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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 28, Evidence - March 26, 2015


OTTAWA, Thursday, March 26, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, met this day at 10:30 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good morning and welcome, colleagues, invited guests and members of the general public who are following today's proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We're meeting today to continue our study of Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts.

This is our second meeting on the bill. As a reminder to those watching, these committee hearings are open to the public and also available via webcast on the parl.gc.ca website. You can find more information on the schedule of witnesses on that same website under "Senate Committees."

For our first panel today, we welcome, from the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime; and from Victims of Violence - Canadian Centre for Missing Children, Sharon Rosenfeldt, President.

Ms. O'Sullivan we will start with your opening statement, to be followed by Ms. Rosenfeldt.

[Translation]

Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Crime: Good morning, chair and members of the committee.

[English]

Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss Bill C-32, the Canadian victims bill of rights. The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims individually and collectively. Individually, we speak with victims every day, answering their questions and addressing their complaints. Collectively, we help victims 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 have provided copies of my remarks to the committee, as well as documentation that outlines my recommendations on the victims bill of rights. Given time constraints, I won't discuss all of my recommendations, but I will highlight a few amendments that I believe are needed to strengthen the bill.

This bill recognizes the tireless work and effort of the victims and victim advocates who have fought for change in Canada for many years. I commend the Government of Canada for seeking the participation of victims in developing this bill, and I would hope to see a similar approach taken in the future on other significant policy or legislative changes affecting victims of crime.

This bill marks a significant achievement, but it needs to be strengthened to more effectively address the full breadth of victims' needs and concerns.

To strengthen the bill, the rights of victims must be enhanced throughout the criminal justice process, starting at the time of crime through the courts and through to post-conviction and conditional release. My recommendations aim to further strengthen the treatment of victims in terms of their rights to be informed, considered, protected and supported.

One of the most basic rights we would expect a victim to have is the right to information. This bill provides victims the right to request information about the justice system, their role within it and the services and programs available to them. This would include the right to receive information about the investigation and proceedings and certain information about an offender or accused.

While the bill provides for increased rights to information, it does not outline who is responsible for providing that information to victims at different points in the criminal justice system.

I recommend that victims be automatically provided, at the time of crime, with clear information about their rights under the bill, including what information they are entitled to receive, who is responsible for providing it and at what point. Furthermore, victims should be able to receive this information in the format of their choice.

Victims also want information about the status of offenders as they serve their sentence. The victims bill of rights does provide victims with rights to information about the offender, yet with some simple amendments it could be more responsive to victims' needs and concerns. For instance, the bill gives victims automatic access to a recent photograph of the offender, prior to parole or conditional release. I would recommend this should also apply in cases where the offender is on an escorted temporary absence pass.

The bill does not provide sufficient measures for recognizing and addressing the importance of providing victims with choice and options. For example, there are no provisions providing victims with options for how they may wish to attend parole hearings in order to accommodate either their personal circumstances, which may make it difficult to travel, or their anxieties and fears that may make attending a parole hearing in person impossible.

I recommend that the bill be amended to provide victims with the right to choose how they attend a parole hearing and/or present a victim statement, be it in person; by video or teleconference; via closed circuit television; or through the use of other secure, reasonable and available technologies.

As well, under the bill, victims may listen to an audio recording of a parole hearing in cases where they are unable to attend.

I recommend that victims should have the option of listening to audio recordings of hearings regardless of whether or not they attend. This is unnecessarily restrictive. We have heard from many victims who were able to attend a parole hearing in person but who found the experience so taxing that they could no longer recall all the details of the hearing. These victims should also be afforded access to the audio recordings.

During court and parole hearings, victims want opportunities to have their views heard and considered, particularly in relation to safety and security concerns. This speaks to victims participatory rights. The victims bill of rights states that every victim has the right to convey their views about decisions to be made by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system that affects the victim's rights and to have those viewed considered.

The victims bill of rights provides victims with the additional right to have their safety concerns considered at bail hearings. While this provides victims with increased rights to participate, the bill does not provide victims with a mechanism to convey their views and to have them considered by a court. The victims bill of rights also provides measures to help ensure that victims are informed of a plea bargain in cases of serious personal injury, offences or murder. Informing victims of a plea bargain is helpful in some respects; however, victims have clearly identified the need to have their views considered before a plea is entered and/or accepted by the court.

This is not to suggest that victims should have any veto powers over plea bargains. Rather it would ensure that victims can exercise their right to convey views prior to decisions being made by appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system.

The victims bill of rights provides measures to enhance the safety and security of victims at trials, including protecting victim information and identity during trial and testimony, allowing testimonial aids such as a support person, and allowing the victim to read a statement outside the courtroom.

Similar considerations should be applied to ensure the safety and security of victims at parole hearings. Presently victims are not guaranteed separate and secure waiting areas to avoid contact with the offender at parole hearings. I recommend that appropriate measures be established in order to protect a victim's sense of safety when attending parole hearings, such as safe and separate waiting areas.

With respect to supporting victims, the victims bill of rights would require judges to consider making a restitution order in all cases. Where victims do not receive their full restitution, they would need to go through civil court to have the remaining amounts paid. Restitution is part of the offender's sentence. The onus should not be on the victim to take steps to collect the monies owed to them. I recommend that a collection mechanism be put in place that would alleviate the responsibility for the victim to pursue outstanding restitution payments.

In terms of enforcement, the victims bill of rights requires each federal department or agency in the criminal justice system to have a complaint process for dealing with breaches of rights.

Where victims are not satisfied with the results of these complaint processes, they may file their complaint with an authority that can review complaints in relation to that department or agency. Our recommendation to strengthen the bill speaks to two approaches to enforcing either participatory or service rights. These two approaches differ based on the nature of the right and the point of the process where it applies: time of crime, court, or corrections and conditional release or parole.

In the context of service rights or rights to information, the use of internal complaint mechanisms may adequately protect victims' rights provided these mechanisms are subject to proper oversight. I recommend that any authority with jurisdiction to review complaints have investigative powers to compel federal government departments and agencies to produce information and documents relevant to a complaint and to recommend remedies on specific complaints, as well as systemic issues. I would also recommend that victims should have access to legal representation to address the court, in order to exercise or enforce their participatory rights under the victims bill of rights.

Legal representation is already allowed in determining access to the personal records of victims in cases of sexual assault. This does not mean that victims have "party status," but rather that victims would have the ability to address the court only on matters directly related to the rights in this bill. Some may argue that this would delay the courts and hinder the process of a fair and equitable trial. But I have not found evidence of this in other jurisdictions where victims have access to legal representation to address the courts, as is the case in several states in the United States. Providing victims with a mechanism to address the courts would help to ensure that the process fairly considers and protects everyone's interests. Treating victims fairly and ensuring their meaningful participation is critical to increasing public confidence in the criminal justice system and improving the system's overall effectiveness.

The true test of this bill's strength will be measured in how well it responds to the needs of victims. The bill was amended to include a parliamentary review of the bill five years after coming into force. This review should not be limited to assessing how well government is complying with the bill but should also ask what difference this bill has made for victims. To accomplish this, Parliament must now consider what performance measures need to be in place to assess the benefit of the bill to victims. What outcomes can this bill expect to achieve, and how can they be measured? Building in measures for evaluation in the bill will provide parliamentarians with the information they will need to determine whether the bill is meeting the intended objectives.

I recommend that the committee consider including roles and responsibilities for compliance reporting and evaluation. This, in turn, would allow Parliament to better assess the reach and impact of this bill of rights, as well as to identify how it could be strengthened to better meet the needs of victims of crime.

In conclusion, I believe that Bill C-32 is a positive step forward for victims of crime in this country. The bill contains a number of measures that will help to improve the system for victims of crime and help to ensure that they are informed, considered, protected and supported. At the same time, many of the measures contained could be further strengthened to ensure that victims are treated fairly throughout the criminal justice process.

[Translation]

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to your questions.

[English]

Sharon Rosenfeldt, President, Victims of Violence - Canadian Centre for Missing Children: Good morning, members of the Senate committee. Thank you for inviting our organization, Victims of Violence, to present on Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts.

Victims of Violence was incorporated as a national organization on November 27, 1984, 30 years ago. Part of our mandate is to provide support and assistance to victims of violent crime as they make their journey through Canada's justice system. Needless to say, it has been quite a journey, mostly positive, and an important lesson we learned was to be very patient. Good things will happen when they are supposed to happen, and, of course, that is why I am here today. We view Bill C-32 as a well-thought-out piece of legislation, which is fair and responsible for where we are at currently in Canada, in relation to being more responsive to victims of crime and their vast array of needs, concerns, services and sometimes complex issues.

