Government of Canada Proposes Amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and New Measures to Benefit Victims
OTTAWA, April 20, 2005 — The Government of Canada introduced important new measures today that will benefit victims of crimes and make the federal corrections and conditional release system more effective.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Anne McLellan, introduced legislative amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), and together with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Irwin Cotler, also announced new program measures and new funding.
The proposed new program measures are supported by $77 million in Budget 2005. Approximately $52 million, for the next five years, has been allocated to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for this initiative, and $25 million for the next five years has been allocated to the Department of Justice for the Victims of Crime Initiative.
“The Government of Canada is committed to maintaining a corrections and parole system that makes the safety and security of all Canadians its top priority,” said Minister McLellan. “We have listened to Canadians and are responding with new measures to support victims. I also would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Raymond Bonin, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, for his important contribution in bringing these victims initiatives forward to the House,” she added.
“The Government’s commitment to improve the experience of victims of crime remains strong,” said Minister Cotler. “These resources will allow the Policy Centre for Victim Issues within the Department of Justice to continue their essential work in assisting victim service providers and advocates to address the needs of victims.”
New program measures for victims of offenders under federal responsibility will be put in place in the fall of 2005. These include f inancial travel assistance to attend parole hearings, and a National Office for Victims, featuring a new toll-free line for information and support. The Office will provide a centralized source of information about victims’ entitlements under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and an avenue for complaints about federal corrections and conditional release.
“Financial travel assistance to victims who wish to attend parole hearings and expanded information sharing will allow victims to play a greater role in the parole process,” said Minister McLellan. “These measures will be implemented in collaboration with the Department of Justice’s Policy Centre for Victim Issues.”
Key elements of the proposed amendments to the Act and new program measures would:
– Tighten up the Accelerated Parole Review process;
– Reinforce greater scrutiny of those eligible for Statutory Release;
– Streamline the Temporary Absence process;
– Permit terminally ill offenders to apply for early release on humanitarian grounds;
– Assist offenders suffering from mental illness; and
– Create additional Community Corrections Liaison Officers.
The right of victims to present a statement at National Parole Board (NPB) hearings would also be enshrined in the proposed legislation. Other elements of the Bill include providing more information to victims, such as: reasons for offender transfers; information on offender program participation; and a ccess to recordings of the most recent NPB hearings.
The definition of victim would be amended to ensure that guardians/caregivers of dependents of deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated victims, could get the same information to which victims are legally entitled.
The CCRA provides the legal framework for the federal correctional system. Its purpose is to protect the public by providing a balance between control of, and assistance to, offenders to help them reintegrate successfully into society. In addition, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was asked to look at corrections and parole. The Government is looking forward to the Committee conducting a review of issues related to corrections and parole and, where appropriate, making recommendations to the Government of Canada
The amendments and program measures respond to recommendations made by the-then Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its May 2000 report entitled A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act. A number of policy and program measures have already been implemented to meet the report’s recommendations.