Victim services in Canada, 2009/2010
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By Christopher Munch
The data on compensation dollars paid by Criminal Injuries Compensation Programs and other financial benefit programs contained in this article are revised as of October 2013 and a note on response rate for these data has been added.
- Profile of victim service providers
- Profile of victims
- Detailed data tables
- Data source
In Canada, there are a variety of government-funded victim service providers whose mandate is to provide services to both primary and secondary victims of crime. A primary victim of crime is a person who is the direct victim of a criminal offence, while a secondary victim of crime is a person who has suffered harm or loss as a result of an incident perpetrated against another person, for example, the spouse of a homicide victim.
Information on the types and use of victim services is collected by the Victim Services Survey (VSS).Note 1 Drawing on results from the fourth cycle of the VSS, this article presents a profile of victim services, including the types of victim service providers and the services offered. In addition, information on the characteristics of clients who utilize these services is provided.Note 2, Note 3
It is important to note that the data presented in this article refer to two distinct time periods. Specifically, data pertaining to victim service providers are based upon the 12 months ending March 31, 2010, while the data pertaining to the victims who sought assistance are based on a "snapshot day" of May 27, 2010.Note 4 Also, not all victim service providers were able to report complete data. The response rate for individual survey questions on which data in this article are based ranged from 86% to 100%.
Profile of victim service providers
Police-based victim service providers remain the most common
There were 911 victim service providers operating in Canada in 2009/2010. 'Victim service provider' is a broad term that covers many types of agencies (see Text box 1). In addition, there were nine provincial criminal injuries compensation programs, four of which were administered in conjunction with other service providers.
Among the victim service providers that reported information, the largest proportion were police-based (38%) (Chart 1). Other victim service providers included those that were community-based (24%), sexual assault centres (15%), court-based (10%), Ontario Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services (7%), system-based (6%) and those that were classified by the VSS as an "other" type of victim service provider (1%). These proportions were similar to those reported in 2007/2008, the last time the VSS was conducted.
The administration and delivery of victim services differ across the provinces and territories. For instance, service delivery in some provinces (including Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick) is primarily system-based, whereas in other provinces (including Alberta and Saskatchewan) there is more use of police-based services (Table 1).
Types of victim service providers, Canada, 2009/2010
Note: See Text box 1 for the definitions of the types of victim service agencies. Based on 787 victim service providers.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Victim Services Survey, 2009/2010.
Victim service providers serve many, and in some cases, multiple locations across Canada. For example, a victim service located in a higher density area may also serve surrounding lower population density areas or reserves, or vice versa. In 2009/2010, 68% of victim service providers reported that they served areas that had a minimum population concentration of 1,000. Another 58% reported serving areas that included small towns, villages, and other populated places of less 1,000 people. In addition, 29% reported serving reserves (with 4% located on a reserve).
Text box 1
Types of victim service providers
In 2009/2010, VSS questionnaires were sent to victim service providers and head offices throughout Canada. The term "victim service provider" is used to refer to a wide variety of agencies. Based upon the following definitions, respondents were asked to indicate the type of service that best described their agency or organization.
Police-based: Victim services that are offered by a federal, provincial or municipal police service.
Court-based victim/witness assistance program: Programs specifically mandated to provide support services for individuals who have become involved in the court process as either victims or witnesses of crime. They generally provide information, assistance, and referrals, with the goal of making the court process less intimidating. Specific types of services provided can include court orientation, preparation and accompaniment, updates on the progress of a case, coordination of meetings with the Crown, assessment of children's ability to testify. Programs can be geared toward specific clientele such as children or victims of family violence.
Community-based victim/witness assistance program: Community-based, non-profit organizations that participate in the implementation of a victim and/or witness assistance program.Note 5
Sexual assault/rape crisis centre or hospital-based sexual assault treatment centre: Victim services whose mandate is to exclusively serve victims of recent or historical sexual assault or rape. Sexual assault/rape crisis centres will often have 24-hour crisis telephone lines and are community–based, non-profit agencies. Hospital-based sexual assault centres consist of a team of nurses and physicians who are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the emergency department so that victims of sexual assault can receive specialized medical and emotional care.
System-based: A model of service delivery for victims of crime that is independent from police, courts and Crown attorneys and assists victims throughout their contact with the criminal justice system. System-based agencies may also service clients who choose not to involve the criminal justice system. These models of service are found in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Yukon where they are administered by the provincial or territorial government.
Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral: Specific to Ontario, programs or victim service providers that work closely with the police and are community-based, non-government services. They provide on-scene and short-term assistance to victims of crime and other traumatic events and make referrals to community services for longer-term assistance.
End of text box 1.
General information most common service offered
Victim service providers offer a wide variety of services to clients. In 2009/2010, the types of assistance most often offered directly by victim service providers were general information (95%), emotional support (93%), liaising with other agencies on behalf of clients (91%), public education/prevention (89%), court accompaniment (87%), information on the criminal justice system structure and process (84%), immediate safety planning (81%), and crisis intervention (80%) (Table 2).
Many services not directly offered to victims by a particular victim service provider were available by referral to another organization. For example, while long-term shelter or housing was offered directly by only 6% of victim service providers, 87% of victim service providers reported making referrals to this type of service. Child protection services (83%), assistance finding housing (82%), emergency shelter (81%) and couples counselling (80%) were other relatively common types of referral made by victim service providers.
Criminal injuries compensation and other financial benefit programs awarded over $137 million to victims in 2009/2010
Criminal injuries compensation programs are a type of victim service that provide monetary awards and benefits to victims of crime to help ease financial hardship incurred as a result of victimization. This category of service includes programs designated to pay fees for specific services for victims of crime. Examples include professional counselling, transportation to hearings, child maintenance and paying fees for legal counsel. Criminal injuries compensation programs exist in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador. They do not exist in the three territories, although Northwest Territories does provide emergency financial assistance.
While there are provincial differences in eligibility criteria, compensation programs are generally open to victims of criminal offences (usually violent crimes). Applications may stem from either physical or psychological injuries, though the injury must be more than transient in nature. Compensation may be awarded whether or not the offender is prosecuted or convicted, or even if no charges are laid (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime 2011).
Among the nine provincial criminal injuries compensation programs, four were identified in the VSS as being administered in conjunction with other service providers. In addition, 58 victim service providers indicated that they provide financial benefits, other than compensation, such as emergency funds, transportation costs, and clothing costs.
From April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, over 16,000 applications were received or brought forward from a previous year by compensation and other financial benefit programs for victims of crime. Of the applications for which the outcome was reported, almost 11,000 (81%) were approved and 15% were rejected.Note 6 For the remainder of applications, respondents reported a variety of other outcomes, such as decision pending or application withdrawn.
Among adjudicated applications, 64% were submitted by women and 36% by men.Note 7 Women who received assistance from a compensation or benefit program were most likely to request services in relation to an assault (44%) or a sexual assault (28%). While men were also most likely to turn to a compensation or benefit program in response to an assault (61%), the proportion of those who sought compensation for a sexual assault was much lower (11%).
In 2009/2010, the nine provincial compensation programs, together with financial benefits programs available through other victim service providers, awarded more than $137 million to victims of crime.
Text box 2
Restorative justice programs
Restorative justice programs are a type of service offered by some victim service providers. Restorative justice is an alternative to the standard criminal justice process. Participation in restorative justice programs is voluntary and can involve discussions between the victim of the crime and the offender, sometimes including other members of the community. The goal is to encourage healing for the participants, reparation of the harm and reintegration of the offender into the community as a law-abiding citizen.
Restorative justice programs hold offenders accountable in a meaningful and constructive way and can contribute to a more satisfying experience of justice for both the victim and the offender (Public Safety Canada 2011).
Of the victim service providers that participated in the 2009/2010 cycle of the VSS, 12% were involved in the delivery or coordination of restorative justice programs for criminal justice matters. No victim services providers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut reported offering the delivery or coordination of restorative justice processes. In other provinces and territories, the reporting of involvement in the delivery or coordination of restorative justice programs ranged from 2% of victim services providers in Quebec to 100% in Yukon. All provinces and territories reported offering orientation and information or accompaniment and support services relating to restorative justice through direct or referral services.
End of text box 2.
About one-third of victim service providers mandated to provide programs for victims of specific types of offences
In 2009/2010, about one-third (35%) of victim service providers in Canada reported that their mandate included serving victims of specific types of offences. The remaining victim services providers were mandated to serve victims of all types of crimes. Overall, 20% of victim service providers were mandated to serve families of sexually abused children, 18% to serve adult victims of sexual assault, 17% to serve senior victims of sexual assault, 17% to serve children or youth victims of domestic violence, 17% to serve adult victims of partner abuse, and 17% to serve children or youth victims of dating violence (Table 3).
