Multidisciplinary victims committee report, February 2024

Executive summary

The Committee deliberated on a wide range of issues relating to victims. In summary, everyone agreed it is important that a victim-centred approach be adopted when engaging victims and survivors of crime – from communications materials to outreach and services provided to them. Given Canada’s ethnocultural diversity, it is essential to consider the needs of these various communities and ensure the accessibility of information and services.

The Committee discussed ways to minimize or eliminate barriers for victims to access their rights under the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights (CVBR). This included practical suggestions to improve the user experience of victims across all services.

The main themes that emerged included:

  1. Victim engagement and education:
    • Personal contact with victims is essential, and print and virtual resources are helpful supporting resources. In fact, relationships with Victims Services Officers (VSOs) play a key role in supporting victims. These resources should be examined more closely, including the Victim Portal and Correctional Plan Progress Report, to ensure they meet victims’ needs and are easily accessible (avoiding jargon and technical terms). Any changes should ensure the use of plain and clear language, and language that is trauma-informed and compassionate
  2. Government legislation, policies and processes:
    • The Committee discussed the legislative and policy frameworks around what CSC shares with victims. The Committee discussed that the timing, quantity, and quality of information can make a difference in their safety planning. While some changes to policy may help, it was noted that the legislation as it currently stands, creates a barrier to additional disclosure of information. CSC explained how it is working, within the current framework, to implement greater victim engagement for transfers to capture victims concerns earlier in the process. There is a desire for CSC to disclose more information and more often use public interest test (under the Privacy Act), as applicable, to disclose more information
    • The Committee would like to see more information provided before hearings in order for victims to better prepare their victim statement and better understand the process. The Committee noted that PBC should ensure that it pays close attention to participation and set up, and avoid/limit rescheduling/postponements, where possible. The Committee noted that it is important to continue soliciting victim input prior to hearing arrangements, seek information from victims on what supports are helpful, and recommended that communications be trauma-informed and timely, using simple, clear language
  3. Achieving better balance:
    • There is a perception that the information available to victims is weighted more towards the offender’s rights than the victim’s right to information. This includes the timing of when information may be released to victims at key decision points
    • The Committee thought it would be useful to examine ways to better serve victims throughout the process and examine opportunities for better/more information sharing, such as the Correctional Plan Progress Report, and doing earlier engagement with victims according to the Ministerial Direction of July 20, 2023. Victims participating on the Committee noted that information is helpful in their safety planning and better explanations of sentences, various security levels, and how CSC arrives at its decisions, is extremely helpful. Where information cannot be shared, it is imperative to explain why


On May 29, 2023, CSC transferred a high-profile inmate from maximum to medium security. To ensure that the law and polices were followed, the Commissioner of CSC asked for a review of the security reclassification and transfer decisions. On July 20, 2023, the Review Committee provided its final report to CSC.

The Committee recommended that, “as soon as possible, the Commissioner establishes a multi-disciplinary working committee”. CSC accepted this recommendation and will report back to the Minister on progress according to the Ministerial Direction issued to CSC on July 20, 2023.

Several areas of focus were suggested for review and action by the new committee. These include:

In striking the Multidisciplinary Victims Committee, CSC decided to expand the above to all areas of the victim services program, including Parole Board hearings, to gather any and all relevant feedback as part of this exercise.

Goal and objectives

Terms of Reference (see Annex A) guided the time-limited Committee in its work. A schedule for each meeting, covering key themes, was established and circulated to members (see Annex B) with a number of reference documents provided.

The committee met weekly beginning November 17, 2023, for up to 1.5 hours. Given the geographic diversity of the members, meetings were held virtually via MS Teams.

The objectives outlined in the Terms of Reference were:

Committee members were invited to make observations, provide comments, and ask questions in a free-flowing manner. The government representatives in attendance were present to support the committee, present information, and answer any questions on their respective areas of expertise.


As victims are a shared responsibility within the Government of Canada, in addition to CSC, membership included representatives from other federal departments, at the director general level, from:

The Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Engagement, CSC, chaired the Committee.

