Annual Reports of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime


On September 19, 2011 the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, tabled the 2008-09 and 2009-10 annual reports of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

The reports provide information about the progress and accomplishments of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. The Office was created in 2007 as an independent resource to ensure the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims of crime in Canada by addressing their needs, promoting their interests, and making recommendations to the federal government about issues that affect victims negatively. According to the reports, there was a continued rise for its services in the Office’s second and third year of operations.

Sue O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime stated, “The Office has made tremendous progress in the few short years since it opened its doors and I am proud to share those accomplishments with Canadians. Our dedicated staff work everyday to effect positive change for victims – whether it’s helping victims one-on-one or talking to the decision and policy makers in this country about what needs to change to make the system work for victims. I look forward to continuing this good work in collaboration with victims, the federal government, and various victim-serving organizations across Canada.”

The 2008-2009 Annual Report overviews the following issues and recommendations:

  • A Voice for Victims – working closely with victims, victim service providers and other federal government departments to push for change and to build an office where victims’ voices matter
  • Awareness and Partnership Building – reaching out to stakeholders at conferences and other forums that helped to raise further awareness of victims’ rights and concerns in Canada
  • Progress towards positive change
    1. Making offenders convicted of child sexual exploitation ineligible for accelerated parole
    2. Expanding the network of Child Advocacy Centres in Canada
    3. Notifying victims of the deportation status of offenders
    4. Making offenders accountable to harm done to victims
    5. Providing support to victims of crime through Bill C-550
  • Updates on 2007-08 recommendations

The 2009-2010 Annual Report overviews the following issues and recommendations:

  • A Voice for Victims – providing victims of crime with a voice and to ensure that the Government met its commitments to victims
  • Privacy Laws and Victim Referrals – providing an opportunity for RCMP officers to provide proactive, active and passive referrals, depending on the circumstances to victims of crime
  • Sexual Violence and Harassment in the Military – recommending the Minister of National Defence consider the unique challenges that some recruit victims face in reporting sexual violence and to ensure that existing support and services available were meeting victims’ needs
  • Missing Persons Index – recommending the Minister of Public Safety develop a Missing Persons Index (MPI) for victims to be given high priority
  • Victims of Hate Crime – recommending that the Government consider amending the Criminal Code to allow for community victim impact statements, since hate crimes attack an entire community based on a certain characteristic that ultimately define their identity as a member of a particular group

You may read the full reports on the web site for the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime:

2008-09 Annual Report

2009-10 Annual Report

If you have questions or concerns about the reports contact the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime:

Telephone (toll-free): 1-866-481-8429
TTY (Teletypewriter): 1-877-644-8385
Outside of Canada: 1-613-954-1651
Email: victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-3498
Mail: Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, P.O. Box 55037, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1A1

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

 

Publication Bans: Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Cases


On the morning of the preliminary hearing, the Crown Attorney asked the victim in the sexual abuse case if she wanted to have a publication ban placed on the trial. Until that moment, she did not know that it was possible to protect her identity and shield her life from unwanted invasion due to harmful publicity.

She had taken other steps to protect herself. She had moved, changed her phone numbers, cut of communication with friends and family members, and she had even changed her job because she feared the backlash she would face for seeking justice against her offender. The expenses, the personal losses, the stress and anxiety she felt about the case might have been prevented had she known that she could protect her privacy with a simple request to the court.

In sexual abuse and sexual assault cases, the victim(s) has the right to request a publication ban.

According to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “the media is constitutionally entitled to publish information about court cases, but there are exceptions to this right. The court may (and frequently must) impose publication bans to protect the fairness and integrity of the case, the privacy or safety of a victim or witness, or the identity of a child or youth.” Under the Criminal Code of Canada, two sections apply to victims in sexual abuse and sexual assault cases. These sections prohibit the publishing, broadcasting or transmitting of information:

Section 486.4 provides for orders restricting publication of information that could identify a complainant or witness in a sexual offence

Section 486.5 deals with publication bans on information revealing the names of victims, witnesses and justice system participants, where the order is deemed necessary for the proper administration of justice

When a publication ban is applied, it is noted in the court record. All case documentation is marked with “”PUBLICATION BAN” and the number(s) of the related section(s) of the Criminal Code is also listed. In addition, when members of the public or the media request access to the court record, Ministry staff must inform them that the case is subject to a publication ban.

This makes it possible for survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault, adults and children, to protect their identity from harmful publicity. Survivors do not need to incur expenses or take extreme steps because the Criminal Code of Canada clearly states the right and provides the tools to protect their identities.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Silence and Sexual Assault: The Case of Nafissatou Diallo vs. Dominique Strauss-Kahn


The identity of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault victim was released through her own will for the entire world to know this morning.

