Standing up for Victims
Ottawa Journal (Ottawa Journal (November 21 – November 25, 2021)
David Tilson, MP
Since our Government was first elected, standing up for victims of crime and for all law-abiding Canadians, has been a top priority for us. Canadians deserve to know that they are safe in their communities and if they are the victim of a crime, their rights should be put first, while offenders are held accountable.
Acting on that principle, our Government is standing up for victims of crime. We pledged to reintroduce and pass, within 100 sitting days, our vital legislation to make Canadians safer. Canadians gave us a strong mandate to put the rights of victims first and we are delivering on our commitment through the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
This Act contains strong, common-sense measures to ensure victims are not ignored. It would enshrine victims’ rights to attend Parole Board hearings and to make a statement if they desire. It would also ensure that when an offender withdraws from a hearing on short notice, the Board has the ability to proceed with a review – so the victim may still be heard and will not have taken time off work and away from family, traveled a long distance, and arrived to a cancelled hearing.
We also propose to keep victims properly informed. It isn’t right that secrecy and uncertainty should subject victims to unnecessary, unpleasant surprises. Victims should, whenever possible, be given advance notice of transfers to minimum security prisons and be notified of reasons for transfers and temporary absences from correctional facilities.
Furthermore, we are addressing the system of pardons. While a jail term ends, the damage done to innocent victims often lasts a lifetime. Therefore, we will more accurately term ‘pardons’ as ‘record suspensions’ and will extend the period of ineligibility before offenders can apply. We will also eliminate pardons entirely for serious crimes, such as sexual offences against children.
It’s unfortunate that these measures have not already been enacted into law. The opposition parties have obstructed and delayed and, in fact, still oppose our legislation. Instead of standing up for victims, they oppose our efforts because, as one Liberal MP said, "by putting more people in prison for longer periods means there will be more crime inside prisons." Despite this prolonged obstruction, our Government is delivering on our commitment to put victims first and work to help reduce crime.
Indeed, our record is clear. Our Government created the Office of the Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, to improve how the system treats victims. We repealed the ‘faint hope’ clause, to spare victims from having to relive their worst experiences. We passed legislation to provide financial support for victims through EI.
From our first days in office, we’ve acted on the principle of putting law-abiding Canadians first, making critical reforms. Building on these accomplishments and acting on our strong mandate from Canadians, we are standing up for victims. The Safe Streets and Communities Act recognizes that every victim matters and includes measures to ensure that victims are kept informed and that their rights are respected.