Since we do not have lawyers who can analyze this bill in a professional legal manner, I am going to present to you in the manner I know best. Thirty-three years ago, when we reported our son missing to police, they told us that they would not take his name for 48 hours because he had just turned 16. Perhaps he was a runaway. That no longer happens in Canada. When we took his picture to newspapers, they said they could not print it as police wouldn't authorize it. That no longer happens in Canada. When his little body was found a month later, I was informed by telephone. I fainted. That no longer happens in Canada. When I asked how he died, I was told it was from a blow to the head. I asked if he was found with his clothes on or off. I was told they could not give us this information. However, I found out from the headlines in the newspaper, days later, which had my son's picture on the front page and which said that his nude, raped, bludgeoned body had been found by a person walking his dog. That no longer happens in Canada. When I wanted see his body to make sure it was my son, the police told us which funeral home his body was at. When we arrived, the funeral directors were shocked to see my husband and me and questioned who had sent us there. We said the police, so they took us into a separate room and had to explain to us that we would never recognize our son as his remains had to be scraped up and placed into a glass bottle. That no longer happens in Canada. When the killer was caught and charged, we learned by way of watching the news on television, which showed the killer's picture and 11 children. My son's picture was one of them. That no longer happens in Canada. When we, the families, had the one and only meeting with the Attorney General and the Crown prosecutor, due to the controversial $100,000 cash for bodies plea bargain deal, the prosecutor looked at all of us and said, "Look, I don't know why you are all so upset. The 11 children could have just as easily been killed in a school bus accident. I mean, if they're dead, they're dead." That no longer happens in Canada.

I share this with you only as an example and to let you know that although there have been great strides to change what took place with our family and many other families across Canada over the years, Bill C-32 now enshrines in federal legislation the "right to information" in sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Canadian victims bill of rights.

Further, that example is what is meant by the wording in the preamble, which states that, in particular, victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect. These are not just nice, hollow words; they have true, long-term impact on the direct victim and/or the victim's family if their loved one has been murdered. When Canada first adopted the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, the declaration stated that victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their dignity. I identified with those words so much because it explained to me the lack of personal respect for my dignity as to the way we were treated by the various components in the justice system. I had been so severely injured, in particular by the lack of respect for my dead son's dignity in the manner in which his case was handled. He could no longer speak for himself, so I took on the lack of respect for his dignity and combined it with mine. That is why, when we buried him, I felt burning shame and could not hold my head up, and I promised him that I would not return to his grave until I could stand before him with my head up and with dignity.

It took 16 years to return to his grave. Throughout those years, there were many more victims and victim advocates speaking out, and governments were beginning to listen to what we were trying to explain as it relates to those words. Those feelings of lack of respect for their dignity have been coined "the second injury" and/or re-victimization, when victims are dealing with the criminal justice system.

However, what was most significant was that at Clifford Olson's faint-hope-clause hearing in Vancouver, the RCMP invited all of the families into a room at the courthouse and made a formal apology to all of us for the manner in which we had been treated. They informed us that, throughout the years, positive changes had been made in the manner in which they dealt with crime victims and missing persons, et cetera. On our way home to Ottawa, we stopped in Saskatoon, where our son is buried, and we went to Daryn's grave with our heads held high. A sense of respect for my dignity and respect for my son's dignity had begun to return.

Somewhere between 1988 and 2004, the word "dignity" has been taken out and shortened to just simply treating victims with respect. It seems to be more on federal documents and websites as some provinces still maintain the words "respect for their dignity." We would like to see the federal Canadian bill of rights changed back to the original intent of the wording in the United Nations declaration of basics principles. I know that may seem like victim talk from the walking wounded, as some of us have been referred to, but the words "respect for their dignity" indicate strength and have significant meaning to victims of crime. I have noted that the House of Commons final amendments included this recommendation, and I hope the Senate committee will continue to consider the meaning behind the word "dignity."

I'm going to cut mine short due to lack of time as well. We view the Canadian victims bill of rights as the first step in beginning to develop a national framework for treatment of victims of crime across Canada. The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime could help to create a national standard or framework for victim services and operate as a partner for regional offices or provincial victim ombudsmen, to help to ensure that the national standard is encouraged. Of course, there is the issue of provincial jurisdiction. However, this is an area where concerns should be put aside to work together. It is not a question of the federal government telling provinces that this is what you have to do, so why would the provinces not want to have the best victim services program we could have in Canada? To be clear, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime could work hand in hand with each province and territory and develop that framework and standard of service across Canada. Whether the Canadian victims bill of rights would accomplish this, of course, remains to be seen. We would like to see consistency in the provision of services across Canada.

In closing, I have two final remarks. One is to recognize and acknowledge Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada, which have worked diligently for the past number of years to accommodate victims of crime, since post-conviction plays a large role in our justice system as it relates to victims of crime.

The second is to recognize and acknowledge the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime as well as the ombudsman, who has had many consultations with victims of crime and held a large forum, which included many victims, victim service providers and others from across Canada in relation to the creation of a federal victims bill of rights for Canada. Our ombudsman is highly respected by victims of crime.

The Chair: Thank you both. We will begin questions with our committee's deputy chair, Senator Baker.

Senator Baker: Thank you to the witnesses. I would like to congratulate Ms. Rosenfeldt and to bring to the attention of the committee that her request that the words "including respect for their dignity" is now included in this bill on orders of the minister. When you read the sentence you read "whereas victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect," and you ended it there, but you would be pleased to see that in this final publication of the bill that it doesn't stop there. There's a comma, and then it says, "including respect for their dignity." That's what is in the bill. There's nobody around this table who would disagree with the inclusion of those words, ordered by the minister himself at the final stages of the approval of the bill.

So I want to congratulate you on that wonderful occasion. Now, going to the ombudsman, Ms. O'Sullivan, I believe you are proposing that a presumptive right be included in the bill for victims to attend parole hearings.

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes.

Senator Baker: Did they incorporate that in the bill?

Ms. O'Sullivan: They have a right to give a victim statement at a parole hearing, but they didn't. You should have a presumptive right. We do add, recognizing that if there was a threat to either a person or an institution, there would be exigent circumstances. Absolutely, victims should have a presumptive right to attend at a parole hearing.

Senator Baker: You didn't mention that in your address, but it was my understanding that this was one of the main points from the beginning when the bill was being devised. The other main point that I understood, and correct me if I am wrong, is that in all victims rights bills you look at outside of Canada, there is always a clause that guarantees the victim a statement of what their rights are under the act. I believe that you are one of the first persons who brought this to the attention of the government when this bill was being drafted, to include that in the bill. You also didn't mention that in your presentation. I'm wondering, is that correct? Am I right that you advocated this?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Given the limited time, I chose a couple of examples, my recommendations. I know all of you are aware of the many reports we have done on this. There are a couple of things to look at when it comes to victims' rights. When you look around the world at different countries, for example, the United States, there are over 30 states that have legislation around victims' rights.

As you are aware, they have the right to make constitutional law at the state level. You may have heard that the 28 countries of the European Union are in the process of implementing their directive, which is basically a bill of rights specific to service rights. When you look at the ability of victims who access these rights, there are service rights and participatory rights. Depending on what point you're at, all of us talk about this continuum, time of crime, through the courts, post-conviction, conditional release. It depends on where you are.

For example, at the time of crime — I'm going to speak on your right to information — this bill says "upon request." Our position is that at time of crime, when a victim reports to the police, they should automatically be given their rights. There are many examples we can refer to on this. For example, in California they call it Marsy's Card. Oregon has a card.

Senator Baker: What is that?

Ms. O'Sullivan: It's a card you give to a victim that says you have a right to information, a right to be notified about —

Senator Baker: Why isn't that in the bill? You advocated it.

Ms. O'Sullivan: That question would have to be answered by the two committees both at the house and here. I would certainly support an amendment to that effect from this committee.

Senator Baker: Just in conclusion, because I have to be very quick as we are out of time, you mentioned an important point at the end of your presentation, and that was the five-year review. You can't do a five-year review if you don't have the information pertaining to the matter to do it properly, and I think this was your point. Could you elaborate on that?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Thank you so much for that question. We have an opportunity. I look at this as a positive. I will use one example. As people are probably aware, the one survey we have nationally that gets information directly from victims is the General Social Survey. It's done once every five years, and it will be released this year at some point. Following the release of that report there is a consultation period. We have an opportunity to be asking, with the next survey that's going to be done during this consultation — should this become law — whether the questions being asked are still relevant or whether we want to take this window of opportunity to look, given what the victims bill of rights says.

With this bill, there are also huge data gathering points we can be asking agencies about. I realize and this would be more for the RCMP, but for other provincial police services as well. For example, this says there will be a common victim impact statement. This says there will be consistent restitution forms. I'm using those as two simple examples of potential data gathering points we could be looking at.

I would argue that one of the opportunities we have right now — because I know there could be burden on people for doing these when we talk about measurement — is an opportunity to do a feasibility study. What would be some of those pertinent data gathering points? At the federal level, we already have an opportunity because we have over 7,000 registered victims.

We have these opportunities now so that when Parliament has to do that review five years from now, you will have the key data you need to make those choices and to do that review.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you, Ms. Rosenfeldt, for your presentation. We are always very pleased to see you. I congratulate you on the work you have been doing not just for years, but for decades.

In fact, it is because of your efforts that we have this bill of rights. I completely understand your recommendations but, in my view, the Canadian victims bill of rights would evolve over time. Some people view it as an end — meaning that they want to get as much as they can, a little like a big chocolate cake — and others view it as a tool that will evolve over time and improve. I fully agree with your recommendations, and they are consistent with what victims want. However, do you not believe that over the course of one, two, three or four years, as the Canadian victims bill of rights is applied, those things will happen? The main objective of the Canadian victims bill of rights is not just to change technical elements of the judicial process, but to change the mentality of those who work in the administration of justice and the professionals in that area? What do you think?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: Thank you for the question. There are two issues here. The recommendations I have before the committee today, in my opinion, come from speaking to victims, victim advocates, professionals.