There were 11 total members, 4 of whom were victims/survivors of crime including, 2 of whom are members of the CSC/PBC Regional Victim Advisory Committees or Councils (RVAC), 1 with expertise in corrections, and 2 criminologists (1 also with expertise in community corrections/services). CSC provided all secretariat support for the Committee.

In addition, the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime (FOVC) sat on the Committee as a special advisor and participated in all of the meetings.

Summary of discussions

At every meeting for 6 weeks, as outlined in the schedule, federal government officials prepared and provided presentations that outlined the areas of interest outlined by the Review Committee. Members of the Committee were then invited to ask questions, provide comments, express concerns or recommendations in a free-flowing manner. The feedback below represents a summary of the discussions and feedback received.

Victim definition

CSC and PBC both work from the definition of a victim in various sections of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). There is also a definition of a victim in the CVBR , which defers from the one in the CCRA.

The discussion was centred on the fact that there are many different definitions of “victim” across Canada’s jurisdictions and levels of government. This creates confusion and inconsistencies in victim services and expectations. The Committee felt like more user-friendly communication products could be a powerful tool in ensuring that victims are aware of what they can expect or receive from CSC and PBC.


Victim engagement

CSC’s VSOs and PBC’s Regional Communications Officers (RCO) offer services both verbally (over the phone), in writing, or through the web-based Victims Portal. Victims are provided the opportunity to decide what information they want to receive, within the scope of what can be provided under the law, how they want to receive information and when. The agencies believe that providing victims and survivors of crime with this choice is a trauma-informed approach.



All agencies and departments have created and made available information products (for example, booklets, guides, fact sheets, etc.) in both digital and print format that are shared as widely as possible with victims and survivors of crime, as well as victim-serving agencies and supports. is the central Government of Canada website that tries to provide information at different points in the criminal justice system, to make navigation easier for victims. It continues to evolve as do communications strategies for reaching victims, who are often a hard-to-reach segment of the general public. Recognizing that some communities and individuals may not have access to a computer or may have low levels of digital literacy, products are made available in hard copy.

There is an increasing emphasis on explaining things in plain language, to make them more accessible for all readers including those with disabilities and low levels of literacy. All products are designed to meet accessibility standards. Fact Sheets are also available in multiple languages above and beyond English and French. CSC noted it is in the process of creating a booklet on institutional security levels to better describe them, which will be available to victims.


Correctional Plan Progress Report

Under the CCRA, victims are entitled to updates on the programs that were designed to address the needs of the offender and contribute to their successful reintegration into the community in which the offender is participating or has participated. CSC provides a Correctional Plan Progress Report (CPPR), upon the victim’s request (because not all victims would like this level of detail). It is provided annually or every 2 years depending on the level of activity in terms of where the offender is at in their sentence. CSC also provides victims with a plain-language guide for victims to understand the CPPR, available on line and in print (The Correctional Plan Progress Report : a guide for victims.: PS84-49/2021E-PDF - Government of Canada Publications -


Services to victims

CSC and PBC provide an information service as outlined in the CCRA. Both agencies refer victims to community-based services provided by other levels of government, which can be found on the Justice Canada website Victim Services Directory ( CSC has a 1-800 number that is now registered with 211 services across the country. CSC and PBC do outreach across the country to other victim-serving agencies and actors in the criminal justice system who act as referral agents to federal victim services.


Victims Portal

CSC manages a web-based Victims Portal for sending and receiving information to/from victims. About a third of registered victims use the portal, where they have a digital repository of all information received about the offender that harmed them. They can also submit victim statements through the portal.


Victim concerns in case management

Under CSC policy, victim safety concerns are factored into decision making and recommendations to the PBC. Risk assessments cover the inmate’s risk to the public, including victims, along with the following factors (but not limited to):


Transfer decisions

On May 29, 2023, a high-profile federal offender was transferred from a maximum to a medium security institution. In July 2023, the former Minister of Public Safety (PS) issued a Ministerial Direction (MD) to the CSC, with the intent of ensuring that a trauma-informed and victim-sensitive approach is factored into the decision-making process in regard to transfers and security classifications. The MD directed CSC to:

It was noted that CSC has always considered victim concerns in transfer decisions, consulting all information on file, including Victim Impact Statements, from court, and Victim Statements provided to CSC. CSC explained it will be engaging victims earlier, when a voluntary transfer is being supported, to gather any victim considerations in addition to what is already on file.



Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, victims attended PBC hearings primarily in-person. In response to the pandemic, the PBC swiftly introduced new technology to accommodate secure attendance by victims at hearings virtually. Over the past few years, PBC has made significant investments in improving the audio and video quality for victims’ participation in virtual hearings. The current success rate (such as no interruption or disconnection due to system capacity or limitations) of hearings via WebEx is at 93%.

PBC makes significant efforts to accommodate victims’ preference in hearing attendance, ensuring that victims have the ability to participate. Since November 2022, the PBC has been collecting victims’ preferred method of hearing attendance and has accommodated these preferences where possible. Based on data gathered by the PBC throughout 2022 and 2023, most victims have indicated a preference to participate in hearings virtually rather than in-person as it offers a feeling of more security, provides a clearer view of the offender, and reduces the burden of travelling and taking time off work, away from family, etc. In addition, the Department of Justice Victims Fund, which provides funding for victims to attend hearings, has provided assistance to accommodate virtual hearings.

PBC will continue to ensure a harmonized approached to supporting victims, including camera on/off issues, seating arrangements, to determine where the choice can be given to victims. PBC will continue to ensure that it informs victims in pre-hearing calls to let them know they have a choice on seating, camera, etc. so that they know what options they have. The Board wants to ensure victims know they have the choices and hearing can be arranged accordingly.

The feedback is broken down by sub-theme below.

Scheduling, postponements and cancellations

Virtual hearings

Hearing set-up

A comment was raised about the hearing set-up, and to avoid situations where the offender has their back to the audience. This has raised as an issue in the Pacific Region, especially in-person. It was noted as important that the victims can see the offender’s face and their reactions.

Hearing attendance

A Committee member noted that it would be useful to notify victims of who else might be in attendance, which PBC indicated that it is in practice. Victims do not need the names but having a general sense of the number of people supporting the offender, students, media, etc. would help reduce surprises. If they are reading the statement and there are students in the room, they might not be as comfortable, for example. Any information should be provided as far as possible in advance.

Alternatives to hearings

Special conditions


While timeframes for hearings are prescribed in legislation, it was noted that two years is too short for a hearing and five years would be better. A victim comes out of one review or hearing and then they have to prepare for the next, which can amplify the trauma. In certain cases where the crime was violent and premeditated, it would be useful to look at providing more time between hearings. It was noted that any changes to legislation could explore this.

Victim complaints

Under the CVBR, every victim who is of the opinion that any of their rights under the Act have been infringed or denied by a federal department, agency or body can file a complaint in accordance with its complaint mechanism. CSC manages this through policy.


The OFOVC would like to see more compassion in the way complaints are managed. While all agencies are required to have a process, the language is not trauma informed. There is a need to look at processes and how, across the federal government, we can adopt a more human-centered and responsive approach. This means seeking to learn and understand a victim’s concerns, and work with them to remedy the situation. Terminology used such as “founded” or “unfounded” is not great language. It feels like the CVBR is used to limit what is deemed admissible rather than responding to the complaint and how the agency could have perhaps done better.

Awareness of CSC/PBC victim services

Victims do not automatically receive information about the offender who harmed them. If they have been harmed by an offender serving a sentence of 2 years or more, victims are asked to register with CSC or PBC to receive information or access services. The registration process allows CSC or PBC to verify that the individual meets the definition of victim, which is required under law before sharing protected offender information. It also supports a trauma-informed approach whereby the victim has the opportunity to specify what information they want to receive, how and when.

However, it remains a challenge to reach victims. CSC does not automatically know who the victims are and does not have their contact information and/or consent to proactively contact them. Bill S12, which received Royal Assent on October 26, 2023, will require the Courts to forward to CSC the name and contact information for any victim who wishes to receive information under the CCRA. This will help to close this gap.



Please note the recommendations contained in this report are from external committee members and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. The departmental officials are bound by the Public Service Values and Ethics Code and must remain neutral.

