Prime Time Crime


(Prime Time Crime March 15, 2008)


Show us the money


   By Sandra Martins-Toner

For those who have never been a victim of crime, it’s hard to understand the domino effect that takes place in ones life. Having lost a child to a vicious beating, I was ill prepared for all that was to come in the aftermath of the crime. Let me begin by saying that having to plan a funeral when you are in such great despair and shock, is something I do not wish on anyone. We were in severe shock by all that had happened, and now would be thrown in a position of utter misery because financially you are not prepared for the cost of a funeral, and all the other expenses that would soon follow suit.

I look back now to the days that followed my son’s death almost three years ago, and I can not believe we have somehow managed to survive. Had it not been for the kindness of our families, and strangers we would not have been able to make ends meet. The pittance that we received from Victims Services was an absolute slap in the face. We were given $4000.00 to apply to a funeral that cost us approximately $30, 0000. Our son’s funeral was without any frills, without flowers, or even memorial cards with his photo on them. Those little accessories were made and brought in by our family and friends to help ease the burden.

Victims Services was not able to offer us any sort of financial compensation during our leave from work, and this is where all the trouble began. We were forced back to work just weeks after our sons murder, and had we not done this we would have lost everything. The emotional stress, and depression that you are dealing with, accompanied by the financial stress due to the fact that you are no longer eligible to collect your pay cheques.

Since founding Families Against Crime & Trauma (F.A.C.T.), I have come to realize that we were not the only ones who faced financial ruins due to these crimes. I can tell you that 85% of our members had experienced this as well. Many of us had tried to find help, but could find no Government Agency to help alleviate our financial strain. This is when we decided to do some research on a program we had heard of, but ultimately due to cut-backs really no longer exists.

In 1972 Pierre Trudeau introduced The Criminal Injury Compensation Program (CIPC), which provided an important service to victims/families who had been affected by violent crimes. Prior to that date, there was no redress for innocent victims of crime who, in addition to bodily injury, often suffered serious psychological trauma. In 1995, the Criminal Injury Compensation Act was amended to provide compensation to the immediate family members, including counselling, wage loss, and funeral expenses. For example, the parents of a child who had been killed in a criminal act can receive compensation.

In 1963 New Zealand was the first to implement this Act. Britain would quickly follow suit and passed its law in 1964. In 1965 California became the first U.S. state to enact such a system, and it has been followed by most of the other states since then. In Canada, Saskatchewan was the first province to pass such a law in 1967. This was evidently a popular idea, as when B.C. introduced its system in 1972, it was the eighth province to do so. Since then, the two territories, N.S. and P.E.I. have been added to the list, leaving no province in Canada without a scheme for compensating victims of violent crime.

Until 1992, these programs were run on a cost-shared basis between the federal and provincial governments, although the boards are constituted and administered provincially. While none are identical, they have shared a number of common features, all were designed to aid the victims of violent crime. These included surviving dependents of victims of homicide, and usually persons responsible for the maintenance of the victim.

The compensation schemes were all designed to alleviate pecuniary loss. Compensation could be obtained for financial costs incurred as a result of the injury, death or disability of the victim (e.g. funeral expenses, the cost of some therapeutic equipment). Some programs also compensate for pain and suffering (although this has become much more restricted since the termination of federal cost-sharing in 1992).

Figures in 1982 showed that it cost every taxpayer $320 to support the justice system. Of this, only $0.32 cents goes to victims. Since in many jurisdictions the budget is determined in advance and cannot be exceeded, the more applications the program receives, the lower the awards. As the programs were poorly funded in the first place, successful applicants usually end up receiving ridiculously low amounts as compensation for their victimization.

Federal and Provincial cost sharing for these programs ended in 1992; when the Canadian Government cut back funding to the provinces. Many provinces had to reorganize their programs by amalgamating the Criminal Injuries Compensation Program with either Victims Services programs, or the Workers Compensation Board. This is when Victims of Crime were hit the hardest. The cutbacks so severe, that the eligibility and coverage for the victims/families were almost non existent. Provinces such as Nova Scotia cut all the compensation other than counselling.