I'll use the example of a victim. The way this about bill is written, it says that for a victim of serious personal harm or murder, the judge, upon accepting a plea, will consider or must inquire as to whether or reasonable steps have been taken to inform the victim or the families.

My point is this, and I do not want to dismiss in any way the great work of many Crown attorneys who do meet with victims ahead of time. I have had opportunities to talk to Crown attorneys associations, and I do not want to dismiss the great work already going on in this country by Crowns who do.

My point is that victims should have a right to be heard. I am not suggesting a veto power. This bill says that a victim has a right to be heard and to have what they want to say be conveyed. By meeting, and again many Crowns already do this, but it should be a right that they are listened to. It's interesting; there are some victims who may have a position.

It provides also, when you have an opportunity to talk to the Crown about a potential plea bargain ahead of time, you're also hearing the reasons behind that and why this is so important that they are heard. At the end of the day the victim may not agree with the final decision of the Crown attorney, but we know from research that if they've been heard and have had an opportunity to participate, it is directly related to their satisfaction in the criminal justice system. This is about confidence in the criminal justice system. That's just one example of some of those recommendations.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Take the example of the National Parole Board and the way victims can testify. One of your recommendations is to let victims choose whether they wish to provide testimony by videoconference, correspondence or in person.

The National Parole Board has evolved since 2002, and now that victims are better integrated into the hearing process, do you not believe that this bill of rights will ensure that in two, three or four years' time the board will make it possible for victims to choose the manner in which they prefer to testify?

[English]

Ms. O'Sullivan: Once again, I don't want to dismiss the evolution and great work happening with Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. I meet with representatives on a regular basis to discuss ongoing issues. We still get complaints from victims about process. Once again, I think it goes back to my comments.

This is not to take away from the great work from both the victim services workers, the regional workers, both with the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service Canada. At the end of the day it shouldn't rely on the goodwill of an organization that you have a right to have the choice and options of how you attend a parole hearing. That's my position and recommendation.

There is a lot of, as you would say, cultural change happening. We're not all the way there yet, because obviously we're still getting complaints. Having said that, the willingness of these two agencies, we have good, open lines of communication and regular meetings with them to convey what the issues and concerns are, so it shouldn't be on the goodwill. They should have a right to have these choices.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I have two questions: one is for Ms. O'Sullivan and the other for Ms. Rosenfeldt.

Did you provide your recommendations to the House of Commons? Were some of your recommendations adopted? I did not read the report by the House of Commons.

I would also like to address the issue of compensation and legal aid. When I consulted the federal government's site, I noticed that the victim compensation programs are very different from one province to the next. There is the impression that victims are better served in some provinces than in others, which is ridiculous. The services provided to victims do not seem to be consistent. If a victim lives in a province that provides next to nothing, that's too bad. However, in other provinces, such as in British Columbia, a victim can obtain up to $25,000.

Ms. Rosenfeldt, as the parent and victim of a child's death, did you receive compensation? Did you apply for it? From now on, will all parents who lose a child receive compensation for the loss of a loved one, for having one of the dearest beings in their lives taken from them?

[English]

Do you recommend there would be compensation and also some services provided to the parents?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: Absolutely. For family members of victims of homicide, today across Canada we have the odd number of victims of homicide that come together and we have a little support group. It's always due to lack of funding. As far as criminal injuries compensation goes, we never were compensated in any manner, actually, other than eventually after about five years, I believe, after many requests, we finally received I believe it was $2,500 back for funeral expenses.

We left the province of British Columbia about a year and a half after our son was murdered, because our two younger children who were 9 and 11 at the time were struggling in Vancouver. This case was so high profile and we had a lot of problems. We moved back to Edmonton, Alberta. That's where we had originally lived, and we were in dire need of counselling, our children and us. But we asked the Province of British Columbia compensation if they would help us and they said no, they couldn't, because we were not in the province of B.C., and Alberta couldn't help us because the crime didn't happen in Alberta. That still exists today, although I must say that crimes compensation has gotten better.

A lot of problems with crimes compensation started years ago when the federal government cut off the transfer payments to provinces, and I believe that was about 1993. The rationale for cutting off the transfer payments was because of the newly legislated victim fine surcharge. The government of the day at that time thought that the federal victim fine surcharge would bring in enough funds that each province would be able to use some them for compensation.

What did happen is there are provinces that do not have any compensation programs at all. Why I'm so happy about having a federal victims bill of rights is because this is the component that has been lacking in Canada, to be able to try to create this framework. I'm not so sure that our ombudsman — I made these recommendations but it's only so that we have an idea, this committee has an idea of how important this bill is so we can move on and start putting together things in Canada like a national framework so that if you are victimized in the province of Ontario, you should get pretty close to the same services in the province of Alberta and/or criminal injuries compensation. Right now there is so much disparity, not to say that there hasn't been very good work done, but I'm really counting on this bill.

Senator Batters: Thank you very much for being here, both of you.

Ms. Rosenfeldt, I was so pleased that Senator Baker pointed out that respect for their dignity is now included in this because Minister MacKay ordered that. You did that. That is your legacy and your son's legacy, your son who is laid to rest in Saskatoon, in my home province of Saskatchewan.

I have another more substantive question but I wanted to ask you what your son's name is, and I thought it was important to get that on the record.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: Daryn.

Senator Batters: Ms. Rosenfeldt, do you agree with the provision in the victims bill of rights of releasing an updated picture of the offender to the victim for them to know what that person who has harmed them looks like before they're released? If you agree with that, why do you think that is important?

Ms. Rosenfeldt: Absolutely I agree with that. Throughout the years we've had various victims who have run into offenders, and some of them didn't even know they had been released. We, throughout the years, have been more responsive to those types of issues. But if you have an offender who has been in prison for a number of years, a lot of times they cut their hair, they grow a beard, start weight lifting and they come out looking totally different. Therefore, I think it's really important for the victim, as far as knowledge, to know what this person looks like nowadays, but for security purposes as well.

Senator Batters: I note that your opening statement was very well written, and you didn't have time to read it all. I would like to read for you. It was in was a paragraph that says that the Canadian victims bill of rights act is a significant piece of legislation that seeks to create statutory rights at the federal level for victims of crime for the first time in Canadian history and the fact that the bill is a quasi-constitutional document is profound. The bill specifically states in clause 2 that it is an act for recognition of victims' rights, which means the federal government has acknowledged that crime causes harm, loss and injury to people, to individuals, not just the state.

That was very well said. I wanted to get that in for you.

Ms. O'Sullivan, there are those in the legal community, most of them defence lawyers, who contend that victims already have an adequate voice in our legal system. How do you respond to that assertion? Has that been your experience and the experience of those victims of crime that you've met?

Ms. O'Sullivan: That's not been my experience from the victims that I've heard from and from victims' advocates. I think the recommendations we are putting forward here are reasonable. They are respectful of the adversarial process. We set the precedent in 1988. We gave victims the right to give victim impact statements in the Criminal Code. This bill is now going to ensure that a judge must consider restitution.

There are those two areas: the ability to use your voice, as the bill says you have the ability to be heard and convey your safety and security issues at a bail hearing. Yet, there is no mechanism to do that. The victim can't address the court. As we know, the Crown does not represent the victim; and that time to be heard, prior to the plea. Again, I'm not suggesting a veto.

Those are two examples where the bill says your voice should be heard, and I linked that to the confidence in the criminal justice system because that is what I have heard from victims.

This system is designed as an adversarial system. It is to respect all rights. I think some of the recommendations that we're making, and I purposely mentioned the word "delay." I've talked to victims' rights lawyers. I've talked to the National Crime Victim Law Institute, in Oregon, which has had these in place. What they're finding is that having the right to have legal representation with victims is actually expediting the system. It makes sense. They're meeting with the victims ahead of time. They represent the victim and the Crown does not. So they're going to sit down with Sharon and have a conversation about what can be in a victim impact statement at sentencing. Here are your rights. What are your safety and security concerns? They tell me they have that conversation ahead of time, and there would be the district attorney. At the end of the day, it's a judge's decision as to whether a person is released on bail or not. To know that the victim may not want them released, but if they are released then I would be concerned about some geographic boundaries. With that information there ahead of time, they are finding is that it is actually expediting. The recommendations that we are making here are specific to allow a victim to exercise those rights that the bill says they have.

The Chair: I have five senators left who wish to ask questions. Witnesses as well, I know it's challenging, but if you can tighten up your response as well.

Senator Joyal: Thank you both for your presentations.

Ms. O'Sullivan and Ms. Rosenfeldt, both of you have commented about the way to seek redress, if those four rights are not respected — Ms. Ms. O'Sullivan, on page 9 of your brief, and Ms. Rosenfeldt, on page 3. Ms. O'Sullivan on page 9, bullet 3:

I recommend that any authority with jurisdiction to review complaints have investigative powers to compel federal government departments and agencies to produce information and documents relevant to a complaint, and to recommend remedies on specific complaints as well as systemic issues.

