In honour of Victims and Survivors of Crime Week (May 29 to June 4, 2016), CSC’s Victim Services would like to highlight the work done by the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC) who are leaders in advocacy for victims and survivors of serious crime in Canada.
Recently, the CRCVC hosted a discussion forum on victim impact education sponsored by the Public Safety Canada Policy Development Contribution Program. The discussion was about how crime has a harmful impact not only on individuals, but on entire communities and is often felt long after the formal criminal justice process ends. The speakers promoted victim impact education to hold offenders accountable for their crimes and give them a deeper understanding of the impact of their criminal activity. It is thought that these programs can help reduce reoffending, which is beneficial to overall public safety.
The event speakers came from a wide variety of backgrounds. They included Cindy Ayala, Project Manager, Enhancing Empathy for Victims and Families of Offenders, The Church Council on Justice and Corrections, Rev. Susan Gilger, Chaplain from Joyceville Institution Minimum Unit, and Rick, a federal offender currently incarcerated at Joyceville Institution. Rev. Gilger explained the program and its impact on offenders in more detail.
“You’re asking them to assess themselves and what they’ve done. They have to look back and see what’s happened, they have to look at where they are now, and they have to look ahead. So who was harmed, what was the harm, how can the harm be healed, and how can future harm be prevented.”
Rick understands this process first hand. Rick was charged with second degree murder in 1982, and has spent well over half his life in the Canadian correctional system. Rick explains that coming into prison he was a very self-centered individual with no empathy or remorse. He only cared about himself. It was a number of years later when he experienced a “light-bulb” moment and could see more clearly all of the people that his crime had affected. Since then he has made an effort to be involved in victim-offender mediation, provided through CSC’s Restorative Opportunities program, as a way to make amends for his crime.
“Today I am well aware of the four generations that are affected by my crime. My victim’s grandparents, the parents, the siblings, and now nieces and nephews. And I am well aware of the pain and the absence that never goes away from those people.”
Heidi Illingworth, the Executive Director for the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and emcee at the event, summed up the purpose of the event perfectly when she said “we believe that public safety can be increased if we open offenders’ minds to the experiences of their victims and give them a deeper understanding of the impact of their criminal activity. It’s not for everyone, but for some of them it reduces their tendency for blaming others and increases their ability to accept responsibility for their actions.”
Here at CSC we are just beginning to offer victim impact education. More often than not, it is an institution’s Chaplain that initiates the training. The first institution to complete a victim impact education program was the former Pittsburgh Institution. More recently the training has been piloted at several other sites including Collins Bay and Joyceville minimum and medium in Kingston, Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Dorchester minimum and medium in New Brunswick, and one provincial facility in Winnipeg. However the popularity of the program is growing with more and more institutions across Canada taking part.
For more information, please visit the VSCW website, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime website and CSC's Victim Services website.
We published the following stories in previous editions of Let’s Talk. Please note that they may be dated due to the fact that they were published in 2012 and 2014, but we are running them again for this purpose as they describe how victims’ lives are impacted by crime.