Some victim service providers offered services to address the particular characteristics of individuals. Victims can be distinguished by their age, sex, culture, language, sexual orientation, or by a physical or mental disability. In 2009/2010, 40% of victim service providers reported that they had developed and implemented programs or services to address the needs of particular groups of victims. In Canada, the most common were services aimed specifically at children and youth, offered by a quarter (25%) of victim service providers (Chart 2). In addition, 23% had dedicated programs to serve Aboriginal persons.
Victim service providers with dedicated programs for clients with unique needs, by type of program, Canada, 2009/2010
Note: Total exceeds 100% due to multiple responses.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Victim Services Survey, 2009/2010.
Majority of victim service providers able to accommodate a wide range of client needs
Victim service providers serve a wide range of clients, some of whom have special needs. The vast majority (97%) of victim service providers reported being able to accommodate clients with reduced mobility. Additionally, 70% of victim service providers were able to assist clients with hearing impairments and 76% indicated they could meet the needs of clients with visual impairments.
Moreover, 89% of victim service providers reported being able to provide assistance to clients with mental disabilities or mental health issues. Among these, 87% called upon partners or other specialized or professional agencies for assistance, 75% used informal assistance (family member, friend or caregiver) and 48% relied on staff members who had received specialized training.
Many victim service providers offered services in languages other than English or French. Through the use of informal interpreters such as a family member of the victim, a friend, a caregiver or a volunteer interpreter, 69% of victim service providers were able to help clients who could speak neither of the official languages. Many victim service providers also had staff members or volunteers who could communicate verbally with clients in languages such as Spanish (27%), German (21%), Punjabi (19%) and Hindi (18%). Some victim service providers were also able to verbally assist clients in Ojibway (13%), Cree (12%), Inuktitut (3%), or other Aboriginal languages (19%).
Assistance was also offered in the form of audio or visual material in Chinese languages (31%), Spanish (30%), Punjabi (27%), Arabic (22%) and Hindi (22%). Some victim service providers were also able to offer audio or visual materials in Cree (13%), Inuktitut (6%), Ojibway (5%), or other Aboriginal languages (11%).
Many victim service providers work in partnership to assist victims
Victim service providers often intervene jointly on behalf of clients by developing networks among themselves. These partnerships allow victim service providers to offer a wider range of services to their clients, increase accessibility to services, maximize referrals and service coordination between service providers, and promote resource sharing.
In 2010, 87% of victim service providers indicated that they currently served on a board or committee related to victims' issues and services. High proportions worked in cooperation with other victim assistance agencies (95%), social services (91%), transition homes and shelters (91%), police services (89%), and other government agencies or programs (83%).
While expenditure information was not available for all victim service providers in 2009/2010, those that did report data indicated having spent about $97.5 million providing formal services to victims of crime.Note 8 Among other items, these expenditures covered employee salaries, overheads, capital expenditures, training, fundraising expenses, and direct client costs. This amount did not include compensation or awards granted to victims.
Many factors can impact the delivery of services
There are a number of factors that can have an impact on the way that a victim service provider delivers their programs and services. Victim service providers participating in the VSS were asked if any events had occurred during the previous two years that had affected the demand for their services. In total, 43% of victim service providers said their caseload had increased as a result of a traumatic or high profile event in the community.
Changes in funding can also have an impact on service delivery as this influences a service provider's ability to hire personnel and develop programs. In 2009/2010, 29% of victim service providers reported that their financial resources had increased over the past two years, while 21% said they had decreased. Changes to existing programs increased the caseload of 36% of victim service providers while changes to policies, procedures or mandates increased the caseload of 35% of victim service providers. Moreover, 39% had a caseload increase due to changes in partnerships with other programs.
Text box 3
Role of the Canadian correctional system in the delivery of victim services
In Canada, the federal correctional system, which is responsible for offenders sentenced to prison for two years or more, also plays a role in the delivery of direct services to victims of crimes committed by offenders admitted to federal correctional supervision. These services can take many forms including providing victims with information on the status of an offender in the correctional system or advising victims of the availability of financial assistance to allow them to attend Parole Board of Canada (PBC) hearings. While the VSS does not collect information on these services, these data are available from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada.
