Rights for Canadian Crime Victims.
The very foundation of our justice system is dependant upon voluntary cooperation of Crime Victims to report the crimes against them and to testify truthfully when called upon.
Victim distrust of the system and the overwhelming belief that the system is unjust will ultimately cripple the Nations confidence in its courts.
This is a dangerous consequence for Canada, a consequence far more dangerous than creating rights for crime victims.
The time for action has come, to engage our country in discussion, to create meaningful rights for all Canadians so that no government, present or future will be able to treat crime victims with the gross injustice that has come to be the sad hallmark of our current system.
The protections sought are the very kinds of rights with which our Constitution is typically and properly concerned ? ?the rights of individuals to participate in all those government process that strongly affect their lives.?
No government should refuse to tell a battered woman about the release of her victimizer, nor force her into silence about her safety or about her victimizer’s plea bargain or sentence, nor exclude her from the courtroom during trial, or to force her to endure years of delays or go without restitution
Those who argue that victims’ rights don’t need to be in the Constitution are simply condemning victims to perpetual revictimization and second-class citizenship.
Imagine the significance for a victim of sexual or domestic violence to have her safety considered when release decisions are made.
Imagine the importance of giving her a voice at release, plea, sentencing, and parole proceedings, or simply respecting her right to restitution, or her right to a speedy trial.
These crimes often take from the victim her control over her own body, over her own life.
The criminal justice system, by treating her as just another piece of evidence, continues to perpetuate her loss of control.
Imagine a system telling her that, as a matter of our fundamental law, she has the independent right, at crucial stages, to participate, that she is a person with worth and dignity and that the law will respect her.
Throughout the evolution of our justice system, victims of crime have been transformed into a group that is oppressively burdened by a system that was designed to protect them.
This must be redressed.
I have heard some say that the amendment could well “make the lives of crime victims even more difficult”.
It is not unusual for crime victims to encounter this type of paternalistic attitude and secondary assault.
I suggest that victim advocate groups and individual victims are the better judge of this point than criminal defense attorneys and Offender based organizations.
As noted experts on the psychological effects of crime have concluded, failure to offer victims a chance to participate in criminal proceedings can “result in increased feelings of inequity on the part of the victims, with a corresponding increase in crime-related psychological harm.”
There is mounting evidence that “having a voice may improve victims’ mental condition and welfare.” even though they know that their participation may not change the outcome.
A justice system that fails to recognize a victim’s right to participate threatens “secondary harm” – that is, harm inflicted by the operation of a process beyond that already caused by the criminal. This alone should give us cause to restructure our criminal justice system to minimize the government’s insult to the already criminally-inflicted injury.
An additional trauma stems from the fact that the victim perceives that the system’s resources “are almost entirely devoted to the criminal and little remains for those who have sustained harm at the criminal’s hands.”
It is an affront to any rational individual to say that at sentencing in a murder case, a parade of witnesses may praise the background, character and good deeds of the accused. . . . without limitation as to relevancy, but nothing may be said that bears upon the character of, or the harm imposed, upon the victims.”