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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
I will be pleased to answer your questions.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
How would you respond to that kind of comment?
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
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
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
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
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.
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?
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.
Senator Rivest: Have government authorities given Crown prosecutors
guidelines to request a victim surcharge in their submissions? Does that exist?
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
Senator Joyal: Who should manage the funds to make certain that they
are directed to the victims fund?
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Senator Fraser: They would still have to pay.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Mr. Surprenant: That is fine.
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
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
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.
Senator Boisvenu: Ms. Rosenfeldt, it is always a pleasure to see you
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Senator Joyal: I see you are nodding, Ms. Rosenfeldt. Do you want to
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.
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
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
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?
Senator McIntyre: Thank you, Ms. Rosenfeldt, for your presentation.
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The Chair: This will be the final question.
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