Information from CSC indicates that 6,361 victims were registered with the CSC to receive information in 2009/2010. In the same year, the CSC sent 37,523 items of information to registered victims (Public Safety Canada 2010).
With regards to the delivery of information to victims, the PBC reported being contacted by 22,181 victims in 2009/2010, an increase of 11% from the previous year. The majority of contacts (79%) involved victims of a violent crime, such as a sexual assault, or family members of homicide victims.
In 2009/2010, victims made 231 presentations at 127 parole hearings. The majority of hearings involved the most serious of violent crimes—namely murder (28%), manslaughter (24%) and attempted murder (20%). Most of the presentations were made in person (91%), while the remainder were recorded on audiotape, videotape, CD, or DVD. The PBC reported an increase in the number of presentations by victims (up 20% from the previous year). This rise may be due to the establishment of a fund on November 1, 2005 to pay the travel costs incurred by victims wishing to attend hearings, and more victims becoming aware of the fund (Beauchamp and Hys 2010).
End of text box 3.
Volunteers help employees to provide victim services
The victim service providers that provided data in 2009/2010 indicated that the equivalent of 1,880 full-time paid employees had worked from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.Note 9 In addition, 73% of victim service providers reported having 8,553 volunteers over the same period. The remaining 27% of victim service providers indicated that they did not have volunteers.
Victim service providers frequently require their staff to possess minimum levels of education or to complete specialized training in order to work with victims. In 2009/2010, 67% of victim service providers indicated that the minimum level of education for employees was a university or college degree or certificate. Another 17% required a high school diploma or equivalent and 17% had no educational requirements. About 8 in 10 victim service providers (81%) had additional requirements for employees, such as certified workshops, seminars or professional skills training directly related to the delivery of victim services.
While educational requirements for the volunteers of victim service providers are generally lower than those for employees, many victim service providers have mandatory training requirements in place for volunteers. More specifically, in 2009/2010, 14% of victim service providers indicated that the minimum level of education for volunteers was a university or college degree or certificate. Another 28% required a high school diploma or equivalent and 58% had no educational requirements. Similar to the requirements for employees, 8 in 10 victim service providers (78%) had additional requirements for volunteers, such as certified workshops, seminars or professional skills training directly related to the delivery of victim services.
Most victim service providers also reported offering some type of training to their employees and volunteers, at 84% and 60% respectively. Training can include professional skills training, orientation training, awareness training, computer procedures, programming and software training, managerial/supervisory training, and employee health and wellness training.
Profile of victims
Majority of victims assisted were women
From April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, victim service providers that responded to the survey indicated that they had assisted close to 410,000 primary and secondary victims of crime.Note 10 Three-quarters (75%) of clients were femaleNote 11 and almost 9 in 10 (88%) were above the age of 18 years.Note 12
On the VSS snapshot day of May 27, 2010, detailed information was collected on almost 9,500 clients who received formal assistance from the victim service providers who responded to the survey. While both women and men were most likely to seek assistance due to a violent crime, the proportion was higher for women (86%) than men (69%) (Table 4). Close to six in ten women (57%) who sought help for a sexual assault or another type of violent crime indicated that the violence had been committed by a spouse, ex-spouse or intimate partner. This compares to 27% of men.
On snapshot day, not all clients sought assistance because of a violent crime. Some clients obtained assistance from a victim service provider as a result of an experience with a non-violent crime (9%), such as a break and enter or a motor vehicle theft. Others received help in response to non-criminal matters (7%), including other traumatic events such as natural disasters, suicides, and drowning.
Many clients had sought assistance previously
Of the clients served on snapshot day, 38% had previously received services from the same victim service provider. Of these, 17% had received assistance once in the previous 12 months, 25% had received assistance 2 to 4 times and 31% had received assistance 5 or more times. Another 3% of victims had received assistance before, but not in the last 12 months. For the remaining 23% of victims, the number of times they had received assistance in the previous 12 months was unknown.
Text box 4
Victim Services Directory
The Victim Services Directory is an on-line directory of the victim service providers available in a given community. It was created by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI) of the Department of Justice Canada and launched during the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week in April 2009. According to the PCVI, the objective of the directory is to:
- help service providers, victims and any other individuals locate services for victims of crime across Canada
- allow victims to determine which services they may require
- link organizations and victims
- help all individuals access victim services.
