Overview of Victim Services across Canada

Over the past thirty years, all jurisdictions in Canada have made significant advances in developing services for victims of crime. Beginning with small but effective programs delivered by non-governmental organizations, services for victims of crime have expanded to include services provided by the police, services provided through the court system, and new and expanded programs provided by non-governmental organizations.

Types of services

System-based victim services

This type of victim services is independent from police, courts and Crown Attorneys. System-based victim services assist the victim throughout the victim's contact with the criminal justice system. This may include, but is not limited to, providing information, support and referral; short-term counselling; court preparation and accompaniment; victim impact statements preparation; liaising with police, courts, Crown and Corrections.

Police-based victim services

Police-based victim services are victim services that are provided following first contact with the police. While these victim service agencies are located in police detachments, they are not generally employed by the police. The police may refer the victim to victim services or advise victim services to make contact with the victim. Many police-based victim services include a coordinator plus volunteers. Some police forces employ victim services workers as well. Police-based victim services may provide information, support, assistance, referral and court orientation to victims of crime.

Court-based victim services

Court-based victim services are mandated to provide support for people who have become involved in the criminal justice process as either victims or witnesses. Court-based victim services provide information, assistance, and referrals to victims and witnesses with the goal of trying to make the court process less intimidating. Services may include court orientation, preparation and accompaniment to court, updates on the progress of the case, coordinating meetings with the Crown and assessing the ability of a child victim/witness to testify. Some court-based victim services focus on specific clientele, includingchildren or victims of domestic violence.

Community-based victim services

Community-based victim services are agencies that provide direct services to victims and receive funding either in whole or in part by the provincial and/or federal government responsible for criminal justice matters. Some community-based victim services agencies serve a specific clientele such as victims of family and sexual violence, ethno-specific and diverse communities, and assisting child victims. Services offered may include providing emotional support, practical assistance, information, court orientation and referrals.

Volunteers and Non-Governmental Organizations

As mentioned above, many of the police-based and community-based victim services use the services of volunteers to assist with their programs. Volunteers can assist in many different ways including providing direct assistance to clients, administrative help, fundraising or serving as board members. Most organizations that use the services of volunteers provide training in victim assistance to the volunteers.