Last week, our Government took a very important step of further 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. 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.
As your Member of Parliament, I have met with victims of crime from our Crowfoot riding many times. Whether the crime committed was petty or an indictable offence, the tragedy of the suffering of the victim, family or friends has always left a deep impression on me. As our federal representative, I have always tried to return to Parliament and follow up on measures that our government could take to prevent or help relieve the distress felt by victims of crime.
Earlier in my career, I brought forward Private Member Bills aimed at instilling ‘truth in sentencing’. Later, as Chair of the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee, I presided over the passage of a number of laws that placed the rights of the victims first, and strengthened the response of Canada’s criminal justice systems to victims of crime. For example, our Conservative government created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime; provided the Federal Victims Strategy; and doubled the victims’ surcharge which we also made mandatory; and more.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay has travelled to every province and territory conducting extensive consultations on the Victims Bill of Rights. We have tried to ensure that, for example, property concerns are given greater prominence; information is provided concerning court dates or plea negotiations; and that victim’s feel properly protected throughout the criminal justice process and beyond, to include information concerning incarceration and release. Our Conservative government is pressing forward because we have heard loud and clear from Canadians that they need to feel that their justice system is working for them.
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 these costs are damages suffered by the 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.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write to me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or email Kevin.Sorenson.C1@parl.gc.ca.
FROM THE HILL