FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Justice and Public Safety is celebrating an important milestone as part of Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, May 27 to June 2. It was 35 years ago that New Brunswick became one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to establish a Victim Services Program.

Started in 1983 as a pilot project jointly funded by Justice Canada, Victim Services has expanded throughout the province. Today it has 13 offices operating across five regions, with 22 victim services co-ordinators providing support to victims navigating the criminal justice system.

Over the years, the program has evolved in response to legislation and with the goal of improving services and their delivery. Most recently, the 2015 Victims Bill of Rights Act was intended to enhance and solidify the rights of victims of crime to information, protection, participation, restitution and complaint. The program has incorporated these principles into the delivery of its services.

“Emphasizing victims’ rights is an important priority for New Brunswick,” said Justice and Public Safety Minister Denis Landry. “We are acknowledging that even though crimes are bad for all of us in a community, victims suffer the most and have special rights that need to be protected.”

Victim Services are available to all victims of crime in New Brunswick. Since 2015, when the federal government introduced the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the New Brunswick Victim Services Program has received an average of 5,465 referrals per year. These people may access a range of services through the program, from general information about the criminal justice process to assistance with preparing impact statements and crime compensation.

Some services provided include:

Information access

Victim Services staff help victims understand their rights and how the criminal justice process works. This is accomplished by explaining court procedures, explaining the role of officials, providing information on publication bans and testimonial aids as required, providing assistance in preparing impact statements, and providing information on sentencing outcomes.

Staff also help victims gain access to services such as reimbursements for witness expenses if they are required to testify.

Once the court process is over, staff can follow up with victims to see if any information or services are necessary. This includes providing information on options for getting information on offenders sentenced to incarceration.

Counselling

It is common for victims to struggle with emotional difficulties or anxiety in the aftermath of a crime. Victim Services staff can refer eligible victims to counselling by a registered therapist of their choice.

Court support counselling helps traumatized or anxious victims prepare to provide evidence or testify in court.

Short-term counselling is available under the Compensation for Victims of Crime Program to help individuals deal with the emotional effects of being a victim of violent crime.

Court preparation and support

Victim Services offers programs to support victims who are preparing to go to court – particularly vulnerable individuals. Staff and/or volunteers will explain what is required of the victim when they testify, provide tours of the courtroom before trial, and identify any special needs the victim may have if they are to be a witness.

Staff or volunteers may also accompany victims to court, stand by them during their testimony, and provide overall emotional support.

Victim Services can also assist in arranging for testimonial aids such as privacy screens or publication bans.

Remedies for victims

Victims who have suffered personal injuries or losses as a direct result of a crime may be eligible for the Compensation for Victims of Crime Program. These benefits could assist with expenses like medical, dental, physiotherapy, funeral or childcare expenses that are not covered through other sources. Victim Services staff can help determine eligibility for compensation.

Staff can also provide guidance to victims when applying for restitution from the offender. Restitution is a payment that an offender makes to cover their victim’s financial losses as a result of the crime.

Staff are also able to discuss other compensation programs.

Additional information is available on the Victim Services website.