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Making a complaint about infringement or denial of a victim’s right

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) defines a victim as an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, economic loss or property damage as a result of a crime committed in Canada. All victims may exercise their rights under the CVBR while they are in Canada. Canadian citizens or permanent residents may exercise these rights even if they are outside of Canada, as long as the crime took place in Canada.

The CVBR gives victims of crime the right:

  • to information;
  • to protection;
  • to participate in the criminal justice process; and
  • to seek restitution (a payment made to the victim by the person convicted of a crime to cover losses directly related to the crime).

For more information about each of these CVBR rights, visit Canada.ca/victims.

A victim may file a complaint if they are of the opinion that their rights under the CVBR have been infringed or denied (i.e. not respected) by a federal agency or department during their interaction with the Canadian criminal justice system. When it is a federal government department or agency about which a victim would like to complain, they should use the internal complaint system of that department or agency. If a victim has a complaint about a provincial or territorial department or agency, including police, prosecutors, or victim services, they may file a complaint under the laws of the province or territory.  

The criminal justice system refers to the particular processes involved in the investigation and prosecution of offences in Canada, the corrections and conditional release process in Canada, and the proceedings of Canadian courts and Review Boards in respect of accused who are found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial.

Federal complaint systems

All federal departments and agencies with responsibilities under the CVBR are able to receive complaints from victims. The federal departments and agencies which have responsibility under the CVBR are the Department of Justice Canada, Public Safety Canada (National Office for Victims), Correctional Services Canada, Parole Board of Canada, Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. These departments and agencies:

  • review the complaints;
  • work with victims to make recommendations to correct any infringement or denial of  their rights; and
  • inform victims about the results of the review, including any recommendations that were made.

These recommendations could include:

  • making apologies to victims;
  • providing information;
  • reviewing how the complaint process works; or
  • reconsidering a request.

Here’s an example: A victim is of the opinion that their right to information was not respected because the information they requested from a federal office was not provided. The victim could make a complaint through the federal office’s complaint process. The federal office would be required to review and assess the complaint, and respond to it.

If a victim makes a complaint to a federal department or agency and is not satisfied with the response, they may then ask for another review of the complaint and response. The federal department or agency will tell them who to talk to next.

The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

If a complainant has exhausted the internal complaints process of a federal department or agency, and they are not satisfied with the outcome of that process, the complainant may contact the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to express their concerns. The Ombudsman may be able to make recommendations to the department or agency in response to the issues raised within the complaint or regarding the complaint process, provide the complainant with information, or refer the complainant to victim services.

You may contact the Ombudsman at:

Telephone (toll-free): 1-866-481-8429
TTY (Teletypewriter): 1-877-644-8385
Outside of Canada: 613-954-1651
E-mail: victimsfirst@ombudsman.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-3498

Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
P.O. Box 55037
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 1A1

Where can victims go to make a CVBR complaint against a federal department or agency?

Correctional Service of Canada

To make a complaint about the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), visit the CSC Victim Complaints page. CSC’s responsibilities under the CVBR include the provision of general information to victims of crime about the federal corrections and conditional release system.  CSC is responsible for responding to complaints regarding:

  • the provision of general information about the federal corrections and conditional release process;
  • the provision of information about services offered by CSC that are available to victims, including victim-offender mediation services;
  • victims’ requests to register for the services CSC offers;
  • the disclosure of offender-specific information;
  • the management of statements received from victims; and
  • the conditions imposed on offenders in relation to victims’ safety. 

Parole Board of Canada

To make a complaint about the Parole Board of Canada (PBC), visit the PBC Victim Complaints page. PBC’s responsibilities under the CVBR include:

  • providing victims with general information about the correctional and conditional release process and how they can participate;
  • providing information about victim services offered by PBC;
  • responding to victims’ requests to register for the services that PBC offers;
  • the disclosure of offender-specific information;
  • the management of statements received from victims;
  • ensuring that a victim’s right to protection is considered in PBC decisions; and
  • ensuring that a victim’s rights to information and participation in the parole process are met.

Public Safety Canada - National Office for Victims

To make a complaint about Public Safety Canada’s National Office for Victims (NOV), visit Public Safety Canada’s National Office for Victims “How to make a complaint” page. NOV’s responsibilities under the CVBR include the provision of general information to victims of crime about the criminal justice system – specifically the federal corrections and conditional release system.  NOV will accept victim complaints about the Office’s provisions of such information.

Public Prosecution Service of Canada

To make a complaint about the conduct of a federal prosecutor, or about federal prosecution services, procedures, practices, or policies, follow the instructions in the Public Prosecution Service of Canada’s Complaint Policy.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

A person who wishes to lodge a complaint against the RCMP about an infringement of their CVBR rights can do so by attending any RCMP detachment. Alternately, the person can contact the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the RCMP.  If a complaint was lodged with the RCMP, and the person is unsatisfied with the RCMP response, a complaint about that response can be filed with the CRCC. The RCMP is responsible for CVBR complaints with regards to:

  • general information regarding the status and outcome of the investigation;
  • accessibility to victim services and programs;
  • information on the victim’s security, privacy and identity protection from public disclosure; and
  • protection from intimidation and retaliation.

Justice Canada

To make a complaint about an infringement or denial of your CVBR rights by the Department of Justice Canada, follow the instructions on the How to Make a Complaint to the Department of Justice Canada web page. The Department of Justice Canada is responsible for CVBR complaints with regards to:

  • general information requested by the complainant about the criminal justice system, which relates to the right to information; and
  • victim access to the Parole Board Fund to attend federal parole board hearings, which relates to the right to participation.

If the complaint does not relate to one of the above, it is not likely related to the Department of Justice CVBR Complaints Policy.

Limitations of the CVBR

CVBR rights must be applied in a reasonable manner so that they are not likely to interfere with investigations or prosecutions, endanger someone’s life or safety, or injure national interests such as national security.

The CVBR does not grant victims:

  • the right of standing in a criminal court (e.g. to be a party to the case);
  • a cause of action (e.g. grounds to go to civil court);
  • a right to damages (e.g. compensation for losses); or
  • a right of appeal from any decision or order (e.g. to appeal a criminal court order).

The CVBR doesn’t affect rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Where can victims go if they need help making a complaint against a provincial or territorial department or agency?

If a victim has a complaint about a provincial or territorial department or agency, including police, prosecutors, or victim services, they may file a complaint under the laws of the province or territory.

For help making a complaint against a provincial or territorial department or agency, victims may contact victim services in their area. Victim services provide:

  • support;
  • advocacy; and
  • resources to victims of crime.

They may be able to provide information about how and where to make a complaint.

Each province and territory offers its own programs and services to victims of crime. The Victim Services Directory can help people find a victim service nearby.

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