It seems to me that this bill is compelling as it has a system to seek redress and get an order when one of those four rights has been violated.

Unfortunately, when I read section 25, 27 and 28 of the bill, I don't see that the mechanism is strong enough to get an order to seek a redress.

I don't want this document to be a pious wishes list. A charter normally has a process through which a person who is aggrieved can get redress. If the system or the process to get a redress doesn't have teeth, doesn't have a legal order attached to it, then we can all pray and wish for the best. But we will let the victims be frustrated again that when the right is not respected, they can't get an order to have the redress done.

Unfortunately, when I read section 25(1) and 25(2) and the other sections, 28 and 29, there is no legal mechanism strong enough to allow Ms. O'Sullivan to order a redress. Otherwise, we're still in the realm of recommendation, of pious wishes, depending on the goodwill of the administration of the services concerned. It is essential that your recommendation on page 9 be the object of an amendment to this bill and to be sure that this bill means business, as much as the rights of victims are concerned.

Ms. O'Sullivan: This bill contemplates as a remedy, when it comes to service rights, so I will use information at the time of the crime, a complaints mechanism, as it does currently as my office has the mandate to investigate and take complaints and look for resolution. There is a remedy in that sense. But when it gets down to the participatory rights, and that's why we have the recommendation with regard to, I'll call it very limited standing, these issues specific to the rights that the bill says they are.

In other countries, they actually have a parliamentary ombudsman who has the ability to make recommendations and to give financials. We're having conversations because this bill, should it be made law, will probably mean that, because there will now be internal complaints systems for the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service Canada. I'm having discussions with the minister's office because they would go there first instead of coming directly to us. We would still take that complaint, but there has already now been an internal investigation by that agency. One thing we bring to the table is independence, and I think that is hugely important. But more than that, we're continuing to have those discussions because we would then be in a review capacity on that internal complaint and what that's going to look like. So we are having continued discussions on that.

When you look internationally, that is always one of the issues, which is the strength of the ability to seek remedy for the victim.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you both for your presentations. You have done your research on this topic.

Ms. O'Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, as I understand, is responsible for addressing complaints by victims only, with respect to the process set in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. In your view, should the ombudsman's mandate be extended to include complaints related to the criminal justice system in general?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Thank you for pointing that out. My mandate is specific to complaints of victims of crime, in relation to federal programming, policy, legislation and agency. You are correct that the authorities rest with the provinces and territories in terms of the majority of issues around service rights.

Having said that, that would not be a decision for me to make. That would be a discussion for government. Provinces do have complaint mechanisms. Manitoba has an ombudsman's office, and a piece of legislation that identifies which organization — police, corrections, courts — is responsible for providing what information to the victim. If they're not satisfied or feel there has been a breach, then there is an ombudsman's office at that provincial level. These would be the discussions that I would encourage the federal government to have with the provinces and territories.

We cannot forget the challenges in some of our remote and rural communities in this country and the uniqueness that provinces and territories each have in knowing their own communities. We haven't talked about the fact that for some cases, the judge and prosecutor fly in and so does victim's support, and then they fly out.

Senator McIntyre: You have the power to make recommendations, but those recommendations are non-binding.

Ms. O'Sullivan: That is correct.

Senator McIntyre: In your research, were you able to compare Canada to other countries, such as France, the United Kingdom and the United States, with respect to recognizing the rights of victims of crime?

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes, I have. The example that I provided to the committee, without going into it again, would be the example of some of the states in the United States. I also work and have looked closely at the EU directives and follow and monitor that with Victims Support Europe. I recently had the opportunity to attend something with Ireland, which the European Union has to implement by November 2015, so it's a huge opportunity for us to look at those other countries because they're facing the same challenges around implementation.

Senator Fraser: Thank you very much, Ms. Rosenfeldt; it's always a privilege to hear from you.

Ms. O'Sullivan, I'm coming back to the same section of your presentation that Senator Joyal referred to, but not quite the same question. You recommend that any authority with jurisdiction to review complaints have investigative powers to compel federal government departments and agencies to produce information and documents relevant to a complaint.

Do you have that power now?

Ms. O'Sullivan: I do not. I rely on the open lines of communication I have with organizations to get that information.

Senator Fraser: It is in the nature of any institution, particularly bureaucracy-type institutions, to protect themselves.

Ms. O'Sullivan: What I can say is we have investigated many complaints and have worked with Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada, and we have not had any significant challenges in getting information. Sometimes, like many federal organizations, time is an issue because they're larger organizations.

As I say, we meet regularly because part of making change for victims of crime goes beyond legislation. Ensuring the key participants in the criminal justice system can be mobilized and sensitized to what these issues are is in my mandate; so we have seen changes working with the regular communications.

I know yesterday Commissioner Don Head and Richard Clair were here from PBC, and they talked about the victim advisory committee meetings. I had an opportunity to present to the Prairie committee just this week. So there is that continued ongoing input they're seeking in terms of making a policy, be it commissioner's directives or policies.

There are many ways our office looks to work with those agencies to create that change. When you look at Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator, I do not have those abilities. That's the discussions that needs to be had if this bill is implemented.

Senator Fraser: I think you should have them.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: As a crime victim advocate organization, and many others, that is what we have been asking for for a long time. Let's put some teeth into our ombudsman and make it similar to the Correctional Investigator. Hopefully she will have that power once the implementation stage comes about.

We're keeping our fingers crossed. It's difficult for our ombudsman to say that, but as a community we are really recommending that.

Senator Plett: Thank you to both of you for being here. Ms. Rosenfeldt, we can't even imagine what you have gone through. Thank you for sharing that.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: You're welcome.

Senator Plett: Ms. O'Sullivan, the victims bill of rights provides the opportunity to have a support person be with the victim for their testimony and when they present their victim impact statement.

Could you give us a short version of what you think the impact of this is positively, if you would?

My next question is to both of you, but certainly I want to hear Ms. Rosenfeldt's answer. You have put a number of recommendations forward both at the house and here, and knowing that it's March 26 today, knowing that the house will rise in the middle of June, knowing that there is an election in October, anything that is not passed dies on the Order Paper. In light of all of that, given the chances of doing amendments and getting them through the House of Commons and back here prior to an election and prior to this dying, are you happy with the bill the way it is? Would you rather see this go through than die on the Order Paper without the amendments?

Ms. O'Sullivan: With regard to the question you posed around the support person, I think this is a critical piece. As you know, many victim services across this country provide support to that. We have seen some examples, one used the other day. I had the opportunity to be in Calgary recently, and you are seeing services introduce things like therapy dogs for victims. You are seeing the recognition that this definition could be expanded beyond "support person."

When we start to see common sense being used in these things, because at the end of the day we can never lose sight of who has suffered the harm and loss here, when it comes to our criminal justice system being able the recognize that, all of the recommendations that our office has made we think are reasonable in relation to what you're talking about, to ensure their voice is heard.

The Chair: I will have to interrupt you. Can you answer the question?

Ms. O'Sullivan: I thought I was. With regard to the support piece, it's a critical piece.

The Chair: Senator Plett asked a fairly direct question.

Ms. O'Sullivan: Yes, he did. It's obviously hugely helpful. Thank you.

Senator Plett: You would rather see this bill go through.

Ms. O'Sullivan: I think that's a decision for the committee. My job is to bring my amendment. I leave that to the committee.

Ms. Rosenfeldt: As a victim of crime who has been around for a long time and has seen things move in a very slow manner at times, on behalf of our organization, we would be comfortable with it in the manner that it is, other than one area, and that would be in the plea bargain, that situation that our ombudsman spoke about. We would like to see it where the victims would be informed prior to there being a deal already made with the judge. If that is not possible, we are happy that the victim will be informed to the best of the ability of the Crown prosecutor, bearing in mind we know all kinds of things can happen.

In my opening statement, I did say that we view Bill C-32 as a well-thought-out piece of legislation which is fair and responsible for where we are at currently in Canada in relation to being more responsive to victims of crime and their vast array of needs. Certainly there is a lot more that can be done. I'm hoping that if it is passed, as our ombudsman explained, the five-year time frame will be further steps forward.

Senator McInnis: Thank you for being here. I have a very quick observation and a question. Ms. O'Sullivan, I'm listening to your recommendations, and I read the items that you wanted enshrined in legislation.

Picking up on what Senator Boisvenu said, many of these things will evolve. Many of these requests and recommendations are policy matters. For example, a waiting room, if you are attending a parole board hearing, that's a matter of the deputy minister or the minister in charge or the head of the parole board making a policy decision that there will be a room for a person to wait in. Listening to hearings in the way you do it, whether it is audio or not be present, or whatever, these are policy matters. Many of these things it would be surprising to have enshrined in legislation. You would always like it, but they are policy.

Yesterday the Minister of Justice mentioned that the tangible and intangible costs of criminal offences in Canada, captured in a study done in 2011 although it picked the year 2008, was $100 billion a year, 83 per cent of which are costs that were borne by the victims.

That was staggering to me. What I'm wondering is how effective the restitution orders and the victims seeking some remuneration will be, and how does an offender pay when they're incarcerated? I believe that this restitution order will be a judgment that can be pursued in the civil matter, and I also understand that, Ms. O'Sullivan, your office will be funneling money to the province — or the federal government will — to set up a system of collection because now they have to pay 15 or 20 per cent.

