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New bill seeks to ensure victims’ rights are respected: Senator Boisvenu
December 18, 2020
OPINION
image Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
C - (Quebec - La Salle)

On December 1, I presented Bill S-219, An Act to Amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, alongside Conservative Oshawa, Ont., MP Colin Carrie and Lakeland, Alta., MP Shannon Stubbs, public safety and emergency preparedness critic for the official Opposition. It was an honour to be joined by two families who are victims’ rights advocates; Lisa Freeman, who became a victims’ rights advocate after her father was tragically murdered in 1991, and Darlene Ryan and Bruno Serre, the family of Brigitte Serre, who was brutally murdered in 2006.

Faced with the federal government’s poor record over the last six years in enforcing and upholding victims’ rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, we have decided to take action to address our concerns and those of victims and families in a clear fashion by introducing Bill S-219.

The bill is essential in order to respect, strengthen and adequately protect the rights of victims of crime, which have been so difficult to obtain. This new legislation would also require the Parole Board of Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to comply with federal legislation, obliging them to inform victims and families of victims of crime about the eligibility of offenders concerning dates of reviews, temporary absences, parole or statutory release.

Bill S-219 was originally introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Carrie in the previous Parliament in 2019 and received support from other opposition parties; it has now been reintroduced in the Upper Chamber.

Ms. Freeman is a constituent of Mr. Carrie’s. She approached him with the idea of creating a bill that would provide clarity on how the parole board and CSC set the eligibility dates for offenders.

She expressed her frustration concerning the lack of transparency experienced from the parole board when she should have been kept properly updated on the status of the man convicted of her father’s murder.

“Families such as mine are plunged, unasked, into unfathomable situations, and then further demoralized and retraumatized by the actions of government institutions that say they are supportive of victims of crime, which is at best, an illusion. … Under the appearance of rehabilitation, victims of crime often have to stand back and watch while violent offenders exercise their rights, which, as most victims of crime find, are nothing more than a mockery of justice and basic common sense.”

Ms. Stubbs stated: “(We) have always put the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of criminals and will continue to do so. Victims of crime and their loved ones can be confident that we will continue to stand up for their right to be heard, and to participate, in criminal and parole proceedings. This change is one of many that can help ensure a better balance in the justice system. The rights of victims and law-abiding, innocent Canadians must come first.”

While working on this bill, Mr. Carrie expressed his concern with the criminal justice system and how the victims of crime and their families are being too frequently forgotten.

“Often, the institutions that are supposed to be looking out for those who are impacted by the actions of violent offenders are the ones who create a cycle of revictimization and suffering for survivors,” he said.

Finally, the purpose of this bill is to fully apply and respect the right to information, enshrined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which must continue to be improved. This bill will ensure victims and families of victims of crime have transparency about the information they are entitled to receive.

It’s another step towards equity between the rights of victims and those of criminals.

Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu represents the La Salle division of Quebec.

This article appeared in the December 4, 2020 edition of The Hill Times.