F.A.C.T. has been informed by many victims/families that they were not even told about any sort of compensation, and those who have applied for help are so minimally compensated, and so disgusted with the treatment they are given, they don’t even bother to follow through. Most will tell you that there is too much red tape and beurocracy. They feel as though some of the Victims Services Workers they spoke to seemed to care, but could do nothing to help them as their hands are tied.  Victims Services Programs have a list of resources they say are available to victims/families, but when we seek these out, many of us are told that we do not qualify. How is this possible? I once recall asking the Victims Service worker if I needed to lose another child to murder in order to become eligible, and this statement was met by silence. This is unacceptable, and those who have lost a child or a loved one to a criminal act should not be made to beg, nor should we be ignored.

When speaking to these workers we have found that many blame the legislation for limiting their responsibilities, and said they wished they could do more, hence putting the blame on the system. It seems that no one wants to take the responsibility for the current lack of resources, or financial help for victims/families of violent crime. Even the existence of Government Compensation for victims/families is not well known. This means that many victims/families never find out that these programs are even available to them. In 1987 a National Gallup Poll stated that 73% of Canadians were unaware of these programs, and in Ontario only one in fifty-five eligible victims/families actually seek compensation. I can tell you that today; it is probably no different, or perhaps even worse.

F.A.C.T. has begun to see that even though these programs still exist on a smaller scale, there is little or next to no help that they can provide to those who can not return to work due to the trauma of their loss, or the injuries they sustained as victims of violent crimes. Many of us have had to go back to work within weeks of our losses, and have not had the proper time to heal, or grieve. Many of us have lost everything we have worked for due to the inability to work, or because we have lost our jobs due to stress and shock. We are not compensated for all the lost wages nor are we eligible for any sort of financial help from the Government due to all the cutbacks. Where did this money go to? We have been told that this money was then given to those not connected to the workforce. Whether this is accurate I am unsure, but I can tell you that in order to take from one, you must be able to still help the other.

F.A.C.T. has now decided to take this matter into its own hands. We have seen too many good people lose more than their loved ones to a violent act, and now we want to see that they no longer suffer financial hardships during their grievous times.  We are prepared to fight to have the Criminal Injury Compensation Program (CICP) reinstated. There must be something in place for those who are left behind to be able to cope with their grief, and not have to worry about the financial strain the loss has placed on them. Victims/families did not ask to have their loved ones killed, nor should they have to suffer the great cost that accompanies it.

F.A.C.T. has also looked into the area of Civil suits, but unfortunately the limitation periods for bringing suit may expire before the victim has recovered enough emotionally to consider suing.  The other factors are financially many of us could not even begin to be able to afford the cost of retaining legal council. F.A.C.T. is currently working with a retired lawyer in hopes of finding civil options for crime victims.

We recently heard of a bill that was passed in Quebec in 2007. This is Bill 58, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards with regard to absences and leave. This Bill amends the Act respecting labour standards to introduce the right for an employee to be absent from work for up to 104 weeks if the employee or the employee’s minor child suffers a serious bodily injury following a criminal offence, or if the employee’s child or spouse dies as a result of such an offence. The bill also introduces the right for an employee to be absent from work for up to 52 weeks if the employee’s child or spouse commits suicide or if the employee’s minor child disappears.

Under this bill, these rules may also apply in other circumstances and the conditions and manner in which this right may be exercised are specified, including reinstatement of the employee in the employee’s former position at the end of the period of absence and the fact that these absences are without pay.

F.A.C.T. is currently working on some parts of the bill where we feel we would like to see the language changed to meet the needs of victims/families. We would like to see that the victims/families be paid for the time they are absent from work. It is wonderful to see that we can take this much needed time to grieve and heal, but to do so without pay is unacceptable. The Government must be reminded of this, and the only way we will see this change is if the majority votes to create a compensation program that will compensate victims/families their wage losses.

 We have brought this Bill to some of our Local MLA’s attention, and we are now working together to see that this Bill is implemented across Canada, for all victims/families of crime.  We realise the time and commitment that this will take, and we are willing to make those sacrifices to see this Bill come to fruition. All of us at F.A.C.T. see this as an opportunity to try and help others in hopes that they will never have to suffer the anguish many of us have had to endure.

Sandra Martins-Toner is the founder and executive Director of F.A.C.T. and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008