Ms. O'Sullivan: Very quickly to restitution, I would refer to one example: for five years, Saskatchewan has had in place restitution coordinators. This bill allows for them to represent that victim. Now, there is a section of the bill that does that.

I have permission to say this publicly on a certain portion of this: When they sit down with an offender and work out those payments, they have a collection rate of 76 per cent. There is another area where perhaps offenders don't want to participate. I don't have permission to use that data publicly, but they are having some success with that as well because it is the provinces and territories that have those schemes in place. For example, they have the ability to garnish wages, those kinds of things. Victims don't. I'll stop there.

The Chair: Thank you very much again to both of you. It has been helpful to the committee's deliberations.

For our second panel today, we welcome, from the London Abused Women's Centre, Megan Walker, Executive Director; from the Criminal Lawyers' Association, another familiar face, Michael Spratt, Member and Criminal Defence Counsel; and from the John Howard Society of Canada, Catherine Latimer, Executive Director. Welcome all. We will begin with opening statements.

Megan Walker, Executive Director, London Abused Women's Centre: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. We're very grateful.

The London Abused Women's Centre provides counselling, advocacy and support to women and girls over the age of 12 who are victims of men's violence, and this includes intimate partner violence, sexual violence and women and girls being prostituted and trafficked.

We see first-hand at the office the incredible pain and suffering of women and their children when they are victimized, but we are also incredibly inspired by their courage and strength as they try to move forward toward a life of freedom, peace and healing.

The London Abused Women's Centre supports this bill and asks that it be passed. We know that some individuals have come forward to request amendments. We believe that at the five-year point we can look at best practices and at the procedures, and if there's a need at that point to make amendments, we can do it then.

My comments specifically today will address the importance of four clauses to victims: clauses 14, 16, 17 and 25.

We know that in the province of Ontario, the conviction rate for domestic violence assaults is 1 per cent of those cases that go to trial. We must recognize that most sexual assault and domestic violence victims will never call the police or enter into the criminal justice system. Many of them feel shame and blame for being in the situation. Some live daily in fear that their abusive partner will fulfill their threat of killing them or their children, and we see that across the country.

We know that women are most at risk of serious injury or homicide at the time of separation. The criminal justice system is terrifying to victims. They fear retaliation by their abusers, especially if that abuser is defending himself and cross-examining the victim.

We are told consistently by victims and criminal justice service providers that victims are more likely to appear in court and access the justice system when they are supported. They require a support person who is present and close by to the witness to help address their trauma and to let them know they are not alone as they bravely take the stand.

Victims also disclose that out of fear they would perjure themselves or fail to attend a trial if they felt they had to be cross-examined by their abuser. Fear of abusers prevents victims from testifying. More victim testimony will happen if they don't have to face their abusers in court by way of cross-examination.

We also know that the courts move very slowly, and the longer it takes to move through the courts, the more likely it is that the abused woman will either not appear or will plead in advance with the Crown attorney to drop the charges.

Some women have moved on in their lives by the time their case comes to trial. Others have gone through counselling, as have their abusive partners, and they have reconciled.

In London right now, Superior Court is taking approximately one year before it gets to a preliminary trial and two years before it gets to the final trial stage. Provincial courts are taking anywhere from 9 to 15 months before they hear cases. We must not do anything that's going to further slow the process down.

We are aware, as we just heard, of some of the advocacy efforts that are pushing an amendment to allow victim status as an intervenor in some of the proceedings. This would have huge unintended negative consequences for women and make it much more difficult for them to ever access the courts. It would further backlog and delay the court proceedings, and there are huge costs associated with that.

We heard from one of our senators today that Minister MacKay brought forward the cost to victims of $100 billion. What we do know is that the tangible social and economic costs of criminal offences in Canada are approximately $31.4 billion. We cannot support any more costly action that will delay the process.

We are extremely supportive of clause 17 that will allow witnesses under certain conditions to testify anonymously. Justice must ensure that every victim has a voice. When victims are prevented from testifying due to fear, there is no justice, and allowing a witness to be anonymous does not mean that that witness cannot be cross-examined, and there is a judicial process to go through before that is even allowed.

We have heard reports of a move to create an external adjudication process. Again, this is not only a costly duplication of bureaucracy, but we believe it is completely unnecessary in addressing victim concerns and complaints.

We do support federal departments and agencies in reviewing the issues and believe they are best equipped to address complaints and concerns, provided they are given clear expectations as to their roles.

Victims need a complaint mechanism that is well understood, transparent and accessible. Victims must be provided with information, including around the complaints process, and contact information at their very first point of access.

We also believe that every single victim service partner from across this country should be provided with similar information that can be posted online and provided directly to the women and victims they are working with.

This is the first time in about 20 years of my career that I have ever seen a government give so much attention to victims, and in my case particularly women. We saw strong action last year with the passing of Bill C-36. We are about to embark on another process with the life means life, and now we have this very comprehensive victims bill of rights. We ask that you support this and support it very quickly. Thank you.

Michael Spratt, Member and Criminal Defence Counsel, Criminal Lawyers' Association: I'm here representing the Criminal Lawyers' Association. We are a non-profit organization comprising over a thousand criminal defence lawyers. We've been granted standing to participate in many significant criminal appellate cases and other judicial proceedings, and we are routinely asked to provide input by various parliamentary committees, such as this one, and I thank you for the opportunity to attend before you.

We support legislation that's necessary, modest, fair, constitutional and supported by the evidence. Let me just say at the outset that victims aren't an abstract concept to criminal defence lawyers. We know that victims are real, and indeed we see their struggles in our criminal justice system first hand. For this reason, the CLA does not take issue with many aspects of this bill. Indeed, many of the rights set out in this bill simply codify what are already practices that we see in our courts, and there can be no dispute that that is a good thing. That said, there are aspects of this bill that cause us great concern, and it's for those reasons that the CLA is unable to support what could have been — and can be, I suppose — a very useful piece of legislation.

It's clear from prior testimony, and indeed from my interactions with victims, that one of the main concerns that victims have is the glacial pace of the criminal justice system. One of the most conspicuous features of this bill is the increased participation for witnesses and complainants by being able to personally bring a variety of applications in the course of the criminal proceeding. These applications currently are generally brought by the Crown, when reasonable.

The concern I have about adding additional procedural steps to what we already know is a strained judicial system is that it will simply delay matters — trials and pleas — by days, weeks or months. Delay is already real; it's already a problem. Just yesterday, a Brampton Superior Court judge blasted the ridiculous delays in that jurisdiction. Trials, we know, can take years to complete, and we know that puts an extraordinary strain on witnesses, victims, complainants and, indeed, on accused people who live under the shadow of the criminal proceeding.

The reason for this is not because accused people have too many rights or that trials are somehow too fair. Courts and litigants struggle to do the best they can with the constraints of the justice system as it currently stands. What we suggest is not more laws but more funding, more funding for courts, for litigants and for victims. I suggest that would benefit everybody, and the legislative downloading of costs doesn't help anyone.

The second and most important point I would like to make today is about clause 17 of this bill. I have no doubt that everyone here believes in fair trials, and yet this provision will result in unfairness. This provision, of course, adds a new section to the Criminal Code which allows witnesses to testify anonymously, and not just anonymously. Importantly, it allows for the non-disclosure of information that could lead to the identification of that witness. This is another application that a witness can bring. This is an application that can be brought at any time during the proceeding, mid-trial, delaying matters; and it's an application that, by its very nature, would have to be ex parte. What would be the point of bringing an application to be anonymous if the defence counsel were present?

The characterization of this section by the government has been a little bit misleading. This isn't merely a pseudonym provision, as some of the previous cases have dealt with. This isn't a case that's comparable at all to the protections given to confidential informants. And, of course, clause 17 would have no benefit to domestic cases at all where the complainant and the victim would of course know one another.

It's not an exaggeration to say that this change is a significant departure from the standard of the Canadian criminal justice system that we have come to expect. Some might say, and indeed I say, it resembles a type of Star Chamber. The Star Chamber, of course, was outlawed hundreds of years ago.

We already have systems in place to prevent the publication of witnesses' names. We already have systems in place to make sure that accused persons are not able to personally cross-examine a variety of complainants, including those complainants from a domestic relationship.

This new provision where the identity of a witness could be prevented from being disclosed by an ex parte hearing, and information about that witness would be prevented from being disclosed, is simply unconstitutional. I should note that this is a concern shared by the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel.

Of course, the answer is that judges will be the gatekeepers; judges will have discretion — a supremely ironic point and justification coming from this government, which has systematically reduced judicial discretion. Now somehow it is being relied upon as a cure-all. Judges as gatekeepers shouldn't be the answer, because this issue is so important that the gate shouldn't be left open at all.

It's hard to imagine a more fundamental change to Canadian law and one less consistent with Canada's vision of open and fair justice, where everyone has a chance at a fair trial and everyone is able to make full answer in defence.

I'll pass the floor on now, but we have other concerns — concerns dealing with the change in spousal immunity, a change that may be good but deserves more study and that has other implications. We have concerns with the amendments to section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, dealing with Gladue factors, and indeed we have some concerns with respect to the restitution sections, which would preclude an analysis of an offender's ability to pay a restitution order.

