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Crime victims’ ombudsman to lose job

Article by: Janice Tibbits , Canwest News service
Canada’s first watchdog for crime victims has himself become a victim of job loss.

Steve Sullivan said he was surprised to receive a letter from the Harper government advising him to “start career planning as soon as possible” because his three-year term will not be renewed when it expires on April 24.

The longtime advocate for victims’ rights said he always thought that he clicked with the Conservative government and that several of his recommendations have been adopted.

“The government is obviously responding to my advice,” said Sullivan, who was appointed in April 2007 to as the first federal ombudsman for crime victims, in keeping with a Conservative election promise to look out for their interests in the justice system.

Sullivan had been president of the National Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for nine years before his appointment to the $125,000-a-year post.

His job, as head of the nine-person office, is to help victims’ tap into existing federal services, promote the needs of victims within the justice system and government, review complaints and identify emerging victims’ issues.

Genevieve Breton, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, would not explain why the government refused to reappoint Sullivan, as he requested in December.

“We thank Mr. Sullivan for all of his hard work,” she wrote in an email. “The government remains committed to ensuring that victims have a stronger voice in the criminal justice system.”

She said that the job will be advertised and Sullivan said he might reapply.

Sullivan said Nicholson’s letter, which he received this week, was dated March 12, three days before Public Safety Minister Vic Toews praised Sullivan at a news conference for the work he had done in pushing for a more expansive sex offender registry.

Sullivan is a unilingual anglophone and his appointment initially sparked some complaints to Canada’s official languages commissioner.

The government also refused late last year to renew the appointments of Peter Tinsley, the former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, and Paul Kennedy, the head of the RCMP public complaints commission. Both appointees were widely viewed as thorns in the government’s side.

However, the government does not have a blanket policy against reappointments — it renewed last year the term of prison ombudsman Howard Sapers, who was originally appointed by the former Liberal government.

Sullivan said he has always had a positive relationship with his political bosses so their failure to offer him another term came as a surprise.

He noted that the recent throne speech to open Parliament pledged to make victim fine surcharges mandatory, a measure he recommended. The move would eliminate judicial discretion to waive the fine, which is supposed to be imposed on offender to help cover victim services.

Also, the office pushed hard for the government to force Internet service providers to report child pornography content found on their servers, before the government tabled a bill last year that ultimately died when Parliament was prorogued in December.

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