This week, our government took a very important first step towards recognizing the rights of victims. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced legislation to create a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. This proposed legislation is historic. For the first time in Canadian history, victims will have clear, statutory rights at the federal level. And, unlike the previous Liberal government, who for 13 years put the rights of offenders ahead of the rights of victims, we are acting to put law-abiding Canadians first.
These reforms come as a result of an extensive consultation process. Justice Minister Peter MacKay travelled to every province and territory to consult with victims on how the federal government could better address the needs of victims of crime all while giving them a more effective voice in the criminal justice system.
During these consultations, many victims asked why the tragic impacts of crime on their lives, families, and property were not given greater prominence. Some were frustrated at not having been provided with information about court dates or plea negotiations, or not feeling properly protected. Their candour was heartfelt and invaluable. And it was clear that they weren’t only thinking of their own experience — they were telling their stories on behalf of other victims. Their primary motivation was to improve the justice system for all.
After hearing their stories and hearing from Canadians across the country through an online consultation, we have introduced legislation to create a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights to transform our justice system by providing statutory rights for victims of crime under four key areas: rights to information, protection, participation and restitution.
A study released in 2011 by the Department of Justice Canada found that the total cost of crime is an estimated $99.6 billion a year, 83 per cent of which is borne by victims. This is one reason why we make no apologies for passing reforms to keep society’s most dangerous criminals off our streets and behind bars where they belong.
Canadians need to feel that their justice system is working for them. They need to feel safe in the environment they live in, and, if they are victimized, they need to feel confident that the justice system will treat them with the courtesy, compassion and respect they deserve. Justice should not just be done — it should also be seen to be done.
This is precisely why our government will continue putting victims first — as we have always committed to do and as we always have done.
David Wilks is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Kootenay Columbia. He can be reached at 613-995-7246 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.