim surcharge.

Victims also face many difficulties as a result of the psychological and socio-economic impacts of victimization. A recent study from the Department of Justice estimates that almost 83 per cent of the costs associated with crime are borne by victims. These costs include lost productivity and wages, costs of medical and psychological care, and time away from work to attend criminal proceedings. We also hear from victims about not being able to afford counselling sessions or about the lack of criminal injuries compensation available in their province or territory.

A contributing factor to these obstacles faced by victims could be the shortfall in revenues that the FVS was expected to generate for victim services and programs. The surcharge was intended to be applied automatically, but it is routinely waived during sentencing often without documentation of undue hardship to the offender.

Data from the review of the operations of the federal victim surcharge in New Brunswick from 2006 revealed that the surcharge was being waived in 66.5 per cent of the cases reviewed. In 99 per cent of the cases where the surcharge was waived, there was no documentation on file for the reasons that it was waived. As a result of the routine waiving of the FVS, the revenues for provincial and territorial victim services fall short of what was anticipated. This is a signal that the surcharge is not meeting its intended objectives and needs to be improved.

There are concerns that the mandatory payment of the surcharge will result in undue hardship for offenders. This focus does not allow for the consideration of undue hardship faced by victims in the aftermath of a crime. Bill C-37 allows for a more balanced approach, ensuring that the victim surcharge is consistently applied in all cases while also providing for offender participation in fine option programs or alternative mechanisms to secure payment.

The changes proposed in Bill C-37 to double the FVS and ensure that it is automatically applied in all cases will contribute to more effective funding for victim services. These changes will also give offenders the opportunity to provide reparation by paying into services that help victims to cope and to move forward following a crime.

In conclusion, the changes proposed to the federal victim surcharge provisions are a significant step forward. They will provide a more meaningful mechanism through which offenders can demonstrate reparation for harm done to victims and to the larger community while also demonstrating responsibility and accountability for their actions.

The efficient functioning of the FVS through the passage and implementation of Bill C-37 will send a strong signal to victims that the criminal justice system recognizes the long-lasting impacts of victimization and the corresponding necessity to hold offenders accountable and will ensure that provincial and territorial victim services are adequately funded.

Accordingly, I encourage this committee to ensure the passage of this bill as it will serve to better address the needs of victims of crime in Canada. As the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, I am grateful to the committee for providing me with the opportunity to highlight the needs of victims of crime in relation to this important piece of proposed legislation.

[Translation]

I will be pleased to answer your questions.

[English]

Senator Fraser: Ms. O'Sullivan, it is a pleasure to have you here. My first question has to do with the fine option programs in cases where somebody genuinely cannot pay. I believe that two or three provinces plus three territories do not have fine option programs.

Ms. O'Sullivan: It is my understanding that seven provinces and the three territories have fine option programs, and three provinces do not have the fine option program.

Senator Fraser: What are the alternatives? What happens to people in those provinces?

Ms. O'Sullivan: The three provinces without a fine option program are British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. In British Columbia, they have alternatives in terms of different ways to satisfy the fine or have it converted to community service. Ontario has licence suspension, civil enforcement and automatic demand letters. Newfoundland and Labrador has other collection tools that include form letters, notices and telephone calls. For more detail, it would be more appropriate for the provinces to respond to that question. That is the information our office has looked into.

Senator Fraser: The concern is that if people truly cannot pay and there is not a way to work it off, they will end up in jail.

Ms. O'Sullivan: I would encourage the Department of Justice, which works with the provinces and territories, to work with those three provinces and encourage them to develop fine option programs.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision in Wu states that if there is a reasonable excuse and there are circumstances that would fall into, then the courts cannot issue a warrant of committal.

Senator Joyal: They cannot jail a person for inability to pay.

Senator Fraser: However, this bill does not seem to allow for that. We are thrown back on judicial discretion.

Ms. O'Sullivan: Those three provinces have alternatives. It would be better for the provinces to speak to their respective alternatives. I would hope that the Department of Justice would enter into conversation with the three provinces to look at that.

I have read previous committee transcripts prior to my coming here today to know that you have looked at the study from New Brunswick and the data around that from a victim's perspective. The federal victims surcharge was created in 1988 to ensure that monies were available to the provinces and territories to provide services. When it comes to undue hardship, every victim I talk to says, ``I do not want what happened to me to happen to anybody else.'' They understand that a majority of offenders come back into the community, but they cannot understand why they do not have access to many of the services and supports they need to deal with their victimization.

Senator Fraser: This brings me to my second question. I have heard it suggested that the way in which the federal- provincial meshing of this program works is very cumbersome and burdensome and that is why some provinces have not taken it up. It is not been worth it. Is that faithful to your understanding of the situation? How confident are you that all of the money raised, which probably will be quite a lot, will flow through to real victim services?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Flowing the money is a provincial and territorial responsibility, so the federal government would address that with the provinces and territories.

Senator Fraser: Federal-provincial things have a federal component.

Ms. O'Sullivan: When I talk to victims across this country, I hear quite clearly about the need for services and resources. I hear from victims. For example, I talked to a victim who lost a loved one to homicide. The victim said, ``I was one of the lucky ones; I got paid for nine counselling sessions, but I have not reached pre-trial.''

We talk about the need for services and the money that this surcharge will raise, and that is why it is so important. We cannot simply leave it as is because we can see from the data that we are not raising the money that was intended to be raised.

In terms of the provinces and territories, there are unique elements. They know their communities and where the gaps are. For example, providing services in northern fly-in communities is completely different from providing them in southern urban centres. The provinces and territories know their communities and where the gaps are. My understanding is that they will use the limited resources they have to the best advantage to do that.

We need to ensure that the provinces and territories have mechanisms like a federal victim surcharge and funds available to provide monies for services that will support victims who, through no fault of their own, have to deal with the aftermath of being a victim of crime.

The Chair: The New Brunswick study contains 2000-01 data on eight provinces. Quebec did the best job of collecting and Ontario did the worst job. The numbers from 12 years ago show that the potential revenues in Ontario were $6.6 million, but they actually collected $1.2 million. They missed out on $5.5 million dollars. As I say, these figures are from 12 years ago. Just in the province of Ontario we are potentially looking at $15 million or $20 million on an annual basis that could be helping victims.

Ms. O'Sullivan: I do not know. We tried to gather information around what it could potentially raise. Obviously making it mandatory will raise many more millions of dollars. I would have to defer to the provinces, obviously, in terms of exactly how much money and what it would raise.

What we can say is that right now it is not raising the money it was intended to raise. It is not doing what the program was intended to do.

