Experts Call for National Plan for Crime Victims, Not Just More Spending on Prisons

OTTAWA, April 13, 2011 — Sixty experts from across Canada attended a national symposium at the University of Ottawa to advance rights for Canadian crime victims. After listening to representatives from law enforcement agencies, the legal system, victims’ rights groups, victim services providers, survivors and academics, the two victim assistance organizations sponsoring the event called on political parties to adopt a national action plan and significantly increase funding for crime victims.

The symposium, Victim Rights in Canada, Reaching International Standards, examined how Canada could better meet international standards and catch up with established practices in the United States and the European Union, both of which provide superior protection, rights, services and support for victims of crime. “We need to rebalance justice in Canada with a national action plan to make Canada a leader in providing every victim of crime with the services, compensation and information that they need,” said Irvin Waller, professor of criminology at University of Ottawa and president of the International Organization for Victim Assistance. “If the U.S. and the European Union can afford it, we can afford it.”

As political leaders debate spending on crime and justice during the current federal election campaign, this year

  • 1 in 10 Canadian adults will be a victim of an assault or other violent crime.
  • Less than 10% of sexual assaults will be reported to the police.
  • Crime victims will suffer the equivalent of $83 billion in loss, injury and trauma.

However, current proposed federal expenditures to make victims matter under a “law and order” agenda are estimated at $13 million for improving the response to victims and a reduction to $50 million for prevention – less than 2% of the rapidly growing allocations for policing and prisons – while proposals for crime victim reform gather dust. “Talking tough about crime doesn’t do anything for victims, unless it is backed up by concrete action. The time has come to spend as much on preventing crime and assisting victims as on punishing offenders,” said Heidi Illingworth, executive director, Canadian Resource Center for Victims of Crime. “We’re building prisons and ignoring crime victims.”

At the symposium, Irvin Waller discussed his new book, Rights for Victims of Crime: Rebalancing Justice, which examines the current state of international knowledge and practice on victim rights and shows that Canada lags behind in virtually every category.

Symposium organizers called for the following:

  • A national action plan, including standards that would apply to policing, services, restitution, compensation, prosecution and courts; this would include a component to respect special categories of victims, including women, children and aboriginal populations
  • A provincial/territorial victim advocate reporting directly to legislatures
  • An independent national institute to focus on research and development to inform policy makers
  • Funding equivalent to about 10% of current expenditures on criminal justice

Karine Proulx
Media Relations Officer
University of Ottawa
613-562-5800 ext. 3149
613-219-3058 (cell)