Doug Ford government scrapping law that compensates crime victims

The Doug Ford government is scrapping an Ontario law that provides financial help to the victims of violent crime.

Legislation to repeal the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act is contained in the 194-page bill tabled as part of Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s budget on Thursday.  

The existing act allows for lump-sum payments of up to $25,000 or monthly payments of up to $1,000 to the families of those killed during a crime and to people who are injured in a criminal act, including sexual or domestic assault.

The Ford government’s budget bill would also dissolve Ontario’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the tribunal that has awarded financial assistance to crime victims since 1971. The money is given to cover such items as funeral costs, physical therapy and loss of income. 

A spokesperson for Attorney General Caroline Mulroney said the move is being made because crime victims are waiting too long for compensation from the board.

“Instead of having to appear before an adjudicator to decide how much compensation should be paid, a claimant would submit his or her paperwork and receipts to the Ministry or another administrative body who would issue its payment quicker,” said Mulroney’s press secretary Jesse Robichaud in a statement emailed to CBC News on Friday.

Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney’s press secretary says the government made the move because crime victims are waiting too long for compensation from the board. (CBC)

The government has plans “that will reduce administrative costs to provide financial assistance to victims,” according to a passage in Fedeli’s budget. 

The budget says “an enhanced victims’ financial assistance program would be offered by the Ministry of the Attorney General” after the current act is repealed and the board dissolved. 

The budget says the government is “reforming victim compensation services by replacing the adjudicative model with an administrative model to ensure that victims receive financial assistance faster and more efficiently with less administrative burden.” 

This would save up to $23 million annually starting in 2021–22, says the budget, and the government would “reinvest” $6 million annually in “victim services.” 

The date when the board would be dissolved is not in the budget bill. Until that happens, compensation paid to victims for “pain and suffering” would be capped at $5,000. The maximum lump-sum total payment would rise to $30,000 from the current limit of $25,000. 

Former Ontario ombudsman André Marin revealed in 2007 that it took an average of three years for people to receive compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. He blamed the Ministry of the Attorney General for ‘starving the board of resources.’

The board came under sharp criticism in a 2007 report by then-ombudsman André Marin for delays that meant it took the average victim three years to receive compensation

But Marin pinned much of the blame on the Ministry of the Attorney General for “starving the board of resources” to carry out its duties and for at times ordering the board to delay compensation to victims to stay within its budget.

During the 2011 election campaign, then-leader of the PCs Tim Hudak slammed the board as a “horror show,” and promised to cut red tape around victim compensation, but not to dissolve the board. 

“Our goal is to provide support to victims in a timely and compassionate manner,” says the Attorney General’s current webpage for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, 

“Compensation can play a vital role in a victim’s financial, physical and emotional recovery,” says a brochure on the board’s website.