QUEBEC CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME
All citizens in a society desire to live in equality, safety and peace; responding to this desire is therefore a significant responsibility of the nation. The right to security is set out in the first sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms; nations are therefore required to devote considerable resources to protecting the life and safety of their citizens.
However, these efforts have not managed to eliminate crime, which has been frequent in recent years. Since 1971, more than 3,000 families have been affected by the murder or crime related disappearance of someone close to them. In all cases, persons close to these victims have not had their rights respected or been assisted with psychotherapy by the government, but have been isolated and impoverished in society. These persons have suffered not only from the crime itself, but also from its secondary effects: a murder rarely has only one victim.
Criminals are to be held responsible for the harm they cause to victims; if this is not possible, the government must do better for victims. In establishing a better and safer society as a nation, while we need to prevent crime, we also need to pay attention to victims’ voices. Because the risk of becoming a victim of crime is on the rise, it is time to take measures that reflect victims’ perspective.
In criminal proceedings in Canada, criminals have more rights and means of ensuring that their rights are respected than do victims or persons close to them. Adopting a charter of victims’ rights would bring us one step closer to a society that protects victims’ rights and interests as much as those of criminals.
Like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the present Charter is to have a legal basis; the wording of its enabling legislation would clearly state the basic principles of victims’ rights. The Charter is also intended to to promote the development of comprehensive victims’ rights policies, through close co operation among the government, local public organizations, and the government and non government organizations concerned.
Division 1: General provisions
Section 1: Purpose
The purpose of the present Charter is to define the basic concept of victims’ rights policies. By stating basic principles, clarifying the respective responsibilities of the government, local public organizations and members of the public, and setting out provisions to govern victims’ rights policies, we can promote the development of policies that will protect victims’ rights and interests. The basic principles will guide us voluntarily and in a comprehensive manner toward recognizing the rights of victims of crime.
Section 2: Definitions
- For the purposes of the present Charter, a “crime” is a criminal act or any act causing harm to a person’s body or mind.
- For the purposes of the present Charter, a “victim of crime” is any person having suffered harm, or members of that person’s immediate family.
- For the purposes of the present Charter, “victims’ rights policies” are policies designed to allow victims to recover from harm, to alleviate their suffering, to return to normal life, and to participate appropriately in criminal proceedings related to the trial.
Section 3: Basic principles
- Victims each have the right to be treated with dignity and fairness.
- Victims each have the right to fair, equitable representation during criminal proceedings.
- Victims have the right to know the truth.
- Victims’ rights policies shall be applied in an equitable manner, taking into account the individual victim’s situation and the effects of the crime.
- All victims’ rights policies shall be designed to provide victims with continuous support until they can once again carry on a normal, peaceful life.
Section 4: Responsibilities
- Pursuant to the basic principles set out in section 3, the government shall propose one or more comprehensive victims’ rights policies and assume responsibility for the application of these policies (section 4).
- Pursuant to the basic principles, local public organizations, in close co operation with the government, shall support victims, taking into account the local societal context. These organizations shall also assume responsibility for the application of the policy or policies (section 5).
- Members of the public shall ensure that they cause no harm to victims’ life or dignity. They shall co operate with the government and local public organizations in applying the policy or policies (section 6).
Section 5: Co operation
The government, local public organizations, Crime Victims Assistance Centres, and related organizations and persons shall co operate to ensure smooth application of victims’ rights policies.
Section 6: Basic action plans
1. The government shall draw up basic action plans for applying comprehensive, well thought out victims’ rights policies.
2. The action plans shall include:
- comprehensive long term victims’ rights policies; and
- the provisions required to apply the victims’ rights policies.
3. All essential services required to implement the action plans shall be provided.
Section 7: Legislative measures
The government shall take the legislative, financial and any other measures required to apply the policies related to the present Charter.
Section 8: Annual report
The government shall table in the National Assembly an annual report on the application of the present Charter and related policies.
DIVISION 2: BASIC POLICIES
Section 9: Consultation and information
The government and public organizations shall take all measures required to assist victims in returning to a stable life in society, consulting them about problems they face and providing them with appropriate information and the support of appropriate helping professionals.
Section 10: Assistance in actions for damages
The government and public organizations shall take all measures required to facilitate the conclusion of actions for damages brought by victims, including legal aid and improved court proceedings, in close co ordination with criminal proceedings.
Section 11: Comprehensive financial support system
To reduce the financial burden on victims, the government and public organizations shall take all measures required to ensure that appropriate support is available to them.
Section 12: Health and social services
To allow victims to recover from physical and psychological trauma, the government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to provide them with health and social services appropriate to their situation.
Section 13: Measures to ensure victims’ safety
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to ensure victims’ safety and prevent additional harm following a crime, including protective measures, safety advice and, during the hearing when victims are testifying, special measures to protect their privacy.