From a victim's perspective this is a reasonable balance, and we owe it to victims to try a new way.

The Chair: In terms of the provinces, how transparent is it? Ontario has a dedicated fund so that revenues from this go into that fund, but what about other provinces? Are monies flowing into general revenue?

Ms. O'Sullivan: I would have to let each province and territory answer that. I can say that we know that the direction is that this money be used to support victims. With respect to monies going into the provinces and territories, the clear direction for the use of this money is to support victim programming and services.

The Chair: Should that not be a role your office plays? You are advocating for victims across the country, and you are saying that you do not know what is happening.

Ms. O'Sullivan: I can tell you — the responsibility of each province and territory is that they have their own legislation in terms of the services they provide.

The Chair: I know that, but I asked a specific question about whether the monies are going into general revenue or into dedicated funds for victims, and you said that is something you do not know. I think you should know that. You should be advocating for each province to ensure that is what is happening with the money.

Ms. O'Sullivan: I apologize. I will clarify: Yes, the money that goes to the provinces is to be put into programming and services that support victims.

The Chair: I know that. I am asking if it is being used for that purpose. That is something you should be aware of.

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes, it is being used for those purposes. I have met with the federal-provincial-territorial working group as well as with victim services from each of the provinces and territories. We have had discussions about some of the gaps and challenges they have faced.

As one example, Alberta did a consultation to look at where the gaps are and how to use it. I apologize, I misunderstood your question.

Yes, they are providing services for victims.

The Chair: I will come back to you later. I want to give members a chance, but you are not giving me any assurance with respect to the question I asked you.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Ms. O'Sullivan, it is a pleasure to see you again. Thank you for your presentation.

You know that the biggest gap in Canada, when it comes to helping victims, is the lack of reciprocity among the provinces. If an Ontarian traveling in Quebec is assaulted, that person will not receive assistance from Quebec or Ontario because the crime has to have taken place in the individual's home province, whereas for other programs, like health care, whether you get sick in Ontario or British Columbia, you can receive care in a hospital and expect to receive the same quality of service at no cost.

We know that the provinces have dedicated funds for surcharges. I am thinking of Quebec, for example, which collects $12 to $15 million a year in federal and provincial surcharges with the victims fund. It is important to keep in mind that the surcharge is at both the penal and criminal level. And in other provinces, the amounts go to a consolidated fund. I am thinking of Newfoundland and Labrador, among others, that do not have measures in place to assist victims.

Do you not think it would be a golden opportunity if the bill set out an obligation for the provinces to dedicate the surcharge amount to a specific victims fund that would ensure that the provinces could gradually have access to significant resources to help victims and eventually have reciprocity among the provinces?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: The variability from province to province and the territories is an issue that victims of crime raise quite a bit. Depending on which province or territory you are living in, one has access to criminal injuries compensation. For example, criminal injuries compensation exists in many of the provinces, but in one of the provinces and in the territories there is no criminal injuries compensation framework.

That would mean exactly what you just raised. That would help in those provinces and territories when it comes to consistency and monies raised from the federal victim surcharge. Our hope would be that it would bring about more consistency in terms of services available to victims of crime.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: The people who are against this bill tell us that the majority of people found guilty do not have sufficient income to pay this surcharge.

How would you respond to that kind of comment?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: In the first part of my testimony, I mentioned that there is a fine option program in seven provinces and the three territories, so there is an ability for some of that. Again, the three provinces that have alternatives would certainly encourage, as we said, Justice to have those discussions.

I would like to talk about the undue hardship to victims. When it comes to services available to them and the undue hardship, I go back to my opening comments: About 83 per cent of the cost of crime in this country is borne by victims.

We can take a longer term lens in terms of paying. If a person cannot pay at that time, why can we not have a longer term lens and look at other alternatives? For example, if they are incarcerated in a federal institution, potentially they can have two accounts: an earnings account and an income account. We are talking about 30 per cent of a fine or $100 or $200. Why could that federal offender not pay so much towards that federal victim surcharge? The other is to look at avenues to garnish wages once they go back to work and are back in the community. We need to take a longer term lens in terms of where we are going.

When we talk about tangible supports for victims, the federal victim surcharge is one. However, other avenues such as restitution need to be explored, and our office has made recommendations in that regard.

Senator Jaffer: Does the federal victim surcharge go directly into a bank account for the victims? The money is collected. Does it go directly into a victim's account, or does the province decide how much will go to the victim?

Ms. O'Sullivan: My understanding is the monies raised from the federal victim surcharge will be given to the provinces and territories under an agreement to be used to directly support programming and services for victims of crime.

Senator Jaffer: Is it dedicated? Does all that money go there?

Ms. O'Sullivan: It is defined that it is to support victims in terms of services and programming. The provinces and territories then develop plans on how and what they will deliver in their provinces and territories to support victims of crime.

Senator Jaffer: I will ask you again: Is there a commitment that all that money is dedicated to go towards the victims?

Ms. O'Sullivan: That is my understanding. It is to go to services programmed to support victims of crime.

Senator Jaffer: All of it?

Ms. O'Sullivan: That is my understanding.

Senator Jaffer: One of the challenges that I have had since we have been looking at this bill, and I am really struggling with it, is that the judge does not have any discretion. The offender has to pay a surcharge. In three provinces — and B.C. is one, where I come from — there is no option. There is an alternative. The Wu case says that you cannot send somebody to jail, and then I hear you refer to alternatives, like in Ontario, of a suspension of licence. That does not get you money.

I see a vicious circle: surcharge, no money, Wu and then alternatives. I am not really hearing from you what the alternatives are except the suspension of a licence. That does not get money. How do you deal with that?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Obviously you make it mandatory. Look at encouraging the Department of Justice to work with those three remaining provinces, and our hope would be that they would develop fine option programs.

Part of this is it is not just from a victim's perspective; it is not just about reparation of harm. Yes, there is money to support programming. It is also about accountability and responsibility on the part of the offender in terms of being able to be accountable for the harm they have done and support monies going back to services to the support victims. There is that piece which fits the sentencing principle as well.

Senator Jaffer: Do sentencing principles not take into account the responsibility of the offender?

Ms. O'Sullivan: We are in agreement on that. This would fit within those principles. It is also about accountability and responsibility on the part of the offender.

Senator McIntyre: As you have indicated, the surcharge is put into a provincial or territorial fund usually called a victims' fund. We all understand that the surcharge is used to help fund programs, services and assistance to victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime occurred. Are you aware of the victims' fund in any of the provinces or territories offering direct monetary compensation to victims?

