MacKay consults on victims bill of rights

James
James McLeod
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But doesn’t meet with provincial counterpart

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay speaks at the Delta St. John’s Hotel & Conference Centre on Monday afternoon. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Justice Minister Peter MacKay was in St. John’s Monday to hold consultations for a

federal victims bill of rights, but he didn’t meet with his provincial counterpart, Justice Minister Darin King.

MacKay acknowledged that since the provincial government runs the justice system, he won’t be able to do anything without the help of the province.

“How we will go about this will require careful co-ordination with the provinces. It will require adopting best practices from across the country to see that information is in fact shared,” MacKay said.

The Conservative government is promising to introduce federal legislation creating a victims bill of rights in the fall session of the House of Commons.

“Victims want to be able to work within a criminal justice system that treats them with courtesy, with dignity, and allows them, at the very least, to emerge from the system feeling that they have a system that’s sensitive to their needs,” MacKay told reporters before the start of closed-door consultations with members of the legal community in St. John’s.

A spokesman for King said that the two ministers couldn’t find time in their schedules for a meeting.

The spokesman for King said that the province will wait to see what the proposed federal legislation looks like before the provincial government decides how to handle it.

“This legislation has been discussed at recent federal-provincial-territorial justice ministers’ meetings, including the most recent one in April,” the government spokesman said.

“While the concept of such a bill of rights certainly has merit and would undoubtedly impact the justice system in Newfoundland and Labrador, we would not be in a position to fully comment until we actually see the draft legislation. We do expect to provide formal input in the coming weeks and we also expect the Bill of Rights to once again be discussed among Justice ministers at upcoming meetings.”

MacKay was asked by reporters who will pay for additional services and costs that may come as a result of the bill of rights; he said it’s too soon to say.

“That’s cart before the horse. Let’s see what the legislation looks like. Let’s see what new, if any, responsibilities will be required within the system,” he said.

Representatives at MacKay’s meeting included the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society, the RNC, the NL Sexual Assault Crisis & Prevention Centre and the Coalition Against Violence.

Several groups present declined to speak to The Telegram, saying they were mainly there to listen to what MacKay had to say, and not so much to offer their perspective.

Connie Pike, with the Coalition Against Violence, said she thinks a victims bill of rights is a good idea, and one that she’d like to see implemented.

Pike said that altogether too often, accused criminals are put ahead of victims in the justice system. She said politicians all need to be committed to changing that.

“At the very least, there should be equivalent concern and attention paid to victims of violence. Right now there’s not,” she said. “The bill alone is not enough. It’s good to have the paperwork done. It’s to have the writing. It’s good to have the legislation. But there also has to be a political will to drive it and to really make it real for people.”

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

 

Organizations: House of Commons, NL Sexual Assault Crisis Prevention Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • Winston Adams
    August 27, 2013 - 09:08

    It says a lot when our provincial ministers cannot find time to meet with MacKay, our Federal Justice Minister. It shows a disregard for victims in our justice system here. There has been and will be more than a single standard of justice in Canada. As MacKay said, the province runs the justice system here. I was denied a Victim impact statement here in 1990, although provision was in the criminal code three years previous. The law reads something like this: the court may consider a victim impact statement. I took this a right. Nowadays it is pretty well automatic that victims are granted this but the words of the law may still be the same, and so is not a right. I was informed at the time that they didn't want victim impact statements put forward. And the wording of the law.... the word "may" does not say "shall". And the word "court" is generally considered to mean "the judge". The judge may oppose impact statements for his own reasons,or if the crown and /or the defence lawyers oppose impact statements. So what seems to be a victims right is near worthless. So the province can manipulate the intent of the law. Mackay says the province should adopt the "best practises". Readers should recall that Manitoba Hydro International stated that our power companies here do not follow "best practises' in some procedures for forecasting power demand. And look where that is leading us with the Muskrat Falls project. It is not surprising that we would ignore best practises as to victims rights. An option to ignore victims rights is logically not a right at all. I guess that is the way our we prefer justice here. Much like the fishing admiral days. In the 1960s there was talk of moving toward "a just society". There was the Charter of Rights. But Victims rights is still optional, often based on the whim of the lawyers and judges, with injustice often the result. What occupied our Ministers here that they could not attend this meeting to consult and have input? It shows shameful disregard for victims of crime and for proper administration of justice here. And did the opposition justice critics of the Liberals or NDP attend, or were they too preoccupied?

  • Theresa Hollett
    August 27, 2013 - 07:46

    It's about time something like this is happening. From personal experience, victims have few to no rights throughout any court system. The accused and their defense have every right.