Victim engagement and education:

  1. To improve the usability of the Victims Portal. Consider a focus group to examine the user experience and ways to make improvements
  2. Promote education of the services and information available through CSC and PBC, ensure the material is easy to find and read, resources are in one central spot, and leverage existing victim groups to examine all communications materials available with a focus on making improvements
    • This includes looking at making changes to the Correctional Plan Progress Report, including in the “next steps” section so victims are aware of important milestones possible, such as a reclassification or transfer
    • “Maximum, medium and minimum” are not well understood by victims. If these terms cannot be changed, it would be helpful, and more reassuring, if CSC could better explain the differences between security levels, for example, “a medium-security institution is similar to a maximum-security institution with a highly secured perimeter, such as fences, with more internal movement within the perimeter”
  3. Look at providing victims with more proactive offers for services. All victims should have one simple and easy entry point. The Child Advocacy Centres (CAC) are truly a one-stop-shop. The Committee recommends that this model is considered for all victim services, whereby a victim could make one call, have one point of contact, and that organization shepherds them through the different services
  4. Ensure the CSC Victim Services Officers and PBC Regional Communications Officers know how important their relationship is with victims, and how meaningful their role is. Provide additional tips and guidance for improving their service. And in turn, raise awareness with all offender case management staff of the importance of an ongoing trauma-informed approach, and making sure victims’ concerns are looked into before they become an issue
  5. Explore launching a pilot project to increase understanding and awareness of healing lodges (and those under Section 81). This could include involving victims in the process that offenders undertake at healing lodges, and the role victims play in their healing journey
  6. Consider looking at whether victim files could stay with the same VSO, where possible, even if an offender is transferred to another region. Relationships with VSOs, which are often built over a number of years, make a big difference in aspects of a victim’s psychological safety and the continuity of service

Government legislation, policies and processes:

  1. Explore whether there could be one victim definition nationally, for all orders of government operating within the criminal justice system. In the meantime, the CCRA definition of a victim is not exactly the same as that of the CVBR, which should be clarified, if not remedied. Those working in this space need to understand that safety is not just about physical safety but also about psychological and emotional safety
  2. The CCRA should be amended to change the balance for victims, including a clear recommendation for consideration of what information is meaningful and important to victims so that there be greater access to it. This would include providing advanced notification to victims of all transfers, and more information related to the offender’s security level
  3. Public Safety Canada should assemble a list of all of the positive projects/initiatives being undertaken by Public Safety, CSC and PBC over past months as they were presented to the Committee. It would then be beneficial to identify any gaps and how best to address them (policy, training, processes). It would be useful to tell victims about these and ways they may be consulted or involved moving forward

In addition, the external members of the Committee asked the PBC to consider providing more information in advance of a hearing in order for victims to better prepare their Victim Statement. They also noted that PBC could provide clearer explanations of hearing processes and consider limitations on postponements. The Committee asked that PBC continue to solicit victim input on hearing arrangements and looks at ways to improve communication with victims using trauma-informed, timely, simple and clear language.


As a next step, CSC is working to finalize its updates to Commissioner’s Directive 784 – Victim Engagement. In 2023, a revised version was sent out for consultation to victim stakeholders, including the OFOVC, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, and the CSC/PBC RVAC . The revised version is expected to be finalized and promulgated by June 2024.

Commissioner’s Directive 786 – Victim Complaints is presently open for review. A revised version will be sent out for consultation, anticipated for 2024.

There is an opportunity to ensure that the recommendations of this report are taken into consideration as we finalize these policies, as appropriate.

The OFOVC also made a formal submission to the SECU Committee, which was shared with the Committee for additional consideration. Entitled, “Submission to the to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on the Rights of Victims of Crime, Reclassification and Transfer of Federal Offenders” it is available on the web.

All of these pieces, including this report, will be looked at by the relevant government departments and ways they can be implemented. In addition to the work of this Committee, CSC and PBC have regular and ongoing opportunities to engage with victims and survivors of crime through the CSC/PBC RVAC, which presents an opportunity for ongoing victim engagement on any new initiatives.