Ms. O'Sullivan: I will use one province as an example. I will refer to Alberta and where the monies go. They look at where some of those gaps are. Direct funding could be services provided. I will give you practical examples. It might be that someone has offered to help a victim prepare their victim impact statement. It might be that there are monies provided to victims for criminal injuries compensation to obtain counselling; they can have their counselling sessions funded and have some of those services provided. It could be court accompaniment or practical issues in terms of that.

Through the criminal injuries compensation, monies can be given directly to the victim. To use Ontario as an example, that can be up to $25,000 and also financing to assist with counselling. You look at where the provinces will use some of this money.

As everyone is aware, a provincial-federal victim surcharge also helps fund some of that as well.

Senator McIntyre: How much of the money coming out of the victims' fund is used to help victims suffering from mental health issues, psychological and psychiatric treatments, for example?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Thank you for raising that question. When we talk about undue hardship, again we go to the offender. As you can imagine, many victims will tell you about the difficulties they have coping, not just at the time of the crime. It is a lifelong journey for many of them. They will need supports throughout their life, not just at the time of the crime but through the criminal justice process and beyond. You have had victim witnesses in front of you talk about their difficulties in coping and the counselling requirements they have had to help them through that.

[Translation]

Senator Rivest: I understand that the bill will ensure that the victim surcharge will be applied in all cases, no exceptions, and that the judge will no longer have the discretion to impose it or not. My question is simply for information purposes. Since this bill has not yet been adopted, why are judges refusing to impose the surcharge? Is it simply because it was not asked for?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: I looked at the same studies you did. In New Brunswick, no reason was given for 99 per cent of them, so I cannot answer that question for you. That would have to be posed to the judges. Through the study that was done in New Brunswick, of the 66.5 per cent of the cases they waived, in 99.9 per cent of the cases there was no written reason for why it was waived.

[Translation]

Senator Rivest: Have government authorities given Crown prosecutors guidelines to request a victim surcharge in their submissions? Does that exist?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: The legislation that developed the federal victim surcharge was passed in 2000, which made it a requirement that the federal victim surcharge would be automatic. That was in the legislation.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Ms. O'Sullivan, in your brief, you mention — I think it is on page 2 — that it is important to raise awareness among justice personnel. Could you give us an example of how you can raise awareness among justice personnel?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: I can tell you what our office does. For example, we will meet across the country. We will attend different conferences or gatherings with victim service agencies. I have had opportunity to address judges, Crown prosecutors and basically all the agencies involved at different venues throughout the year. As well, we will use publications like our special report. Shifting the Conversation was an example of a special report we issued last February. It contains 20 recommendations, including the federal victim surcharge, under ``Tangible Supports.'' We use the media to get that message out as well. Committee hearings are another way.

We have different avenues available to us through working with our office in our framework for engagement and dialogue. We have regular dialogue with victim surcharge agencies and other stakeholders as well.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: Welcome, Ms. O'Sullivan. Are you certain that the money currently being collected after this surcharge is imposed is really being paid into the victims fund, or is it not being sent to the receiver general of the province who then puts it into the consolidated fund for the province, and then it is another decision made by the provinces whether or not to contribute to the victims fund? Certainly, in the case of Newfoundland, if there is no victims assistance program, it goes into the province's consolidated revenue fund. Are you certain that, in all the provinces, the money goes where it is supposed to go directly, rather than going through the consolidated revenue fund?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: The direction is clear that it is to be used for developing supports for victims of crime. I have talked to victims who have expressed concerns that perhaps it is not being used as it could be for that. There are challenges. I have heard from different people in provinces and territories across this country about cutbacks and how funds are used. The direction is clear. That is how it is to be used. However, like any program, there should be monitoring in place to ensure that it is used for the appropriate purposes and evaluated for that.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: Who should manage the funds to make certain that they are directed to the victims fund?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: For example, I have seen some of the provinces put out documentation outlining where they spent those funds. Again, I encourage the Department of Justice to have a discussion with the provinces and territories about transparency and about how that money is collected and used.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: My other concern has to do with Ontario. I do not want to pre-empt the position of our chair, but that province, which is home to 13 million plus Canadians, and along with the population of British Columbia, makes up over half the Canadian population, does not have a fine option program. I would not want this bill to create the impression that, once it is voted on, the money will come and that the victims funds will be increased in most of the provinces, since we realize that there is no fine option program in Ontario or British Columbia, and Newfoundland has no victims fund or fine option program. Therefore, this bill will be of no use to that province in the immediate future. We can hope that it eventually will, but the situation will remain shaky for some time.

Ontario and British Columbia make up half the Canadian population. In terms of inmates or people who should normally pay the tax, and in relation to the objective of a maximum of 13 million indicated in the 2001-02 New Brunswick study, in concrete terms, have you made any calculations to determine how much that will generate? Because those who will end up in the fine option program will not pay directly into the victims fund; they are basically paying a compensation for a tax they cannot pay.

So we cannot think that all the people subject to the tax will pay it directly. Have you assessed the real amount we could expect the victims funds to receive in the context where everyone applies it? This is becoming a general standard. With the fact that everyone who goes into a fine option program will not pay the victims as such. It will serve the objective that you described, which is to assume their responsibility to the victims, but the victims will not get an immediate benefit. Do you understand the nuance I am making in my question?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: I hope I do.

Senator Joyal: I can repeat it in English.

Ms. O'Sullivan: No, that is okay.

First, we do not know, because we do not have a record, why it was waived, if we are talking about the New Brunswick study. We do not know about that 99 per cent where reasons were not given. We do not know about the undue hardship and whether or not they would fit into that category. We have made inquiries through the policy centre to gather data from the provinces, using the cases. We have some data; I do not have it with me here.

We cannot make the assumption that all people will have undue hardship because we know from the data that the surcharge is collected, and I think the chair highlighted some of the data around what is collected. I think we owe it to victims because this was intended to raise money for support in the provinces and territories. I cannot make an assumption to say, for that percentage of people who had it waived, what the reason for waiving it was, because it was not documented. I can say that the intent of the legislation is clear as to what it was to be used for.

Are all of the provinces using it to its full extent? Once again, a valuable point has been raised here in terms of transparency and ensuring that it is used for the proper things. It does go directly to services for victims in the provinces and territories. Are there gaps and is there variability across the country? Yes.

As for your comment about criminal injuries compensation and the differences among provinces, we hear from victims about that on a regular basis.

I have also had the opportunity to talk to victim services in all of the provinces and territories about the challenges they face in terms of resources and the ability to provide those services. They see the huge needs that are there, and they do not have the capacity or the funds to deliver.