Newsweek magazine published an interview, in which Nafissatou Diallo tells her side of a story that has been front-page news since May 2011. In the article, Ms. Diallo shares details of what happened to her during the assault and how she reacted when it ended. She tells us how she feared losing her job as a housekeeper at the Sofitel hotel in New York City and how she soon became fearful for her life when she learned the next morning, through a local news report, that the man she says sexually assaulted her might become the next president of France. Due to constant hounding by the press who revealed her identity and address, the New York City prosecutor placed Ms. Diallo and her daughter in protective custody, which cut them off from communicating with the outside world for nearly two months.

During this time, Strauss-Kahn’s team of defence lawyers denied that Ms. Diallo was sexually assaulted. Instead, his lawyers claimed that she had engaged in consensual sex for which they insinuated she had expected payment. Strauss-Kahn also hired a team of investigators to dig through Ms. Diallo’s life. Investigators claimed that she lied on her application to the United States for asylum when she said she had been gang raped in her native Guinea; cheated on her taxes; associated with criminals; and they accused her of being involved in a plot to ruin the life of the French politician and now former IMF chief. They shared much of this information with the public and led the New York City prosecutor to doubt her credibility as a witness in her own sexual assault case.

In response to Ms. Diallo’s Newsweek interview, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer William Taylor stated, ‘“What disgusts me is an effort to pressure the prosecutors with street theater, and that is fundamentally wrong.”

So, here’s our question: Why is it acceptable for Strauss-Kahn’s high-powered defence team, hired investigators, a public relations firm, his circle of powerful and wealthy supporters, and certain media outlets to publicly make statements that raise suspicion, criminalize and characterize Ms. Diallo as an “unreliable witness” in her own defence, but unacceptable for her to speak publicly about her ordeal?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is free to proclaim – quite publicly – his innocence while Nafissatou Diallo must remain dutifully and fearfully silent. She was silenced by her fears for her job and her life. The New York City prosecutor silenced her when he placed her in “protective custody” and prevented her from even using a telephone. The same prosecutors deepened her silence when they stated, “the case is in jeopardy after prosecutors called into question the accuser’s credibility on several fronts” after their investigators discovered that Ms. Diallo might not be the perfect victim. Worst of all, the media silenced her when it printed accusatory sound bites void of context about her life.

The necessary silencing of victims of sexual violence seems to be the norm. In spite of this, what we know is that it is never wrong for a sexual assault victim to use the power of their voice to tell the truth.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Suspected Abuse and the Duty to Report


“Be careful of Clive.”

That was the warning to a young girl from her aunt who suspected that it might be unsafe for her to spend time alone with the man who had already been sexually abusing her for months. Her aunt did not confront the man. She did not discuss her suspicions with other family members. She did not report her concerns to the police or a child protection agency. She told the young girl to be careful, but did nothing more to ensure her safety.

This person did not fulfill her duty – the duty of an adult to protect a child – and that young girl became a survivor.

In Canada, each province and territory has a Child Protection Act* because children cannot protect themselves. According to each Act, if a person has “reasonable grounds” to suspect that a child is in need of protection that person must report the suspicion and all information to the local police or child protection agency. This responsibility extends to all adults. Even if, wrongly, we choose to believe the responsibility falls more heavily on the shoulders of anyone who performs professional or official duties involving children. Even if, in some cases – because of the nature of the job – a child may feel safer disclosing abuse to professionals such as:

  • Health care professionals including doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and family counselors
  • Educational professionals including teachers, school principals, guidance counselors, early childhood educators (ECE), daycare staff, and youth and recreation staff
  • Religious officials including ministers, rabbis, and other members of the clergy
  • Law enforcement professionals including peace and police officers
  • Social workers
  • Lawyers

Every person has the duty to report if he or she suspects the abuse of a child. There are no exceptions.

So, what are some of the things from which a child requires protection?

  • Neglect: the failure to provide adequate care and/or supervision
  • Emotional and Psychological Abuse: revealed in children as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-destructive or aggressive behaviour, and/or delayed development
  • Physical Abuse: injury inflicted by a parent/caregiver or another person; or resulting from neglect or lack of supervision
  • Sexual Abuse: when a child is sexually molested, sexually assaulted, or sexually exploited by her or his parent/caregiver or by another person; or the parent/caregiver knows that there is a risk of sexual molestation, sexual assault, or sexual exploitation and fails to protect the child

The Child Protection Act of Ontario states that if you suspect a child requires protection, to fulfill the duty to report you must make the report directly. You cannot rely on another person to report abuse on your behalf. In fact, anyone who fails to make a report is guilty of an offence.

We know that children cannot protect themselves. The key principles of each Child Protection Act – the promotion of the best interests, protection, and well-being of children – are there to remind us of this. Therefore, if you suspect abuse, fulfill your duty: report it. You may protect a child from becoming a survivor.

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* Written with excerpts from the Child and Family Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

Support for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse


The province of Ontario has recognized the need to provide services tailored to male survivors of sexual abuse. The government’s plan includes a 2-year investment of $2.2 million to establish dedicated services for male survivors of sexual abuse.

Starting in early summer 2011, male survivors of sexual abuse will have access to an integrated network of services and support through 45 agencies across the province. The agencies will work together to provide training, public education and other professional development services to ensure male survivors of sexual abuse receive the supports they need.

