2016-2017 Annual Report on the Department of Justice Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Complaint Mechanism

I. Introduction

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) came into force on July 23, 2015. The CVBR created statutory rights at the federal level for victims of crime. The legislation establishes statutory rights for victims to information, protection, participation, and to seek restitution. It also requires that a complaint process be established by federal departments, agencies, or bodies for alleged breaches of these rights.

In July, 2015, the Department of Justice’s CVBR Complaint Mechanism was established and its related policy was approved by the Deputy Minister (DM) of Justice Canada. The complaint policy was updated in September 2016 (see Section 2). The complaint policy states that, within six months after the end of the fiscal year (i.e., by the end of September each year), a report will be submitted to the DM that will include:

  • the number of complaints made to the Department;
  • how these complaints were addressed; and
  • the average length of time to address them.

The complaint policy also states that the report will be proactively disclosed on the Department of Justice Canada website.

This is the second annual report on the Department of Justice CVBR Complaint Mechanism and provides the required information for proactive disclosure on all CVBR complaints received from July 23, 2016, to July 23, 2017. In addition to reporting on complaints, this report also includes information about enquiry resolution.

For the purposes of this report, a “complaint” is any submission which included the official form required by the Department to make a CVBR complaint (i.e., the Department of Justice CVBR Complaint Form). An “enquiry” is any correspondence to the Department’s CVBR Complaint Mechanism that did not include an official complaint form.

2. Department of Justice CVBR Complaint Policy

The Department of Justice CVBR Complaint Policy provides that the Senior Associate Deputy Minister (SADM) act as a first level of response to complaints following an internal review from the responsible Director General (DG). If the complainant is dissatisfied with the first level response, they can request to have the DM review their complaint as a second level of review. The complaint policy also provides that, where a victim has exhausted the internal complaints mechanism at the Department and they are dissatisfied with the DM’s response, the Department will inform the victim about the option to contact the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to express their concerns.

Victims can provide all of the information required to make a complaint using the Department of Justice CVBR Complaint Form, which is available on the Department’s How to Make a Complaint to the Department of Justice Canada web page. Both the web page and the complaint form specify that the Department of Justice Canada is responsible for the following types of CVBR complaints:

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

If the complaint does not relate to one of the above, it may not be related to the Department’s CVBR Complaint Policy.

3. Report on CVBR Complaints to the Department of Justice

3.1 Number of complaints and enquiries made to the Department

During the 2016-2017 year of operation, the Department of Justice received six (6) CVBR complaints through complaint forms and eighty-eight (88) enquiries to the CVBR complaints inbox, which were not related to the Department’s complaint policy.

3.2 How complaints and enquiries were addressed

None of the complaints received in 2016-2017 fell within the Department’s complaint policy, since they did not meet the criteria of the CVBR with respect to the issues for which the Department has a mandate. As a result, none of the complaints required further review and they did not escalate through the official complaints process (i.e., DG initial review, SADM review and response, DM review and response). Nonetheless, all of the complainants received a response from the Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI) explaining why their complaint was not accepted. Likewise, the PCVI responded to all of the enquiries received, or forwarded the enquiries to the appropriate section in the Department for response, except in the circumstance where they did not meet the criteria to receive a response (e.g., frivolous, vexatious, or abusive submissions).

In addition, all individuals who sent complaints and enquiries (by email) received an acknowledgement through an automated email response and were informed that, if further action was required, a response would be provided within three (3) business days. Once resolved, limited information from each complaint or enquiry was inputted into an excel database in order to collect the required data for evaluation and reporting purposes.

Victim complaints and enquiries

Many of the complaints and enquiries received from victims were related to provincial administration of justice matters. In these cases, the PCVI provided contact information for the appropriate provincial Attorney General’s office. Victims were also informed about the option to contact their local police, victim services, or their Crown prosecutor’s office, and that such services may be able to provide them with information or assistance. In all cases, victims were provided with a link to the PCVI’s Victim Service Directory to help them locate victim services in their area.

Other enquiries

The remaining enquiries were forwarded to the appropriate section of the Department for review and response. For example, where an enquiry was:

  • not victim-related, it was forwarded to the Department’s General Enquiries line for response;
  • primarily related to family justice matters, such as child custody issues, it was forwarded to the Family, Children, and Youth section of the Department for response; or
  • addressed to the federal Minister of Justice, it was forwarded to the Department’s Ministerial Correspondence Unit for response.

3.3 Average length of time to address complaints and enquiries

The time required to assess and provide an initial response to each complaint or enquiry was two (2) business days on average. These timelines are well within the time allowance (i.e., three (3) business days) set out in the complaint policy. The PCVI aimed to provide a full and substantive response within three (3) business days of receipt for every complaint or enquiry. However, on the rare occasion where the PCVI required additional time to provide a full response, the individual received a notification (within three (3) business days) to inform them that their information was being reviewed and that a further response would be provided as soon as possible.

4. Conclusion

The Department of Justice has met its obligations pursuant to the CVBR to manage its complaint mechanism during the 2016-2017 year of operation. The complaints received during this second year of operation were addressed within the timelines and according to the protocols set out in the Department of Justice CVBR Complaint Policy.

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