Senator Fraser: Under clause 3 of this bill, the surcharge would have to be levied even on people who had received an absolute discharge.

Ms. O'Sullivan: That is my understanding.

Senator Fraser: An absolute discharge can mean that the charge should never have been laid in the first place.

Ms. O'Sullivan: My understanding is that there is no conviction registered for an absolute discharge.

Senator Fraser: What it says is ``convicted, or discharged under section 730.''

Ms. O'Sullivan: The information I have is that it applies to all convictions, including discharges. That is my understanding of it.

Senator Fraser: That is not what I think it says here, but that is what you have been told is the intent?

Ms. O'Sullivan: That is my understanding of it, yes.

Senator Fraser: That is interesting. If it were the broader case, would you think that was appropriate?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes. My understanding of an absolute discharge is that you have gone to court. The court is basically saying, ``We are discharging a conviction against you so that you will not have a criminal record.'' At the same time, there has been a proceeding where a charge has been laid and there has been a victim. That does not take away from the harm to the victim. I think it recognizes that where there is an absolute discharge, it could be that the person had never been in trouble before. At the end of the day, they are given an absolute discharge. My understanding is just that no conviction is registered.

Senator Fraser: They would still have to pay.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: I think the problem is not the surcharge; the problem is its application and use with regard to the victims of crime. I think New Brunswick has proved that it can work in one-third of the cases of people who must pay such a fine in New Brunswick. I think that if tomorrow morning every criminal had to pay a fine, New Brunswick would have a lot of money.

We know that Newfoundland collects about $400,000 annually and, with the bill, that will climb to close to $1 million, which is a lot of coin. As an advocate for victims, will you have a strategy to ensure that the provinces use these funds exclusively to help victims?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: As the federal ombudsman, I do not make recommendations directly to the provinces and territories, but I continue to share with the provinces and territories what we hear from victims across this country about the challenges and the gaps with that. Through my mandate, I certainly can speak to the Department of Justice and encourage them. I would hope that they would follow up with the provinces and territories in their discussions in terms of their transparency with the money and how it is used. I think the direction is clear that it is to be used to support victims and programs and services for victims.

Senator Boisvenu: If we can help you, we will.

Senator White: I have to put this in the form of a question. I will ask for a response of yes or no.

A discharge is typically found where there is a finding of guilt by a judge or a judge and jury, but then they discharge you instead of convicting you. That has more to do with the sentence than with the guilt of the accused; is that not correct?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes, that is my understanding of it.

Senator Joyal: I am willing to go a step further with the question of compensating the victims' fund for the offender who would be, for instance, someone who benefits from a social assistance program or someone suffering from a mental health disorder. We know that they are present in the prison system, in large numbers in some areas.

For people who do not pay because they are under the fine option program or because they cannot pay for whatever reason, I would be ready to recommend that the amount of money be paid by the government to the victims' fund. The logic of a surcharge is to help the victim, and a victim would need to be helped, whoever the person is who commits the crime. Do you understand the relationship I am making between the victims and the offenders?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes.

Senator Joyal: For the victim, it is immaterial whether or not the offender is able to pay. When the court comes to the conclusion that the person cannot pay and must go into the fine option program, or if the person does not pay or does not go into a program, you cannot subtract from the fund the amount of money that the fund would receive if that person were able to pay.

My recommendation is that the government should compensate for any amount of money that should have been paid to the fund, if we accept the principle that everyone has to pay.

Ms. O'Sullivan: As the victims' ombudsman, I will support anything that will raise more revenue for supporting victims and providing services. However, I would also say, in terms of us hearing about it routinely being waived — and we have not seen documentation — there is a part we cannot forget. That is the accountability and responsibility of the offenders in terms of the harm to the victims and their participation and ownership of their accountability in terms of the actions they have taken that have resulted, through no fault of the victims, in hardship to those victims and in their having needs that they need to have supported and met. You need to balance both. You need to recognize that there is that accountability. I think that it is sometimes easy to waive things. The concern we have is that we have seen it routinely waived. If there is a legitimate vulnerability as you are describing, I know the Wu decision protects that under ``reasonable excuse'' in terms of any kind of jail and warrant of committal. However, I think we need to balance. I think it is often easy just to say, ``Go down this road.'' I would say that we could go down many avenues, but in going down that road, we cannot forget the accountability and responsibility of the offender either.

Senator Jaffer: You talk about the need to balance. Often, someone who is an offender might have been a victim before. I would like to hear about what you think some of your responsibilities are because some of the witnesses who have appeared before us have that said there is an unfair impact on people who are poor, marginalized and vulnerable, especially Aboriginal people who are in the prison system in great numbers and who might have been victims at one point. What is your responsibility toward them?

Ms. O'Sullivan: In actual fact, we know that there is a disproportionate amount in the criminal justice system, but there is also a disproportionate amount of victimization in the Aboriginal community. For example, we know through the GSS 2009 survey that an Aboriginal woman is three times more likely to be the victim of violent crime than is a non-Aboriginal woman. When we look at the victimization, particularly in the Aboriginal community, these funds will help them to deal with the things they have to struggle with in terms of that victimization.

Although they are disproportionately represented, they are also disproportionately represented in terms of victimization. These funds will help them get not just services but culturally appropriate services in their communities.

Senator Jaffer: Do you know whether option programs exist on reserves?

Ms. O'Sullivan: I cannot specifically speak to what each province and territory would have, but I have been to northern communities and spoken with individuals and seen everything from shelters to different victim services within those communities.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Ms. O'Sullivan, tell me if you agree or not. The goal of the surcharge is to make the criminals accountable, not to make the average citizen pay. The person who committed the crime must be made to pay as well.

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: I think there are multi-facets. One is that we need to ensure it is mandatory, that the money, when it goes to the provinces and territories, was raised by this community, that it is used for victim services and programs for supporting victims. We also need to balance that. I think this provides a fair balance. We owe it to victims to go this way forward.

Will the federal victim surcharge — and the chair raised this — cover all the needs in terms of what the provinces and territories need? Probably it will not, and that is why we also need to look at other avenues. By ensuring that it is mandatory, we hope it will help to develop some of that consistency across this country in terms of services available to victims of crime, and provide more monies to be available directly to support them.

The Chair: As a follow-up to what I was raising earlier, I think Victims of Violence sent you an open letter back in 2011 suggesting that there be a review of provincial practices. You do not have that information. I gather that that review has never been conducted and the organization that we will be hearing from recommended or suggested that that possibly could be done by your office. Obviously, you do not have the resources or you did not feel it fell within your mandate. I am wondering why you did not accept that challenge.