Section 14: Measures to provide victims with a place of residence
To ensure the safety of victims who cannot return to their place of residence following a crime committed against them, the government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to provide them with a safe and appropriate place of residence.
Section 15: Measures to protect victims’ employment and income
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to protect victims’ employment and income, particularly by adopting specific minimum labour standards.
Section 16: Full support system to facilitate victims’ participation throughout criminal proceedings
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to promote victims’ appropriate, active participation in criminal proceedings, including providing information about progress in the proceedings and a full support system with regard to the various aspects of the proceedings. As well, the government shall consult the victim or persons close to the victim in all cases where a plea bargaining agreement between the Crown and the defence is possible.
Section 17: Special support during protection, investigation and trial
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to protect victims’ dignity, peace of mind and rights, in order to reduce the burden on them during the investigation and trial. These measures may include training designed to identify victims’ situation and status better, use of qualified expert services, and installation of any required facilities.
Section 18: Public awareness
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to make the public aware of victims’ situation and the importance of protecting their dignity and peace of mind. These measures may include educational and informative activities for the general public.
Section 19: Intensive research and knowledge acquisition
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to provide victims with appropriate assistance when this assistance calls for in depth knowledge. These measures may include intensive research in victim studies in general, and on topics in particular such as psychological harm suffered by victims and those close to them, how to regain psychological health, how to obtain information nationally and internationally, knowledge classification and application, and use of expert services.
Section 20: Support for and recognition of victim associations
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to support victim associations, which play an important role in accompanying victims. These measures, designed to allow these associations to carry on their activities effectively, include financial support and preferential tax treatment.
The government shall recognize victim associations’ right to intercede with government institutions in order to provide victims with official legal representation.
Section 21: Consultation and transparency
The government and local public organizations shall take all measures required to optimize the planning and application of victims’ rights policies and victim assistance programs, including planning for consulting with victims and creating a transparent system.
DIVISION 3: VICTIMS’ RIGHTS POLICY PROMOTION COMMITTEE
Section 22: Creation of victims’ rights secretariat
- A victims’ rights policy promotion committee (“the secretariat”) shall be struck as a special Cabinet entity.
- The secretariat shall be responsible for:
Section 23: Organization
- developing a proposed definition of “fundamental rights for victims of crime”;
- discussing major issues related to victims’ rights policies and victim assistance programs;
- following up on application, evaluating results, and making recommendations.
- The secretariat shall be made up of a maximum of 12 members, not counting the chair. The chair shall be appointed by Cabinet.
- The members of the secretariat shall be appointed as follows:
- members recruited from government departments (3) shall be appointed by the Premier;
- members recruited from among victim support experts (3) shall be appointed by the Premier;
- members appointed from local victim assistance organizations (3) shall be appointed by the Premier;
- members appointed from victim associations (3) shall be appointed by the Premier in consultation with the victim associations.
Section 24: Access to information
- If the secretariat considers it necessary to do so, it may ask the managers of other related government organizations to provide data, opinions and explanations or to co operate in any other manner considered to be essential.
- If the secretariat considers it necessary to do so, it may request the co operation of any other person not mentioned in point 1.
Section 25: Government order
Beyond the provisions of division 3, any issue having to do with the organization and management of the secretariat shall be resolved by government order.
DIVISION 4: ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS
Section 26: Coming into force
The present Charter shall come into force on the day it is adopted by government order, within six months of being enacted.
Section 27: Legal documents
After the present Charter comes into force, any related legal documents shall be provided.
Section 28: Inclusion of the present Charter (list of principles)
N.B.: In the case of murder, the concept of victims encompasses members of the immediate family (grandparents, parents and siblings).
- All victims shall be treated with dignity, courtesy, compassion, and respect for their dignity and privacy; their participation in the work of the criminal justice system shall inconvenience them as little as possible.
- Victims have the right, by formal and informal means, to prompt, fair redress of the harm done to them.
- Victims have the right to all desired information about the remedies available to them and how to make use of these remedies.
- Victims have the right of access to the records of the perpetrator and the recidivist, if any.
- Victims shall receive all desired information about their participation in the criminal proceedings as well as the schedule, progress and final outcome of the proceedings.
- The criminal justice system shall take into account victims’ opinions and concerns and shall provide them with the assistance they need throughout the proceedings.
- When the personal interests of a victim are affected, that person’s opinions and concerns shall be [communicated] to the court when appropriate, in compliance with the law and the proceedings.
- As required, measures shall be taken to ensure the safety of victims and their families and to protect them from intimidation and reprisals.
- Criminal justice system employees shall have extended training to raise their awareness of the needs and concerns of victims.
- Victims shall be informed of health, social assistance and other relevant services so that they can continue to receive the medical, psychological and social assistance they need under existing programs and services.
- Victims shall report crimes targeting them and shall co operate with law enforcement agencies.
- The government recognizes victims’ right of association and recognizes their association as their representative.