There are good parts of this bill, but there are simply concerns that are fundamental changes that prevent us from supporting this bill wholeheartedly.

Catherine Latimer, Executive Director, John Howard Society of Canada: Thank you very much. It's a great pleasure to be here to speak to you about this important bill.

The John Howard Society, as you know, is a charity committed to effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime. With more than 60 affiliated offices across the country, many John Howard societies provide services and support for those in conflict with the law, their families and victims.

We think that addressing the needs of victims is extremely important. We think adequate compensation and availability of counselling and certainly procedures which convey adequate and appropriate respect for the dignity of victims are also laudable.

We do have concerns with the proposed bill of rights. We agree with Minister MacKay's sentiments that this will be a transformative bill for its effect on justice and the corrections system. And the likely implications for justice, victims and offenders need to be carefully assessed before such a transformation is undertaken. In our view, there are still a lot of unanswered questions around what the impact of this bill will be. I wanted to take a quick moment to go through some of these issues.

In the definition section, "victims" includes not only those who have suffered emotional harm but also those who have suffered property damage and economic loss. I'm wondering if that conveys victim rights to entities like corporations or businesses who may have incurred losses as a result of criminal activity. Given that the new restitution rights sort of open criminal courts to civil remedies in terms of restitution, would this be an invitation to corporate entities to short-circuit a civil process and look for restitution on the backs of the criminal justice system, which is not I think entirely appropriate?

Community victims are given rights under this bill, but we're not entirely sure how they're defined. What exactly is a community victim? Who are they?

Information rights I think are extremely important, but it seems that the justice and corrections systems' ability to decline to share information is reduced. You hear from a lot of victims' groups, including Sharon Rosenfeldt, who is still here, whose family member was the innocent victim of a very serious serial murderer. But there are many victims who are attacked by or victimized by competing and rival gangs, or in association with marital breakdown, or in other areas where there is ongoing animosity and problems. Are we sure that we want all victims having access to lots of information about the offenders where there might be a possibility of vigilantism or reprisals resulting from the spread of that information?

Similarly, participation rights: What exactly are the implications of those for impartial, objective justice and the corrections system? This is particularly true for fluid categories.

Someone mentioned, for example, Bill C-53 — I think it was Megan — which includes the ability to ensure there is no eligibility for parole if it's a particularly brutal murder. I don't think there's any victim who has witnessed the death of a loved one at the hands of a murderer who would be predisposed to think that wasn't a brutal event. If the justice system is listening to the words of the victims, it would be hard-pressed to differentiate and keep the numbers to the six or so that Minister MacKay is saying would be affected by this "life means life" provision.

I think there will be an expansion of penalties associated with the voice. I appreciate that it's a voice and not a veto, but it certainly will have implications for the justice system that are probably not anticipated at this stage.

One of our big concerns relates to restitution rights. Given the totality-of-the-sentence principle, doesn't the requirement to consider a monetary order for victims as part of the sentence skew the principles and practices of criminal justice? By that I mean that our criminal justice system has evolved away from a system of monetary penalties paid by the criminal or the criminal's family for each type of injury experienced by a victim. There are still some countries that have sort of a blood money kind of system where money is paid to the victim and the victim's family in connection with the criminal proceedings.

Ours is more an element of sentencing, which has to be linked in with the totality of the appropriate sentence that holds somebody accountable. If part of that appropriate penalty can be paid more easily by someone who has a lot of money, are you building a class skew into the sentencing provisions and the sentencing capacity and fairness in the sentencing area?

We have concerns not only about the fairness of the restitution provisions in coming up with proportionate and fair sentences but also about what they will do to the administration of justice in terms of slowing the system down — inviting insurance companies, perhaps, to require people who have suffered car theft losses to first proceed against the offender before their insurance pays out, and whether or not that will load up the criminal justice system in an unfortunate way.

We are also concerned about the remedies. While extensive rights are not set out for victims, the recourse for the system's failure with respect to those rights is filing a complaint. Are the expectations of victims being raised beyond what the justice and corrections systems are able or required to meet under this bill? I think that's really unfair to victims, to set out a set of rights that the justice system can't possibly meet.

Our conclusion is that many elements of this bill are indeed laudable, but given the transformative character of the bill and the number of unanswered questions, we would encourage that a lot more thought be given to the implications of this bill for the criminal justice and corrections systems before it is passed into law.

Senator Baker: Thank you to the witnesses for three excellent presentations.

I must admit, it's very interesting and very difficult to confine oneself to just one or two questions. I want to congratulate Mr. Spratt as well for his appearances before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada over the years, and his organization, his association, and their intervenor status on a lot of these very important cases.

I get the picture that the three of you are presenting, which you're concerned about, and that is trial delay. I think Ms. Walker outlined it first, and Mr. Spratt, as far as trial delay goes, but lengthening out the provisions here for witnesses to make applications to the court.

The reason why that is so important is there is an increasing number, in every province in this country today, of the application of Askov, the application of section 11(b) of the Charter, trial within a reasonable period of time. You get people who are alleged to have committed the worst of crimes. The RCMP spends all their time, as Chief White would tell you, researching crimes, to have them appear before a court, as Ms. Walker pointed out from the very beginning, and have a trial take two or three years, and then all charges are just thrown out. The accused is then free — acquitted of everything — because the trial took too long. It's established in law in Canada — and, Mr. Spratt, I wonder if you could verify this — that, from the point of charge to the point of the first appearance to the point of the trial beginning, there are time periods laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada, and if you violate those in any serious manner — and it's the fault of applications, not the fault of the accused — if you don't meet these deadlines, one could end up being acquitted of everything. Is that not correct? There are established guidelines, and this bill will lengthen now the period of time. Is that correct?

Mr. Spratt: That is right. It is not the fact that the charges could be stayed at the end of the day, but the fact that witnesses' memories can diminish over time and complainants have these matters hanging over their heads. Or, if the accused is found not guilty, he might be living under restrictive bail conditions during that period of time. Delay is not good for anyone, and it's not sought out by any party, but it's a reality.

Senator Baker: That's what Canadians are concerned about. The more we lengthen out these trials, the more people who are accused never do come to an adjudication, the stay is entered, section 24(1) of the Charter, because it took too long to get through the process.

On the matter of the right to have a restitution order, restitution orders are not strange to Canadian law. The form that's being used is the form that was used, Form 34.1, which says "fraud" under it. That's now changed to a general provision. During a fraud trial, the amounts of money that were defrauded are established by the court as an essential element of the offence. That's what the court case is about. You're able to say this is the amount of money that should form the restitution order. It's very simple; it's part of the trial.

How will the entry of a restitution order that has nothing to do with the essential elements of the trial work now? Can you recall any instance in Canada where you have had a law or portion of a law that said that somebody's ability to pay need not be considered at all, because the Supreme Court of Canada and every Court of Appeal in this country ruled that somebody's ability to pay is one of the major considerations of restitution? Could you answer that question? What will be the procedure now that you perceive under this bill for the determination of the restitution order, Mr. Spratt? Ms. Latimer?

Mr. Spratt: As a criminal defence counsel, when the restitution amount isn't part of the offence itself, I don't know how that will be proved in court. Will the court permit me to cross-examine a complainant about the quote? Will it be like an insurance company that will require three quotes to fix a property? Will I be able to bring applications or cross- examine a complainant about lost time at work or mental health issues that could have arisen that caused financial difficulty? It will certainly delay the process. I suppose I will disagree. I can think of one time when ability to pay isn't a factor, and that's the victim fine surcharge.

Senator Baker: But that's not a restitution order.

Mr. Spratt: That's not a restitution order, but that's currently before the courts. Constitutional matters have been identified there. It's problematic, to say the least.

Ms. Latimer: I think ability to pay is included in the fine provisions in the Criminal Code as a potential penalty. If you're going to be looking at it as a penalty, it's good policy and has been the law that you need to look at the capacity of the individual to pay it before it's ordered.

Ms. Walker: Of course, my friends on the panel next to me are working with criminal activity, I guess in defence assistance, whereas I'm working with victims. We know from women who are being abused by their partners that oftentimes they hide money. It's very easy for them to do that with family law orders. They work under the table, things like that. I'm very happy to say that there should be a restitution order and it shouldn't be about the ability to pay. What about the ability of that victim to get help? Doesn't she have a right? Don't victims have a right to restitution so that they can move on in their lives? I frankly don't care if the offender has a lack of ability to pay. What I care about is that that woman, or that man or that child has resources available to assist them in moving on in their lives.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: I would like to thank you for your testimony. Ms. Walker, I would also like to thank you for acknowledging that our government is working very hard for victims of crime. That opinion is shared by many people.

Ms. Walker, it is true that the indictment and conviction rates are 2.5 per cent in Canada, which represents the percentage of men or violent individuals who will not spend one day in prison, and 97 per cent of them will never receive a prison sentence.

There are two reasons for that. First, one out of ten victims reports their attacker, and in 50 per cent of the cases, the others will drop their complaint during the process because they feel they are not protected and the sentences are often light.