Ms. O'Sullivan: The mandate is that we can take complaints, and once a person is under the CCRA, we can make recommendations to the Government of Canada in terms of ensuring that they have better programming and services from a federal perspective.

However, I want you to know that we do share this information, these conversations, with the provinces and territories when we meet with them.

I think this committee has had the conversation here about saying yes, provinces should be able to say, ``Here is the money we received and here is how it has been spent to support victims of crime.'' Any transparency around that and ensuring that is a good thing.

The Chair: Thank you for your appearance here and your assistance with the committee's deliberations.

Our next witnesses are Sharon Rosenfeldt, President of the Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children; and Michel Surprenant, President of the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared.

Ms. Rosenfeldt, please proceed.

Sharon Rosenfeldt, President, Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children: Good afternoon, chair and honourable senators. Thank you for inviting me on behalf of our organization, Victims of Violence, to appear on Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of the federal victim surcharge.

Victims of Violence was incorporated in 1984 to provide support and assistance to victims of violent crime and to advance the rights of crime victims and enhance the safety of Canadians by addressing various issues in Canada's criminal justice system. I am appearing today in support of Bill C-37.

I wish to mention that we are pleased to have an Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. In relation to this bill as well as other bills, we, as victims of crime and as a victim of crime organization, have a central place to voice our concerns, opinions and recommendations. The ombudsman heard us in relation to our long-standing concerns regarding the victim surcharge. She did research and began consultations across Canada, resulting in a recommendation to government and ultimately leading to the creation of Bill C-37.

We agree that doubling the victim surcharge and making it mandatory is crucial to the provision of victim services across Canada. While it is clear there is an increased need for victim services across Canada, allocations from the FVS have steadily decreased over the past number of years. Today, the government recognizes this dilemma, and steps are being taken with the proposed amendments in Bill C-37 to restore allocation levels.

There are increased needs for victim services because the past 25 years have seen such growth and understanding of crime victims' rights and services and of the network of crime victim advocates, service providers and associated professionals who work to restore a sense of normalcy to victims' lives. Crime victims today are more aware of services and thus seek to use them. Currently, all provinces have a separate fund for the victim surcharge apart from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The provinces use the victim surcharge money to fund victim services, and they have funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund as well.

I will give you an idea of some of the victim services in Ontario that the victim surcharge helps to fund. I wish to point out that while certain needs might be common to all those who suffer some form of criminal victimization, several groups of victims have special and specific needs and, therefore, might have to receive special and individualized services. Some of the services for victims of crime across Ontario include domestic violence court programs; family court programs; child victim witness programs; Internet child exploitation programs; legal services; male victim support services; sexual assault rape crisis centres; Support Link, a program where victims at risk of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking receive help in developing a personal safety plan; victims crisis assistance and referral service programs, which provide immediate on-site service to victims of crime 24 hours a day and which work closely with police as first contact with victims; victim witness assistance programs, which work closely with the Crown and are based in courthouses to provide information, assistance and support to victims and witnesses of crime as they go through the courts; victim quick response programs, which provide emergency expenses to secure premises to ensure immediate safety and emergency accommodation; transportation and dependent care costs for a family member who must identify a homicide victim; immediate funeral expenses; and crime scene cleanup, which requires specialized services, et cetera.

I have some knowledge of the way that Ontario's victim fine surcharge is supposed to work or not work. During the years 1996 to 1998, I was Chair of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Our budget was $15 million. In 2011, Ontario's CIC Board paid out $30.9 million. That is a good thing because it indicates that more victims are becoming aware of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in Ontario.

From 1998 to 2004, I was Chair of the Office for Victims of Crime, a new Ontario government agency. Part of my mandate was to advise government on the allocation of funding from the victim surcharge for programs affecting victims of crime. When I became chair in 1998, the accumulation of Ontario's victim fine surcharge fund was $32.1 million. Out of that, $11.2 million was spent on the court witness program, which had 26 sites in courthouses across Ontario. Another part was to fund 20 sites of the victim crisis and referral program, which works closely with police. The remaining money was dedicated to community time-limited grants. I understand there are a lot more sites of those programs in place today. Funding for all domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centres and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board as well as other programs came from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which remains so today.

The latest figure I have for Ontario's victim surcharge fund is for the year 2010 in the amount of $52 million. With the growth of victims' issues, needs and services worldwide over the past 25 to 30 years, the concept of the victim surcharge has grown.

I quote from a government document from Northern Ireland, which states:

. . . the concept of a levy system, where money is recovered from offenders to support or compensate victims, is not unique. Arrangements have been introduced across a number of countries worldwide and whilst there is a variation in the approach taken, the underpinning principle remains that offenders should be made more accountable for their actions.

Currently, England, Wales, Australia, Belgium, Sweden and the United States have a victim surcharge program. Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are currently in the process. Scotland just introduced their bill in Parliament on February 6, 2013.

I will bow to the lawyers of today's Senate committee as I am not a lawyer, just a victim advocate. However, I would like to draw your attention to a 1994 study commissioned and done by Justice Canada, in particular in the province of Ontario. It states:

If the surcharge provisions are subject to a constitutional challenge (as was the case in R. v. Crowell, Nova Scotia 1992), it is important to understand the nature of the surcharge provisions in terms of their purpose and — as stated in the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Oakes, 1987 — an assessment of the rationality and proportionality of the means represented by the legislation.

Essentially, the surcharge provisions may be seen to have two purposes:

to create a new source of revenue for the funding of victim services and

programs by the provinces and territories; and

to provide a means whereby offenders may be involved in making some

degree of reparation.

According to the Crowell decision, the surcharge is ``neither a true tax nor a true fine, but rather a unique penalty in the nature of a general kind of restitution. As such it is penal in its pith and substance and therefore constitutional . . . .''

I will close with that thought and thank you for listening to me.

[Translation]

Michel Surprenant, President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared: Good afternoon. My name is Michel Surprenant. I am the father of Julie Surprenant, who disappeared on November 16, 1999.

After my daughter disappeared, I founded the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared with the help of Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, now a senator, in 2004. I am here today to talk to you as president of the AFPAD.

First, I would like to congratulate the Conservative government on its Bill C-37, a bill that the AFPAD supports.

I would like to explain to you why this bill is so important to victims. It will allow the provinces, including Quebec, to collect money from the pockets of criminals. That money will be used to provide more services, increase the existing services and, at best, to obtain parity between services offered to offenders and those offered to victims.

For a victim or a victim's family, services to victims are essential. Following a crime or a disappearance, victims have many needs and all kinds of unforeseen costs. For example, many families have to pay for psychological services and funeral expenses, which currently cost up to $3,500.