In closing, thank you to all members of this Committee for their participation in this invaluable exercise, and for their time, knowledge, and insights. The discussions were rich and productive and will serve to make improvements to how victims are served.

Annex A - Terms of Reference


On May 29, 2023, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) transferred a high-profile inmate from maximum to medium security. To ensure that the law and polices were followed, the Commissioner of CSC asked for a review of the security reclassification and transfer decisions. On July 20, 2023, the Review Committee provided its final report to CSC.

The Committee recommended that, “as soon as possible, the Commissioner establishes a multi-disciplinary working committee”. CSC accepted this recommendation and will report back to the Minister on progress as per the Ministerial Direction issued to CSC on July 20, 2023.

Several areas of focus were suggested for review and action by the new committee. These include:


The Committee will take under consideration the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, in addition to the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, the Privacy Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. As well, the Committee will consider the roles of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and seek their views as special advisors.


The Multidisciplinary Working Committee will provide recommendations to the Correctional Service of Canada to enhance policies and practices surrounding victim engagement and notification. Where applicable, recommendations may also be provided to other departments for their consideration if they fall under their purview.




The Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Engagement at CSC will chair the multi-disciplinary committee.

As victims are a shared responsibility within the Government of Canada, in addition to CSC, membership will include representatives from other federal departments, at the director level or above, from:

Members of the public

Members of the public with professional and/or lived experience:

Special Advisor

Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Member duties


The Committee shall be struck for a time-limited period. CSC benefits from the ongoing engagement with victims through the CSC/PBC joint Regional Victim Advisory Committees (RVAC), made up of victims of crime who volunteer to provide advice to both agencies.  The timeframe will be for 3 months, once initiated. Given the geographic diversity of the members, meetings will be held virtually by MS Teams.

Official languages

The Committee meetings will be held bilingually. All documents will be provided in both official languages.

Administrative support

CSC will provide all administrative support for the committee, including developing agendas, summaries of discussions. CSC will provide resources to draft a final report that Committee members will review for concurrence.  Committee members may be asked to be in attendance to present their findings to CSC senior management and be available for questions of clarification on the report.

Annex B - Schedule of meetings

Week Date Theme Details Supporting documents
1 November 20, 2023
  • Overview of CSC’s Victim Services Program
  • Round of introductions
  • Review Terms of Reference
  • Presentation on CSC’s Victim Services Program
  • Presentation – overview of Victim Services
  • Terms of Reference
2 November 24, 2023
  • Information provided to victims 
  • What we provide under Section 26 of the CCRA
  • Review schedule of meetings
  • Presentation from victims services
  • Pre-read: Victim Services Tools used
  • Schedule
3 December 1, 2023
  • How security classification and transfers work.
  • Presentation on transfers (how they work, including victim notification) pre and post MD
  • Presentation from COP Sector (CSC)
4 December 8, 2023
  • Definition of victim and considerations in decision-making
  • Review of legal victim definition and what is considered by CSC in its decision-making
  • Presentation from victim services
  • Pre-read of tools
5 December 15, 2023
  • Parole Board Hearings and equipment available for virtual participation.
  • See recommendation in Review Committee Report
  • Hearings – what has changed since pandemic and CSC video conference
  • Pre-read: Review Committee’s recommendation to review IT infrastructure/equipment
  • Presentation from PBC
6 January 5, 2024
  • Resources for Victims
  • Federal resources for victims, including Victims Fund, Victims Portal and referrals
  • Presentation of CSC’s resources
  • Communications Products
  • Discussion on any others
  • Presentation (Justice Canada)
7 January 12, 2024
  • Discuss any items covered that require further discussion.
  • Recap & summary 
  • Recap of what has been discussed and confirm any proposed recommendations
  • Sections as per theme weeks
8 January 19, 2024
  • Report production
  • Review draft report
  • Draft report
9 January 26, 2024
  • Final report is discussed
  • Finalize report and recommendations
  • Draft report
10 February 2, 2024
  • Final meeting to present findings and recommendations.
  • Draft circulated for agreement in both official languages.
  • Report is finalized and translated.

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