This bill of rights is based on fundamental principles, such as information and protection. As I was asking Commissioner Don Head yesterday, will our correctional system protect women once the spouse or violent individual gets out of prison? We know that victims often do not accuse their attackers because the victims run the risk of being subject to even greater violence afterwards.

In that sense, will this bill of rights help to better protect victims and encourage them to report their attackers?

[English]

Ms. Walker: We know that women continue to be victimized, even when their abuser is in jail, by relentless phone calls and by messages being sent by others. I stand firmly on the side of women and victims who are trying to move forward in their lives. We need mechanisms in place to ensure the safety of women, and I think this bill accomplishes that. It allows for support people. It allows for anonymous testimony. There are restitution orders. It recognizes what a victim is.

Mr. Spratt mentioned earlier about the anonymity factor and how that's not relevant in domestic violence cases. I'm not sure how extensive he is work is in working with women who have been violated by their partners or sexually abused. We saw 3,300 women last year and responded to 5,000 phone calls. There are many cases where a witness — maybe not the woman, but a witness — will not come forward and testify to help that woman if she's going to be known. To me, proposed section 17 is something that we have been advocating for a very long time. The provisions in this bill go a great distance toward protecting women and children in our communities.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Ms. Latimer, you raised many questions in your presentation, and that is very wise. The situation is similar to that of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, when defence attorneys, who make good use of it today, did not quite know how it would encompass the rights of alleged criminals in the medium term. Today we see that it is a charter that affords them a great deal of protection.

You started out by saying that the participation of victims could make the justice system less objective. However, does the fact that the criminal actively participates in the current justice system make it more objective?

You said that restitution is not part of the sentence. However, every day in Quebec, in assault cases, I see judges handing down a jail term and ordering the criminal to make a donation to an organization that helps victims. I see that the principle of restitution is applied every day in criminal justice, especially in assault cases.

I am trying to understand. Could you clarify how the bill of rights will handicap the justice system such that restitution will result in a harsher sentence, even though this is already being done?

[English]

Ms. Latimer: I think it will compound the burdening problem. Let's say for example that they brought criminal charges against a rail company that was allegedly criminally negligent for a rail disaster, which had a profound number of victims and people affected economically by the damage caused by the rail disaster. If the police and the prosecutors were trying to notify and be in contact with all of those victims, you're going to have a big hemorrhaging of time such that you will be running up against your Askov deadlines. Similarly, the really complicated prosecutions that involve underworld gangs, a lot of discoveries and evidence take a long time. They're the more serious offences, and they are the ones where you want to see convictions apply.

So if there are further delays in the system in order to give victims information and a variety of other things, it may well lead to some of the most serious offenders not being prosecuted for the offences they may have committed. That's a problem.

The other problem is that you want the criminal justice system to be objective, fair and impartial. Frankly, that's why the criminal justice system evolved away from a dispute between a perpetrator and the victim and introduced the offence being against the Queen or against the state to make it objective.

Senator Fraser: Let me thank you all for being here. You all made thought-provoking points, but as a Quebecer I was struck by that reference to a train derailment, for obvious reasons. I found myself thinking this is going to be a very difficult circle to square because of the points you make, Ms. Latimer, about delay. You have all expressed concerns about delay, and every Canadian who thinks for five seconds about the legal system is upset about the delays that just seem to grow and grow. Yet, in a case like Lac-MØgantic, those people are all terrible victims, so I'm wondering if there is a way to square this circle.

For example, under this bill, would it be possible to have a representative of the victims be the one who is responsible — I don't mean to say that in a disparaging way — for being the interface between the court and them? You can do it today with electronics, and that person would be responsible for funneling out all the information, for gathering the input that the victims wanted to make and collating it? Is that possible, and would it work?

Ms. Latimer: I think it's a very good idea. There are big events where there are lot victims, and often there are security issues where information, for security reasons, is not going to be forthcoming, like the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people were victimized and hurt by that? If you had an obligation to consult with each victim and get their views, you would be distracting the police and law enforcement. But if you can come up with another mechanism so the legitimate interests of the victims are being met, which wouldn't put the burden on the front-line police officers or others, there may be some way of doing that. These are all unanswered questions under this bill.

Senator Fraser: You don't find anything in this bill?

Ms. Latimer: There is a possibility of designating. A victim can designate someone.

Senator Fraser: If they all designate the same person, that might help.

Ms. Latimer: Maybe, but the designation provision also poses some problems for me. What if they designate someone in a hostile position? You don't know who they will designate.

Ms. Walker: Senator Fraser, I feel bad about all victims. That's my work, whether it's in an airplane crash or a train derailment or any other crime. But I think we have to recognize that the most dangerous place for women is in their own home where they are supposed to be free and at peace. More than 50 per cent of women and girls over the age of 16 will experience sexual or physical violence in their life. It is a huge issue that needs to be addressed, and this bill addresses it.

On the delay in the courts, my comment was not that we shouldn't have any of these provisions because of the delay in the court. My comment is that we need to be careful of what we add to this existing bill because it will further delay the courts. In fact, we believe this bill decrease those delays, instead of women who have been sexually assaulted saying to the Crown, after 16 months or more, "I don't want to do it anymore," or after three months, "I don't want to pursue it anymore." It is wasted time. She says that because she doesn't feel supported. This bill will provide her with the support she needs to move forward with the justice system.

Senator Fraser: Please understand me. I wasn't trying to attack the concept of victims' rights and particularly not the rights of abused women. My question to Ms. Latimer had to do more with these massive cases where we've seen serious crimes not go to trial at the end because of these tremendous delays. I was trying to figure out how to square that circle, but please don't think I am trying in any way to diminish the rights of women who need rights.

Senator Plett: Mr. Spratt, you have been here many times, and let me start off on a positive note and thank you for giving us your testimony. I don't think you once used the phrase that you think it is unconstitutional, so I appreciate that. We are at least in agreement on one issue.

Mr. Spratt: I'm trying to think of synonyms at this point.

Senator Plett: Mr. Spratt, I have two comments I would like you to address, and then a question for Ms. Walker.

I find it ironic when a defence lawyer talks about his problems with the delay in courts when I don't think there is anybody in this world that tries to delay trials more, if it benefits his client, than a defence lawyer. For you to use that as part of your argument I find quite ironic.

The other comment I want to make is that you took a little swipe at the government in part of your address, and I'm wondering whether you know that this bill passed unanimously in the House of Commons, so indeed the Liberals and the NDP also voted in favour of that. Those are my comments to Mr. Spratt.

Mr. Spratt: It might be useful to start by clarifying a legal issue that came up before. The starting premise is that Charter protections aren't just for those who commit crimes. Charter protections protect us all. When we're looking specifically at delay under the Charter, it is an issue that affects us all. Come and spend a day with me. I'll take you around our courts.

If you were with me last Friday, you would have seen that I was in court trying to set a trial date on a second appearance, and I was told I couldn't set a trial date at that time. You would have seen that I was in court yesterday, trying to set a trial date for someone in custody, and I was available next week, next month, the month after. Do you know when that trial date was set? January. That's not because I asked for it to be in January. That's because, to a large extent, if you want to talk about politics, we see bill after bill after bill that tinkers with the justice system, and we don't see any corresponding funding. It's easy to pass these laws, and some of them, and some of the provisions here, are very useful and very justified. No one can disagree that information should be given to victims. No one can disagree that victims should have support. To a large extent, they do. Strengthening of that is not a problem, but, when there's no additional funding, I find it ironic that blame for the delay will be put at the defence counsel's feet when, time after time after time, we just want to set a trial and can't. So give me some money, and I will set some trials because we'll have time. If you want to come around and spend a day with me, I'll take you to the jail and show you all of my clients in custody who just want to move forward.

Senator Plett: Fair enough. We have all been in the courts when the judge sits there with his Day-timer, and the lawyers sit there with their Day-timers. The lawyers, as often as the judge, can't find an acceptable date because they're doing whatever they're doing. They're busy with a different trial, or they're off in Whistler skiing. Nevertheless, I think that goes around with everybody.

Ms. Walker, first of all, you made a statement that you work with and for victims. Thank you for the tremendously good work that you do.

Ms. Walker: Thank you.

Senator Plett: You answered my question on the restitution order, and I think we've beaten that to death. Ms. Latimer talked about that; you all have. So I will ask this question. I would like your comments on the amendment to the Canada Evidence Act removing the common-law rule that prevents spouses of accused people from testifying against the accused on behalf of the Crown. Do you believe this is positive?

Ms. Walker: Absolutely. There is no way that offenders should be allowed to move forward when their spouse has important information that could lead to a conviction. Absolutely, we support that.

If I could comment on one thing about the court delays, court delays have been happening across this country for years, and I don't think today is the day, when we're talking about victims' rights, that we bring forward the significant issues of court delays that are pre-existing and that we believe will be addressed through many of the measures in this bill.

Senator Plett: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Senator Batters: Thank you very much, and a little about that court delay, trial delay, issue. It's a major concern in our criminal justice system, and I'm keenly aware of that because of the time that I spent working in the Saskatchewan justice minister's office, where a significant period of our time is always spent ensuring that our trial delays are manageable and reasonable so that the provincial governments, who are responsible for the administration of justice in their particular provinces, are not going to have cases against serious criminals thrown out of court because of trial delays.