Quebec currently reimburses fees for a maximum of 20 psychological consultations for a murder victim's family. It is not enough for victims living with this type of situation. Think about it: a crime has a life-long impact. It is unacceptable to abandon a victim after 20 psychological consultations. Victims serve a life sentence of suffering, and the consequences of the murder or sexual assault of a loved one follows them for the rest of their lives.

There is an urgent need to allow the provinces to increase funds for victims. This legislation that I am asking you to adopt on behalf of victims is important. It will not impose a heavy burden on criminals and, at the same time, it will ensure that criminals are held financially responsible for their actions.

As an example, when an inmate causes damage to government property, the inmate is required to cover the cost of the damage caused. Also, to encourage the criminal to pay this surcharge, his driver's licence could be amended until he has finished paying the surcharge. Claiming that this surcharge of a few hundred dollars for a murder is too heavy a burden for criminals is a very poor argument.

Keep in mind that the family of a murder victim must pay up to $12,000 just to bury their loved one. This victim surcharge that will be increased will make it possible, particularly in Quebec, to increase the portion of funeral costs that can be reimbursed to the families of victims murdered in Quebec. The Government of Quebec currently only pays $3,5000 for funeral expenses, which may cost an average of up to $12,000.

There is also a big demand to help victims pay for cleaning up crime scenes. That is why it is important for the provinces to follow the federal government's example. The provinces must also increase their victim surcharge as the federal government is currently doing. It is equally important for the provinces to use those funds wisely. The money must not get lost in bureaucracy. The money collected must go specifically and directly to the victims. That is why it is important to pass this bill without amendments.

Senator Fraser: Mr. Surprenant, forgive me. I introduced you in English just now. I am sorry. Welcome to the Senate in the language of your choice.

Mr. Surprenant: That is fine.

[English]

Senator Fraser: Ms. Rosenfeldt, you have had experience in the apparatus of victim services from the provincial government point of view. Why does Ontario not have a fine option program?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: That I cannot answer. In the R. v. Wu decision it is explained that it was done away with administratively in 1994. They never did have the fine option program. They had the apparatus and the process almost ready to go, but due to financial problems it was done away with administratively in 1994. That is my understanding. I certainly cannot speak for the provinces.

Senator Fraser: Is it your impression that the victim fine surcharge, the surcharge money, all goes directly to actual services, or does some portion of it — and if so, how much — go to provincial administration?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: No, it does not, in any of the provinces across Canada. Ontario and British Columbia were the last provinces to enact an actual victims of crime act. As part of the act it enshrines the Victims' Justice Fund. When this was enacted in 1989, each of the provinces really jumped on board and a lot of them started putting together victims of crime acts, which designated that fund, and we were the last province.

Senator Fraser: That is fine, but I have another question and I know I will be cut off.

Presumably, Ontario has not spent a lot of money administering the fine surcharge program, at least on the basis of the New Brunswick study. It looks as though Ontario has, for whatever reason, not been collecting a lot of the federal surcharge it could have been collecting. Would you expect the administration of the federal surcharge to be costly now that it will become obligatory? I have no idea, but you have to work to find the money.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: The surcharge has been in place for 24 years now in all the provinces. I cannot see it being any more costly, even making it mandatory. I do not understand where the costs would be.

I know that in the province of Ontario the fund is actually managed by the office of the Victims Services Secretariat, which is part of the Attorney General's office. In most provinces, really, it is the same. I cannot see it being administratively more costly than it was to implement it in the first place.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Surprenant, do you have any comments?

Mr. Surprenant: I would like to follow up on Ms. Rosenfeldt's comments. You mentioned the administration of the money, but I think it is better to look at the spirit of this measure, which is to make the criminal responsible for the act he has committed. If he is reluctant to pay the surcharge, it is an indication that his rehabilitation is not complete.

Senator Fraser: I am not challenging your opinion at all. I just wanted to understand what it all means in the field and for the governments that will now be confronted by a system that has changed.

Mr. Surprenant: I understand your position, but what is important for me is to make the criminal responsible. In that context, if you look at the long-term effects in terms of reoffending, there is an immediate effect that will go further than the immediate costs of managing the money.

Senator Fraser: I understand. Thank you very much.

[English]

Senator Boisvenu: Ms. Rosenfeldt, it is always a pleasure to see you at committee.

[Translation]

Some countries are further ahead in recognizing victims' rights. One of them is France, where there is a dual legal process: criminal and civil proceedings operate simultaneously. For the family of a murdered child, the civil proceedings go on at the same time as the criminal proceedings. The family or the victim are provided with legal support, whereas in Canada crown prosecutors do not represent the family. They represent the government because victims are not really involved in the legal process.

So France has this dual process, at the end of which, when the criminal is found guilty, a penalty is imposed at the same time as an order for reparation, because the family is provided with a lawyer to represent its interests during the legal proceedings.

In your view, is the proposal for a victim surcharge that we have before us a first step in Canada that, in criminal proceedings, will result in reparation being required from the offender, basically in order to make him responsible for the crime he has committed?

[English]

Ms. Rosenfeldt: Yes, absolutely. I see this as a first step. There are so many things that have to be done. In the European Union, which has 27 or 29 states within it, they now have standards in all. If they can do that with 27 different countries, surely to goodness we can do something like that in Canada with 10 provinces and two territories. To me, that is the second phase. I believe this is the first step in being assured that the victim fine surcharge will raise enough money to be able to proceed to the second phase, which is the actual provision of victim services.

May I say one quick thing? With our ombudsman, this, too, would be in the second phase. This is what our organization will be asking. Our federal ombudsman should have the same investigatory powers as the Correctional Investigator, who is basically a federal ombudsman as well. On some of the questions that were coming to the ombudsman, her hands are tied because it is a different process in there. She needs more power to be able to do the work she wants to do on behalf of victims of crime. That will be in phase two.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: Mr. Surprenant, Ms. Rosenfeldt, welcome. Mr. Surprenant, you certainly have greater experience with the services provided by Quebec's Fonds d'indemnisation des victimes. Is your priority essentially the amount of the benefits provided by the various programs or the fact that the range of services is not broad enough to accommodate the needs of the victims?

Mr. Surprenant: First of all, you have to understand that the present services do not go deep enough to be able to adequately meet the needs of the victims.

Senator Joyal: Can you give an example?

Mr. Surprenant: Take the psychological care associated with a tragedy; there is always a — Please forgive me, I am a little stressed. Can you repeat your question?

