Canadians understand the importance of a fair and balanced justice system. For too long, however, our justice system was focused almost exclusively on the rights of criminals. The victims of their crimes were forgotten, disregarded, and pushed aside. This was an unacceptable injustice that our Conservative Government was determined to fix. We took significant and meaningful steps to restore the place of victims in the justice system and to make sure their voices are heard.
The Federal Victims Strategy works to respond to the needs of victims of crime. The Harper Government renewed the Strategy in Budget 2011 with $26 million in funding and in April 2012 we announced an additional $7 million over five years to help in this important work. Funds are made available each year to support provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations whose projects, activities and operations support the objectives of the Federal Victims Strategy. By making these funds available, our Government is ensuring victims are heard.
One of the organizations that the Harper Government is supporting through the Federal Victims Strategy is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. The Centre helps to locate missing children and rescue sexually abused children across Canada. For nearly thirty years, this organization has been committed to taking care of children and their families and it continues to support and work towards eliminating these issues completely. With funding from our Conservative Government, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection will be able to expand its valuable presence across Canada and into First Nations and Aboriginal communities.
Supporting the victims of domestic violence has been of particular concern to our Government. Too often, these victims are frightened into silence. Our Government is giving them a voice again by funding local groups that provide support and counselling to victims of domestic abuse. We have also supported the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international campaign that raises awareness of domestic violence and so-called “honour crimes.” Working with established organizations and local associations, our Government is looking out for the most vulnerable in our society.
While giving victims of crime a voice in their own communities is important, we must also ensure that their needs are identified and considered by legislators. The Federal Victims’ Ombudsman was created by our Conservative Government to provide a link between victims and government. The Ombudsman advises victims on their rights and educates policymakers on the needs of victims. The work of the Ombudsman helps ensure that victims are heard, respected and empowered. Our Government recognizes the vital importance of this role, and that is why we set aside $26 million for the Federal Victims’ Ombudsman.
These are only some of the many ways in which our Conservative Government is making sure victims are heard. We are also doubling the victim surcharge offenders pay, ensuring that the age and health of elderly victims are considered in sentencing and have already ended the use of house arrest for violent criminals. In partnership with compassionate communities, the Harper Government is giving victims the voice they so desperately needed.