But what I'd point out is that it's precisely because of the concern about that significant issue that certain aspects of this bill deliberately don't go as far as some victims' groups would ideally like to see, at this point. It's to avoid those delays. Ms. Walker, you pointed out very well that the advocacy efforts that there are right now, pushing to allow victims status as intervenors, could bring a further backlog and delay to the court proceedings. Thank you very much for the very keen insight into that.

Ms. Walker, you testified before us with Bill C-36, the prostitution legislation. I want to congratulate you not only for your work on behalf of abused women and children but also for the amazing work that you've done on other very topical issues. Every so often, I see you on national television, speaking about different issues of importance to women. Thank you very much for your work on that.

Ms. Walker: Thank you.

Senator Batters: When you testified on this legislation before the House of Commons Justice Committee, you stated that for victims to access the criminal justice system is very difficult. I'm wondering whether you can explain what you view as the barriers that victims face in accessing the justice system and how this legislation addresses some of those issues.

Ms. Walker: I can take you through a very brief process. When women access our office and come in, we explain what their options are. Sometimes women will say, "I want to go to the police." What does that mean? We'll explain what that means. It means being interrogated. It means being videotaped. When she finally goes to court, it means she'll be on the stand and usually attacked as if she's the offender by the defence counsel. It's a very long process, and conviction rates are very low. Often, she says, "I can't go through that unless I have somebody that will go through that with me. Will you or a support person come with me?" We don't have that ability now in the courtroom. We don't have the ability to sit with the woman and say, during the process, "We need a break. She's being traumatized or re- traumatized, and we need to do some debriefing." All of those stages along the way help that woman to be able to be succinct in her testimony, recall the incident in her testimony and feel that, at the end of the day, she did the right thing. This is why we are so supportive of this. It provides the tools victims need to be able to face the criminal justice system.

Senator Batters: Absolutely. You testified before us on Bill C-36, the prostitution legislation largely helping exploited women and children. I think you would probably agree that this particular bill for victims' rights in Canada is a paradigm shift, just as that was, a complete change in attitude for how we're treating these vulnerable people.

Ms. Walker: Absolutely, and we said during Bill C-36 that we felt that the outcome of that will be to shift the culture for future generations of boys and girls. I think that, like with this, we are shifting a culture in how we recognize, respect and dignify the voices of the victims, whether they are still alive or not.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you all for your presentations. Mr. Spratt and Ms. Latimer, in your presentations, I noted the concerns you had regarding the right to restitution under this bill. It's clear that courts, under this bill, must consider a restitution order in all offences. This does not mean that such an order must be granted but, rather, that the court must turn its mind to the possibility.

Now, having said this, if a restitution order, as I understand it, is made and the offender does not pay, the victim may have the order entered as a civil court judgment, enforceable against that offender, which would then allow the victim to seek repayment through measures such as the seizure of the offender's funds, as set out under section 29 of this bill. Now, isn't this already possible under section 741 of the Code? I don't see where the problem is with respect to the right to restitution.

Mr. Spratt: My comments were directed specifically at clause 30, about the consideration of financial means and ability to pay. In my experience, we already see a little bit of this in the current process, how the inequity between the poor and the rich can drastically effect what happens in court. I'll give you one small example, a fraud-over charge, a very serious charge, a charge for which, if you plead guilty to it, you're precluded from getting a conditional discharge. It will show up on your record. One of the common things that the Crowns do, in the use of their discretion, is say, "If your client can pay back some of that money upfront, we can drop it down to a fraud-under charge, and then a lesser punishment is available." Of course, if you're poor — and there's no option if you're poor to pay that money back — it can lead to different justice for different people. The restitution order, when we don't look at ability to pay, which courts of appeal have told us is an important consideration, also risks treating the rich and the poor quite differently when it comes to the ultimate sentence.

Senator McIntyre: Another point I wish to raise with the two of you is a point of clarification, really.

Sections 28 and 29 of the bill make it clear that a violation of the rights outlined in the bill does not create a cause of action or a right to damages. It doesn't create a right to appeal the decision in criminal justice system proceedings on the basis that a right under this act has been infringed or denied.

The bill uses the words "rights" as opposed to "principles." The rights outlined in Bill C-32 are primarily procedural, as you know, including rights to information, protection, participation and restitution. The bill does not grant victims a status as a party to proceedings. In a criminal trial, the prosecutor is a party to proceedings, the accused is a party to proceedings, but in this case here, the victim would not be a party to proceedings.

My question is this: Do you want this bill framed in such a way that the victim would be a party to proceedings?

Mr. Spratt: Heavens, no.

Senator McIntyre: You've answered my question. Ms. Latimer, same thing?

Ms. Latimer: No, but I think that if the implication, the restitution order is an additional loss of property for the offender —

Senator McIntyre: On that part only?

Ms. Latimer: Yes, but they should have some rights to question the actual loss of the victim, which the victim is alleging, against which they are going to be required to pay. To me, it's an unfortunate conflation of civil and criminal law principles, and you're really disadvantaging someone with a civil law remedy by embedding it into the criminal law process.

Senator McIntyre: But then again, all they would have to do is turn to the complaint mechanism, either under the provincial authority or the federal authority.

Ms. Latimer: You mean if they don't get a restitution order, then the victim can complain?

Senator McIntyre: Yes.

Ms. Latimer: I would argue that the remedies set out in the bill are not very strong and that this is really an unfortunate thing for victims. You're leading them to believe that they have restitution rights, but they can't actually do much about requiring those to be enforced.

Senator McIntyre: I agree that they should not be granted status as party to proceedings, so you've both answered my question. Thank you.

Senator McInnis: Thank you. I'm glad you're here, Mr. Spratt, because I think you've clarified some things. I don't know how often you caucus or communicate with your colleagues, but your association, when they appeared before the Justice Committee, said that what we need is more money, funding for the courts and litigants to move litigation forward, and not more laws.

I took that to mean, when I read it, that this individual didn't think this bill was very important. You've clarified that somewhat. We always appreciate your critique; it's always intelligent, and someday I hope that you will appear — perhaps you don't appear here when you agree holus-bolus.

Mr. Spratt: There was one time.

Senator McInnis: I haven't seen it yet.

Crime in Canada is going down. You're absolutely correct about the length of trials. It's horrendous — it really is — and people are suffering. But my experience in the legal system is that throwing money at it, throwing dollars at it doesn't work. What has the Canadian Bar Association done to help correct the system?

Mr. Spratt: What we've done to help correct the system is to advocate for procedures and for appropriate funding.

I agree that throwing money at a problem often doesn't make it better, but what we need is more judges, a provincial responsibility to a large extent. What we need is more courtrooms. What we need is a more robust legal aid system to help the indigent when they could go to jail and their liberty could be affected but they can't afford a lawyer. Those are primarily the delays that we look at.

Senator McInnis: But crime is going down, by 4 per cent last year.

Mr. Spratt: The complexity of proceedings — and that's one of the things we have talked about in this bill — is increasing when you look at interceptions of electronic communications. If you turn to your left, I'm sure Senator White will tell you the massive amounts of disclosure that can come out of a criminal investigation these days because of the sophistication of the investigation.

There may have been fewer delays pre-Charter in the days when information wasn't disclosed to defence counsel and in the days when there weren't so many of these proceeding. There were also lots of wrongful convictions because of non-disclosure then. Sometimes to do things right takes a long time, and sometimes that takes more money.

Senator McInnis: Some of these trials have taken three years. It's amazing.

Mr. Spratt: Especially if you're dealing with a large project, with multiple co-accused and a lot of police resources that went into the investigation and the apprehension of the individuals. Yes, sometimes things take a long time.

Senator White: I have just a short question, if I may, because you threw my name out there.

A few years ago I was involved in a research project. We looked at the province of Ontario, and on average, 200,000 cases a year came to a successful conclusion, which means actually finished in court. Those 200,000 cases averaged nine appearances per case, no proportionality. For shoplifting or attempted murder, there were nine appearances. More than 50 per cent of the requests for adjournments were from defence.

So while I appreciate your comments around finding a speedier way, I don't necessarily appreciate the suggestion that it's the court or the Crown that owns this. I think it's owned as well by the defence lawyers.

Mr. Spratt: Defence counsel request adjournments for disclosure of information, for their client to obtain legal aid and to be retained. Those are all defence requests but not necessarily delays that would fully fall on defence shoulders.

The last time I had to adjourn a matter was because a pre-sentence report wasn't ready because we don't have enough probation officers to write pre-sentence reports, which can take eight weeks now. I had to delay another matter because it took a long time in Ottawa to prepare a Gladue report about the circumstances of an Aboriginal offender.

So if resources could be directed to those areas, it would decrease court time as well. I should also say there is no objection to resources being used to provide support for complainants in matters. We see that in court now, where there are victim support workers who come with the complainant. There are actually provisions in the Criminal Code when a third-party record application is brought to the complainant —

The Chair: Mr. Spratt, this is something perhaps the committee at some point would be interested in if we study court delay situations. I know the terms of defence, the two-for-one remand credits, was an issue with respect to defence counsel as well.

We thank you all for very interesting contributions to our deliberations.

(The committee adjourned.)