Senator Joyal: I will ask the question again. I wanted to know whether, given your experience with Quebec's Fonds d'indemnisation des victimes, your concern was more with the amount of compensation provided or the range of services available. In her presentation, Ms. Rosenfeldt listed for us the different purposes for which services are provided in Ontario. You mentioned some amounts and also the number of psychological sessions — twenty or so. We know that, in some cases, that is not enough. Is that the main thrust of your recommendations?

Mr. Surprenant: Victim services are always somewhat arbitrary. In terms of psychological services, sometimes people are back on the rails and ready to go after two or three sessions. For others, that is not the case after 30 sessions. Those are the people that time must be spent with in order to understand the problem and to know how to get them back to a productive life. The trauma is one thing, but the main goal, for our association and for society, is to make those people functional again. You learn as you go along, in a sense. But we are mainly talking about broadening the services.

Senator Joyal: Broadening the services and tailoring them to each individual. Because, as you say, at the moment, it is a case of ``one size fits all'' with just one approach for everyone, whereas we need to adjust the services to each person's particular needs.

Mr. Surprenant: Absolutely.

Senator Joyal: Mr. Surprenant, you have talked about services, but have you specifically talked about compensation? Because, clearly, as was mentioned before, victims of major crimes suffer harm in some form. Is the matter of compensation also among your recommendations as you present your case? Or are you focusing solely on the matter of victim services?

Mr. Surprenant: If we are talking about compensation, let me draw a parallel. The family of a victim killed in a car accident receives $50,000. The family of a child decapitated by a murderer receives $2,000. There is no balance. The collateral damage caused by a criminal act is enormous. It is not just about financial compensation, it is about making rehabilitation possible so that people can keep on with their normal lives. The money is often used to pay for psychologists and all kinds of other needed services.

Senator Joyal: Has your association put figures on how the amounts could be adjusted in terms of what exists, for example, at the CSST, the commission that deals with workplace accidents? The organization is well known in Quebec and there are certainly equivalents in Ontario and several other Canadian provinces. Have you estimated what it would mean in terms of the amounts?

Mr. Surprenant: We do not have an estimate for every single amount, but I was giving you a comparison between the services already provided and those received by victims of crime. We must also remember that, when those regulations were made, the victims were not taken into consideration. Today, after representing victims' interests for a number of years, we are starting to look at things through the victims' eyes and to understand the harm that has been caused.

At the moment, we cannot quantify the amount of harm and say how much it will cost per person to allow them to get on with their lives. We cannot really come up with exact numbers. Those initiatives are in the early stages. We have to keep working at it; we will get there.

Senator Joyal: I will try to come back to this.

[English]

Senator Joyal: I see you are nodding, Ms. Rosenfeldt. Do you want to add something?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: Would you like to join our group? You have identified it. Dealing with victims is very complex. For example, not all sexual assault victims respond in the same manner. Actually, no victims respond in the same manner, but let us say sexual assault. It depends on the severity of the crime, the actual assault. It depends whether it is a family member, a neighbour or a stranger. It is very complex.

We certainly do not expect this committee to understand the overall breadth of it. We would ask the committee to listen to our pleas and understand that a lot of the victim services in each of the provinces are paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, over and above the actual fund set aside for victims. That is why we are here today; it has to be dealt with. If this amendment is passed, it must be dealt with on a provincial and federal government level. It has to be resolved.

[Translation]

Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Surprenant. We ran into each other in the elevator just now. Once again, I want you to know that we share the pain and sadness that you have experienced and continue to experience as a result of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of your daughter Julie.

When something tragic like that happens, it is of paramount importance that those affected receive help, not only financially, but also psychologically. In your case, have you received psychological help to be able to get through this difficult time?

Mr. Surprenant: My case is special in a way. I was offered psychological services at the time, but in all honesty, I was so afraid of being drugged up that I refused. I was on a crusade trying to find out what happened. The people who were trying to steer me toward psychological services were pushing me more toward acceptance and resignation whereas I was more prepared to put up a fight. It was not the right thing for me.

If I may, I wanted to go back to the financial aspect. When tragedy strikes, many families are plunged into debt because they cannot afford to pay the costs involved. That means that the harm, the trauma will persist for as long as they are paying off the debts.

Senator McIntyre: Let me quickly turn to the victim surcharge. As you know, the amount from the victim surcharge is not given to the victim directly, but is placed in a special fund.

Would you prefer to see a system that gives the funds directly to the victims, a system that gives the funds to the organizations that provide services to victims, or both?

Mr. Surprenant: I think it would be more beneficial to give the money to organizations that help victims. A structure would need to be in place. The people are in real trouble; they are caught in a storm and they need someone to lead them out of the storm. It takes professionals to help them move forward.

Senator Dagenais: I have two questions. The first one is for Mr. Surprenant. How can you make sure that the money that will be sent to a province — we know that the surcharge will be sent to the provinces — will not be used to help with a province's financial commitments? Say Quebec, for example.

Mr. Surprenant: First, I think the most important thing is to establish a good relationship with the government that handles those amounts, precisely as a way to ensure a degree of transparency in the management of those amounts.

Senator Dagenais: Here is my second question. I heard someone say that the surcharge was supposed to make offenders responsible for their actions. Ms. Rosenfeldt, would you be able to comment on that?

[English]

Senator McIntyre: Thank you, Ms. Rosenfeldt, for your presentation.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Imposing the surcharge may not be the exception, but it affects a minority of criminals. Some provinces have a hard time collecting it. Other provinces, like New Brunswick, do a better job.

Provincial governments should make an effort to find effective ways to collect those significant sums. We are talking about millions of dollars, even several tens of millions.

Would this not be a unique opportunity for Canada to start discussions with the provinces about developing minimum standards for victim assistance?

It makes no sense that a woman who is raped in Nova Scotia receives no support while the system in Quebec or Ontario treats perpetrators very well.

Would passing this bill not be a good opportunity to start discussions with the provinces about developing minimum standards for victim assistance?

[English]

Ms. Rosenfeldt: I was reading a quote from Northern Ireland.

Basically, the way I look at it is there has to be some type of reparation by the offender. There has been some controversy with regard to victimless crimes. According to all of the research that I have done, including some of the judges in Ontario, about half of the judges who were interviewed in relation to the 1994 study felt that a victimless crime was a crime, and it was really committed against society. That definitely could be argued by people who are not in support of this bill, and I have heard it in testimony.

However, that is an old argument and has nothing to do with the victim surcharge. That argument has been going on for years in relation to speeding, impaired driving and substance abuse, saying that it only hurts the person ingesting the marijuana or cocaine or whatever it is. That is a real issue to begin with.

