Addressing the needs of victims of crime in Canada is a shared responsibility between federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI) coordinates an overall federal strategy for victims of crime including all relevant federal legislation and programs related to victims of crime. Through criminal law reform, policy development, consultations, the F/P/T WG on Victims of Crime, victim related research, and the Victims Fund, the PCVI identifies, coordinates and explores federal responses to emerging victim related issues and concerns across Canada.
The Victims Fund is a grants and contributions fund with fairly broad terms and conditions designed to raise awareness about and enhance services and assistance to victims of crime. The Victims Fund is administered by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues and provides support to victims of crime as well as to governmental and non-governmental organizations to implement a wide range of victim - focused projects and activities. Currently, the Fund has $7.75 M available until 2010/11.
Of the $7.75 M available currently per year, the Victims Fund allocates the majority of that to provinces and territories to undertake specific victim related activities that reflect shared objectives (i.e. providing financial assistance to victims to attend sentencing hearings to present a victim impact statement; enhancing or expanding services to ‘underserved' victims; and for the territories to provide emergency services to meet the gaps in service and assistance that may exist for victims). This component of the Fund also assists provinces and territories to implement the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and/or legislative provisions intended to benefit victims of crime. Currently, several jurisdictions are accessing these funds to advance the needs of Aboriginal victims of crime.
Resources are also available to both governmental and non governmental organizations for innovation and enhancement of services and assistance, research, public education and related activities to meet local and regional needs (including resources to enhance support for victims in Community Justice Committees in the three territories).
Victims of crime can also access the Victims Fund. Emergency financial assistance is available to Canadians who are victims of serious violent crime abroad who may incur unanticipated or exceptional expenses resulting from their victimization where no other source of funding is available. In addition, the Victims Fund has resources to defray the travel costs of registered victims and their support person who wish to attend National Parole Board hearings of the offender who harmed them. Financial assistance is also available to victims and family members for travel to section 745.6 of the Criminal Code hearings.
In collaboration with northern colleagues, the Policy Centre for Victim Issues administers a program that increases services and support to victims in the North through capacity-building and support for service providers who assist them. This support is provided to federal Crown Witness Coordinators (who work directly with victims through the court process) as well as territorial service providers (who provide first response and ongoing assistance to victims) in the form of salary dollars for staff, training, site visits, and public awareness campaigns/activities. Like all the PCVI activities, the expectation is that this will increase the confidence and participation of victims/witnesses in the criminal justice system.
The Aboriginal Courtwork Program (ACW) works within the mainstream justice system to improve access to justice for Aboriginal people by providing direct services (information, advice and referrals) to all Aboriginal people (adult and youth) in conflict with the justice system.
The Aboriginal Courtwork Program is accessible to all Aboriginal people regardless of age, status or residency. Currently the ACW Program operates in every jurisdiction except New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Since 1978, federal funding has been provided through contribution agreements with the participating provincial and territorial governments. In most jurisdictions, Courtwork services are delivered by Aboriginal delivery agencies under contract to the provincial or territorial government. In Manitoba, courtworkers are employees of the provincial government. In the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Legal Services Clinics provide Courtwork services. Over 200 courtworkers are employed by 20 service delivery agencies across Canada. The ACW Program is guided by a Tripartite Working Group (TWG) that serves as a forum for addressing a range of policy and program issues.
In 2005/2006 approximately 60,000 Aboriginal people who were charged with a criminal offence were provided with ACW Program services.
The objective of the ACW Program is to help to ensure that Aboriginal people who are in conflict with the criminal justice system obtain fair, just, equitable, and culturally sensitive treatment. This objective is achieved by:
The Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS) was announced in 1996 to address over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system and to respond to Aboriginal communities' desire for greater control over the administration of justice.
The AJS was renewed in January 2001, until 2007 with about $57.5 million over five years.
A second renewal was announced in Budget 2007, with enhanced funding of $40 million ($8 million per year for 5 years).
The AJS is managed by the Aboriginal Justice Directorate at the Department of Justice Canada.
A large proportion of AJS community programs involve alternative dispute resolution. In particular, the restorative justice approaches employed by many communities promote a holistic environment and serve as a valuable adjunct to formal court processes.
Community-based justice programs will continue to be the centerpiece of the strategy. These programs are developed and managed in partnership with Aboriginal communities, provinces and territories and enable the achievement of AJS objectives. Programs are cost-shared with provinces and territories and are designed to reflect the culture and values of the communities in which they are situated.
Increased involvement and strengthened capacity of Aboriginal communities fosters the development of more appropriate responses to justice issues faced by Aboriginal people and over time, helps reduce the number of Aboriginal people coming into conflict with the justice system.
To a great extent, the success of the AJS rests on the ability of Aboriginal communities to develop project proposals, and then manage, deliver, and maintain community-based justice programs. Training, development, and capacity-building at the local level, are key initiatives for the AJS.
The training and development component is intended to address the on-going training needs related to community-based justice programs through community capacity building.
This includes training community justice workers operating community-based justice programs as well as those working towards implementing an AJS program. In the latter regard, training and development funds cover workshops and other training necessary for the implementation of new programs, such as information sessions on how to best promote the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Since 2006, the Youth Justice Fund has provided more than $3,622,000 to 32 projects with an Aboriginal youth justice focus.
Through the Youth Justice Fund, Aboriginal organizations and communities can receive funding help deliver community-based programs and services to help aboriginal youth in conflict with the law.
The Youth Justice Fund supports initiatives that focus on extrajudicial measures and sanctions, alternatives to pre-trial detention, community reintegration and the development and implementation of community-based sentences.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) encourages victims, families, volunteer groups, teachers, psychologists and the wider community to participate in many different ways in the youth justice system. The YCJA also promotes the use of Youth Justice Committees, which are groups of citizens who can help administer the law or participate in any programs or services for young people.
The Government of Canada has committed close to $1 billion over five years for cost-sharing agreements that will help provinces and territories implement youth justice renewal.