Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Victims Rights in Canada

The Government has just introduced in the Canadian Parliament a Victims Rights in the Military Justice System bill. According to the official news release,
This proposed legislation would ensure that victims of service offences within the military justice system have the same rights to information, protection, participation and restitution that are already enshrined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and makes changes to the Canadian Armed Forces’ court martial and summary trial processes to enable victims of service offences to exercise their rights.
The text of Bill C-71 can be found here. The bill summary reports:
It adds a new Division entitled “Declaration of Victims Rights”, to the Code of Service Discipline, that specifies that victims of service offences have rights to information, protection, participation and restitution in respect of service offences. It adds or amends several definitions, including “victim” and “military justice system participant”, and specifies who may act on a victim’s behalf for the purposes of that Division.

It amends Part III of that Act to, among other things,

(a) specify the purpose of the Code of Service Discipline and the fundamental purpose of imposing sanctions at summary trials; 
(b) protect the privacy and security of victims and witnesses in proceedings involving certain sexual offences; 
(c) specify factors that a military judge is to take into consideration when determining whether to make an exclusion order; 
(d) make testimonial aids more accessible to vulnerable witnesses; 
(e) allow witnesses to testify using a pseudonym in appropriate cases; 
(f) make publication bans for victims under the age of 18 mandatory on application; 
(g) require courts martial to inquire of the prosecutor if reasonable steps have been taken to inform the victims of any plea agreement entered into by the accused and the prosecutor in certain circumstances; 
(h) provide that the acknowledgment of the harm done to the victims and to the community is a sentencing objective; 
(i) provide for different ways of presenting victim impact statements; (j) allow for military impact statements and community impact statements to be considered for all service offences; 
(k) provide for the creation, in regulations, of disciplinary infractions that can be tried by summary trial;
(l) provide for a scale of sanctions and principles applicable to sanctions in respect of disciplinary infractions;

(m) provide for a six-month limitation period in respect of summary trials; and

(n) provide superior commanders, commanding officers and delegated officers with jurisdiction to try a person charged with having committed a disciplinary infraction by summary trial if the person is at least one rank below the officer presiding at the summary trial.
 Will Bill C-71 pass? Not immediately, according to this report in the Ottawa Citizen:
Parliament is set to soon shut down for the summer so today’s Victims Bill of Rights in the Military Justice System Act won’t go far. The Conservatives could revive it if re-elected and the Act is expected to be highlighted in the Conservative election platform this summer.

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