I agree with the half of the judges who said that they feel a crime is a crime, and if it is against society, there is a fine on it.

The Chair: Ms. Rosenfeldt, in Ontario, are any of the surcharges going to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board now?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: No. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is funded out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The Chair: Right, so that has not changed.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: No, that has not changed. However, if there is a shortfall, funds will be taken out of the Victims' Justice Fund to make that up. As chair of the board, I had a $15 million budget, and I had to do my best to try to work within those confines. We never know when a victim will come in to be paid. We just never know, so it fluctuates.

The Chair: Please, tighten up those responses because we are running out of time, and we have a few more senators who wish to speak.

This will be a significant fund if you look at the numbers as to what the government failed to collect back in 2001. Do you have any problem with a portion of those funds going to criminal injuries? I am thinking primarily of more adequate compensation, if you will, especially for individuals who suffer catastrophic injuries. There is no ability to address that at the moment.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: There is not.

The Chair: Would you have any difficulty personally?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: I would have no difficulty at all. If the funds were there, I would certainly support that.

The Chair: I think you referenced the rather modest funds available in Quebec. I do not know if you have a similar situation. Senator White raised it at our last hearing. I am not sure how extensive this is, and perhaps he could speak to it. It is about police officers and correctional officers getting into the queue for workplace injuries when they are already covered through Workers' Compensation. They are double-dipping, in effect, by going into the queue, through application, at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. I do not know if that is happening in your jurisdiction as well. I do not know, Ms. Rosenfeldt, if your organization has even commented on or is aware of that.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: I am definitely aware of that. Firemen do it as well, as do people who are incarcerated. Two weeks ago, the U.K. came out with their criminal injuries compensation, and they have taken away that right of prisoners to ask for criminal injuries compensation. They had paid out, I believe, $76 million for that. It was unbelievable.

The Chair: You have not asked the provincial government to review that policy?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: No, I have not. It has mainly been federal for me right now, but phase two definitely involves provincial.

The Chair: Mr. Surprenant, do you have any comment?

Mr. Surprenant: No.

The Chair: Senator Boisvenu, do you have any questions on the second round?

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Surprenant, is that okay?

Mr. Surprenant: Yes.

Senator Joyal: Mr. Surprenant, I understand that Quebec's National Assembly has a parliamentary committee that is currently hearing from witnesses about the range of benefits. Have you appeared before that committee?

Mr. Surprenant: I was there yesterday.

Senator Joyal: Could you summarize the key points of the presentation you gave there?

Mr. Surprenant: I pretty much presented the same arguments I did today in terms of collateral damage caused by a tragedy, what the families go through, their debts, and so on. They often cannot afford a proper funeral, either because they are not working or because they are in debt for any other reason. So the arguments are very similar.

When a tragedy occurs, families — whether they want to or not — are caught in a storm, where emotions are rushing and everything is called into question. They will often turn to the government for services and have to deal with someone who is also caught in a storm because they do not know what to say.

So I asked that some sort of protocol be implemented so that those dealing with victims can provide consistent information and direct people to the appropriate services. In other words, this is to make sure that victims who are in a storm do not have to face another storm. That was basically the gist of my speech.

Senator Joyal: So are you recommending that there be only one information centre for victims to receive advice and clarifications about the various assistance programs offered?

Mr. Surprenant: Our association has put together a booklet for victims with all the services, the phone numbers and that kind of information. By directing victims to the appropriate services too, the government and resource people will not add to the trauma of the victims who are caught in a storm and need to be directed to those services as soon as possible.

As I said before, we want to develop and expand the services, which is why we need the surcharge.

Senator Joyal: Earlier when you were talking about compensation, were you thinking about a form of compensation that would be established according to the SAAQ — the Quebec motor vehicle bureau — standards, or those applied by insurance companies when disasters occur? Do you have any points of comparison to suggest?

Mr. Surprenant: Isabelle Gaston said previously that when you have life insurance, if a death occurs due to a criminal act committed by a spouse, the insurance will not apply. That is why we would like to see parity with the compensation offered by automobile insurance, for the reasons I explained earlier. A crime is a crime, whether its commission involves a vehicle or a weapon.

Senator Joyal: So, the compensation principles you are proposing are based on a comparison with what already exists in other public programs?

Mr. Surprenant: A tragedy generates a lot of costs. Obviously there are funeral costs, but there are also many other related costs. A lot of families lose their homes because of those costs. Often, people have to leave their jobs because they are no longer effective at work and they are dismissed. So that adds a second trauma to everything they have already endured.

It would be important to allow the families to be rehabilitated in a certain way, so that they can continue to live decently. These funds will allow people to take the time that is needed to achieve that. Certainly, each case is different. Some people have both feet on the ground six months later and are ready to go forward, whereas others are still not steady five years later.

What is important, where services are concerned, is to help those people to get back on their feet. Exceptional cases always require more energy, and they are the ones that cost the most. I think those are the cases where it is important to have these funds available to help families obtain the services they need.

Senator Joyal: The program cannot be defined in too abstract a manner, as each particular case is different and may require a different approach focused on the needs of the people involved.

How should that management be done? Today we say: a death costs $2,000, 20 consultations cost so much, et cetera. This seems like a very cold or objective implementation process. Should we set up services to assess those costs?

If I understand what you are saying correctly, there would necessarily have to be an additional service to provide a certain follow-up of the victims and of their reintegration into normal life.

Mr. Surprenant: Concerning the number of victims in Quebec — in Canada, I believe the figure is 1,000 per year. Given that number, we could almost personalize the service. Do you see what I mean?

Senator Joyal: Totally.

[English]

Ms. Rosenfeldt: Absolutely, this is the time. My understanding as well in relation to judges not levying the fine surcharge and why it is better in some provinces than in others is because in some of the provinces, where they take the time and do an annual report, as long as the judges know that the money is actually going into the dedicated victim fine surcharge as per the legislation, there is a much better response. I know that in Ontario that was one of the biggest reasons. Absolutely, this is a good time; again, phase two.

[Translation]

Mr. Surprenant: Given that there are 1,000 cases per year, we could almost personalize the service. As I was saying earlier, I think it could almost be said that over the past years the services provided to victims have been embryonic. We are learning gradually as we go along and expanding things accordingly. I think that we also have to maintain good will in all of this.

Senator Joyal: Thank you.

[English]

The Chair: This will be the final question.

[Translation]

The Chair: Thank you both for your appearance and your assistance with the committee's deliberations.

We will adjourn until Wednesday, April 17, to continue our deliberation on Bill C-37.

(The committee adjourned.)