The information on the victim service providers listed in the directory was originally compiled using the 2006 Victim Services Survey and is updated after each cycle of the VSS, with the permission of the victim service providers. While the list is not exhaustive, the directory contains information on victim service providers that offer services in all provinces and territories. The directory is available at: http://www.victimservices.justice.gc.ca.
End of text box 4.
In Canada, there are many types of service providers that assist victims of crime. The services they offer cover a wide range, from counselling and financial compensation to public education and crisis intervention. In 2009/2010, most clients who sought help from a victim service provider were women and most had been the victim of a violent crime. Many victim service providers were mandated to provide programs that target victims of certain crimes or those with particular needs. In addition, some victim service providers award financial benefits to victims of crime to help with the physical and/or psychological trauma of crime.
Detailed data tables
The Victim Services Survey is funded by the Department of Justice Canada's Policy Centre for Victim Issues. It was developed in consultation with federal, provincial and territorial ministries responsible for justice and victim services, as well as a number of victim service providers from across Canada. The objectives of the survey are to provide a profile of victim service providers, information on the types of services offered and an overview of the clients who use them through a snapshot of clients on a given day. In addition, the survey collects standardized information from criminal injuries compensation and other financial benefit programs regarding applications for compensation and awards to victims of crime.
The VSS is a mail-out/mail-back paper questionnaire and is intended to be a census of victim service providers that fall within its scope. For administrative reasons, some head office locations submitted one form including data for all service locations under their administration. Of the 917 victim service providers and criminal injuries compensation programs eligible to respond, 389 sent forms representing data for 787 victim service providers and six criminal injuries compensation programs and other financial benefit programs. This resulted in a response rate of 86%.
The majority of service providers deemed ineligible to respond had either closed or were otherwise classified as outside the scope of the survey. An examination of provincial and territorial response rates showed that Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba had a response rate of 100%. This was followed by New Brunswick (95%), Saskatchewan (92%), Ontario (88%), Alberta (88%), Quebec (87%), British Columbia (82%), Yukon (80%), Nova Scotia (76%), Nunavut (50%) and Northwest Territories (33%). The response rate for individual survey questions on which data in this article are based ranged from 86% to 100%.
In 2009/2010 the VSS questionnaire was modified to more accurately reflect the situation of victim services in Canada. The frame for the survey was updated for the 2009/2010 cycle of the VSS. Comparison with previous cycles is not possible for all variables.
Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. 2011. Ensuring the Equitable Treatment of Crime Victims in Canada.
(accessed November 2, 2011).
Department of Justice Canada. 2010. Frequently asked Questions. Policy Centre for Victim Issues. Ottawa.
(accessed September 9, 2011).
Ford, Amanda. 2012. Victim services in Canada: National, provincial and territorial fact sheets, 2009/2010. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-003-X.
Perreault, Samuel and Shannon Brennan. 2010. "Criminal victimization in Canada, 2009." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X. Vol. 30, no.2.
(accessed September 15, 2011).
Public Safety Canada. 2010. Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview. Ottawa.
(accessed September 23, 2011).
- Funding for the Victim Services Survey as well as this Juristat article was provided by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues of the Department of Justice Canada.
- Previous cycles of the VSS were conducted in 2002/2003, 2005/2006 and 2007/2008. Direct comparisons between data in this cycle and those from previous cycles are not recommended due, in part, to differences in the methodologies used to count victim service providers. For more information, see the Data source section at the end of this article.
- For information specific to the provinces and territories, see Ford 2012.
- If a victim service provider was not scheduled to service victims of crime on May 27, 2010, then respondents were asked to consider the next working day as the "snapshot day".
- Crime victim assistance centres in Quebec, called Centres d'aide aux victims d'actes criminels (CAVACs), are classified as this type of victim service. CAVACs are non-profit organizations made up mainly of professionals working in the area of social intervention, such as social workers, psychologists, and criminologists.
- The outcome of 5,298 (23%) applications was not reported.
- Based upon victims for whom the sex was known. The sex of 3,062 victims (28%) was not reported.
- Based on responses from 655 victim service providers.
- Reflects information for full-time equivalents.
- Based upon responses from 711 victim service providers. Of the 484 service providers that completed the survey in both 2007/2008 and 2009/2010, this represented a 4% decline in the number of clients served.
- Based upon victims for whom the sex was known. The sex of 155,855 victims (38%) was not reported.
- Based upon victims for whom the age was known. The age of 143,467 victims (35%) was not reported.