These agencies will co-ordinate the delivery of specialized services for male victims including:

  • individual and group counselling
  • peer support
  • residential services
  • telephone and e-counselling

You may see the complete list of Service Providers here: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2011/20110413-male-bg.asp

Survivors will also have access to a new 24 hour, toll-free phone number that will provide crisis and referral services.

The government emphasized that this initiative complements a wide range of existing services that male survivors of sexual abuse can access, noting that The Men’s Project in Ottawa will receive funding to continue to work in the area of men’s services to male survivors of sexual abuse in the Cornwall and Ottawa areas.

A provincial advisory committee of experts is in place to ensure services across the province are rolled out smoothly and effectively, and are responsive to the needs of survivors. Members of the provincial advisory committee include:

  • Dr. Fred Mathews, psychologist and research and quality assurance project lead, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
  • Arthur Lockhart, professor of justice studies at Humber College and founder of The Gatehouse
  • Dr. Peter Jaffe, professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario
  • A representative from Findhelp Information Services and a representative from each of the four regional partnerships
  • A member of the Office for Victims of Crime
  • A representative from the Ontario Victim Services Secretariat

If you have questions or concerns about these services for male survivors of sexual abuse, you may contact the office of the Ontario Attorney General

Toll-free: 1-800-518-7901
Toronto: 416-326-2220
Teletypewriter (TTY) toll-free: 1-877-425-0575
Teletypewriter (TTY) Toronto: 416-326-4012
Email: attorneygeneral@ontario.ca
Mail: Ministry of the Attorney General, McMurtry-Scott Building, 720 Bay Street, 11th Floor, Toronto, ON  M7A 2S9

 

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund


On April 10, the Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley announced the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund.

The aim of this $900,000 fund is to help victims of crime and their families as they negotiate the intricacies of the justice system. According to the Attorney General, this new program will allow victims and their families “to participate more fully in the criminal court process”.

This fund will provide both financial and court-based supports to Ontario residents in three ways:

  • Helping both victims of crime and families of homicide victims to travel to attend court during key points in a criminal trial
  • Providing vulnerable victims with interpretation services when they are observing a criminal trial
  • Ensuring that victims with disabilities have appropriate supports, such as real-time captioning or other equipment to help them testify

Under the new program, victims of crime and families of homicide victims should apply through Ontario’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP), which is available in all 54 court districts across the province. V/WAP staff will determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis and help those who may qualify for assistance to apply. To find the V/WAP office closest to you, visit the online Victims Services Directory.

As of May 1, 2011 victims of crime and there families will be able to apply for support through a website.

For additional information about the Vulnerable Victims and Family Fund contact:

Victim Support Line
Toll-free: 1-888-579-2888
Toronto: 416-314-2447

 

Online: Victim Services Directory
http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/FindHelp.asp

 

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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Victim Services Toronto and the Sexual Violence Action Plan


Honourable Laurel Broten,
Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues,
Minister of Children and Youth Services
14th Floor,
56 Wellesley Street West,
Toronto ON M5S 2S3

Dear Minister Broten,

We were pleased with the release of Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan at the beginning of March 2011. The Plan’s expansion of the definition of sexual violence is encouraging for women who have experienced sexual violence but are uncertain about what offences may or may not be prosecutable. The objectives to increase awareness and education for Police and members of the Justice System are timely and we are hopeful will increase the level of comfort women have with regard to reporting incidents of sexual violence.

However, we have learned that Victim Services Toronto is not one of the organizations scheduled to receive funding from the Sexual Violence Action Plan’s four-year $15 million dollar investment. Victim Services Toronto is a vital front-line agency that provides proactive support services to victims of sexual violence 24 hours, seven days a week. This organization has not received a cost of living increase for the last two decades and is in danger of cuts to important services.

In a March 8, 2011 press release, MPP Cheri DiNovo noted, “the funding per victim for the Victim Crisis Response Program has dropped from $286 in 1990 to $31 in 2010. If the government is serious about a Sexual Violence Action Plan, then Victim Services needs to be sustainably funded to ensure that the critical services they provide are available for all victims.” In addition, Dr. Alok Mukherjee, Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board stated, “Victim Services is a critical component of our response to crime, performing an essential role in terms of supporting the victims”.

As past recipients of support services from Victim Services Toronto, we know that they provide critical services to victims of sexual violence and are in need of funding to sustain the high level of service they currently deliver. We implore you to amend the Sexual Violence Action Plan’s budget to allocate funds to Victim Services Toronto, which is the only agency in Toronto providing immediate front-line assistance, to ensure that this valuable organization continues to support victims of sexual violence every hour of every day.

Sincerely,

Survivors Guide,
Sexual Violence Advocates

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Bob Rae, MP Toronto-Centre
Glen Murray, MPP Toronto Centre
Cheri DiNovo, MPP Parkdale-High Park
Bonnie Levine, Executive Director of Victim Services Toronto

Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide