IVAC and Me

first in a series of my dealings with Quebec’s Indemnisation des Victimes d’Actes Criminel

Having waited 25 years for a Quebec victims assistance service to come offer aid, I recently decided to take matters into my own hands and start knocking on doors.

What I knew of the two major Quebec victims assistance services, CAVAC and IVAC, was mostly gleaned through horror stories shared with other victims, but in truth I had no first-hand experience – in fact I didn’t even know what the acronyms stood for. The worst “tale” was that of Pierre Boisvenu who, he had told me, had been given a paltry $600 to cover the cost of funeral arrangements in the matter of the murder of his daughter; this was the only assistance provided by CAVAC and IVAC, and the root of his bitterness with both organizations. But could this be so? Was $600 the extent of their services and compassion?

Then I caught wind of a brilliant idea… I was a victim! Why not contact IVAC and see what they were prepared to offer me as compensation for the trouble I had suffered for the murder of my sister. Sure, the case was fosillized, but it was worth a shot.

First things first, CAVAC stands for Les Centres d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels. Not to sound catty, but I am still not clear on what exactly it is they do. I think they are supposed to act as a sort of information hub for victims. To be frank, when I attended Justice Canada’s National Victims Conference in Ottawa last November (one last time: the victims conference without any victims) there was a large representation from CAVAC, but they looked like they weren’t too sure what they were doing there. I introduced myself – it was pretty clear who I was since there was a C.B.C. camera stuck in my face – but I don’t recall any of them approaching me and saying,

“Mr. Allore… in the matter of the recent reinvestigation into the murder of your sister… how are you doing? Is everything ok? Do you need some Quebec victims assistance?”

Nada – there was nothing like that. I do recall that they all were caring a lot of shopping bags, probably chaising down some pre-Christmas bargains in the big city.

So, that’s CAVAC.

Now on to IVAC. IVAC stands for Indemnisation des Victimes d’Actes Criminel, the Crime Victims’ Indemnity Commission. Unlike CAVAC, IVAC has a very definite purpose; since 1972 they’ve been doling out cash to victims of violent crime, with limited decerning criteria to define eligibility. IVAC does not require positive proof that someone was a victim; basically, if you tell your story to IVAC and it appears plausible than you may be eligile to receive a small fortune (unlike other victims compensation programs, IVAC has no minimum or maximum). Also, IVAC does not follow up with victims, so if you spin a good yarn, you could be set for life.

You’d think with such a loosy-goosy arrangement, IVAC might be bankrupt by now. Not so. According to an article by Kristian Gravenor, a 1987 Solicitor-General’s report showed that less than one per cent of Quebec’s crime victims applied for the money. This might have something to do with the fact that nobody is aware that the funds exist. IVAC advertises the fund once-a-year in medical magazines (hey, in 1979, my parents certainly weren’t aware of it otherwise we would have hopped on the gravy-train).

Still, what could account for Pierre Boisvenu receiving such a small sum if the fund was so flush, and what might I be eligable for? Barely containing my excitement, I decided to call the IVAC offices in Montreal.

I was immediately put off by the guy that answered the phone; I expected him to do the I’ll-only-speak-to-you-in-French brush-off, but instead he quickly switched to English – this made me even angrier, since it was my desire all along to struggle along in French.

– I wish to submit a demande.

– Can you tell me briefly the nature of the situation?

– Yes, my sister died in Quebec 25 years ago, but only recently was it discovered she had been murdered.

– Ah yes, in situations like that we can offer up to $600 towards compensation for the funeral expenses, do you wish for me to send you an application?

That was it. It was that simple, 60 seconds and I was riding the gravy train… Ok, $600; maybe the gravy cross-town bus. But why $600? Why should I receive the same amount as Pierre, whose daughter died only a year-and-a-half ago?

Six-hundred bucks; I’m hardly going to reimburse my father for the coffin, but it WILL buy one purdy flower arrangement.

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