Following the murder of a loved one, daily life becomes overwhelming and confusing. Suddenly, you are thrust into a foreign world of having to deal with police, media, lawyers, courts, medical personnel, priests, funeral people, bureaucratic agencies, as well as having to deal with the unrelenting grief of having lost your loved one to the horrendous act of murder. A critical need becomes who to turn to for support.
Throughout Canada there are hundreds of organizations and agencies that provide support services for victims of crime including, federal, provincial and local government, police-based, court-based, community-based, non-governmental and charitable.The difficulty becomes who to turn to depending upon what services you need e.g. financial, emotional, medical, legal, information about the criminal judicial system, peer support etc.
To help survivors of homicide victims decide where to look first for support, I suggest contacting the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC).
Created in 2007, the OFOVC is an arm’s-length federal government office that works to help victims of crime and their families throughout Canada. The OFOVC responds directly to phone calls, emails and letters from victims of crime, and works to ensure the federal government meets its responsibilities to victims. In terms of support services for survivors of homicide victims and other victims of crime, the OFOVC helps victims in two ways:
- By helping victims every day, answering their questions and addressing complaints.
Victims can contact the Office directly through its toll-free victim-assistance line to speak with a bilingual Complaint Review Officer or by TTY, email, fax or regular mail.
- By conducting systemic reviews on important issues affecting victims of crime;
- By making recommendations to the federal government on how to change its laws;
- Or by recommending new policies to better support and assist victims of crime;
If you are a victim of crime, the OFOVC can:
- answer your questions about your rights as a victim;
- give you information about the services and programs available to you through the federal government;
- receive and review your complaints about federal government departments, agencies, laws or policies;
- refer you to programs and services in your city or province that may be able to help you; and
- make recommendations to the federal government on how to change its policies or laws to better suit the needs and concerns of victims, and to report on those recommendations publicly.
The OFOVC’s services are free of charge.
We do not advocate on behalf of individual victims or provide legal advice.
The OFOVC can review matters that occurred only after the Office was created in March 2007, or at the request of either the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
The OFOVC cannot address decisions related to provincial matters, such as compensation.
The OFOVC offers, as a component of its website, a very comprehensive listing of victim services offered in each province and territory.
Go to the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime for further information.
Other valuable resources, available to survivors of homicide victims, are offered by a number of national and regional/provincial non-governmental organizations including:
Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC)
Since 1993, CRCVC has been a leader in advocacy for victims and survivors of serious crime in Canada. CRCVC is a national, non-government agency located in Ottawa, Ontario and bilingual services are available. All services are free of charge and confidential.
Through its programs and services CRCVC demonstrates the importance of treating victims of crime with courtesy, compassion and with respect for their dignity and privacy. CRCVC offers assistance and advocacy regardless of whether the perpetrator of the crime has been identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted. The CRCVC believes victims must be empowered to regain control of their lives. CRCVC provides services to meet the diverse needs of all people regardless of race, colour, religion, place of origin, income level, marital status, family status, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
CRCVC assists victims and survivors by:
- Helping them obtain needed services and resources;
- Assisting them in their dealings with post-trial agencies such as Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada; financial benefits/compensation programs; provincial Review Boards etc.; and
- Offering long-term emotional support.
- Advocates for victims’ rights by presenting the interests and perspectives of victims of crime to Government, at all levels;
- Provides resource materials to crime victims and service providers in Canada, including a monthly newsletter; and
- Is working in partnership with Ontario’s Missing Adults by developing a national information website for families coping with a missing adult. The website serves as a clearinghouse for information, research and guide materials useful to families and professionals.
Go to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for further information.
The Compassionate Friends of Canada
The Compassionate Friends is an international, non-profit, non-denominational, self-help organization, offering friendship, understanding, grief education and HOPE for the future to all families who have experienced the death of a child at any age, from any cause.
The Compassionate Friends’ primary purpose is to aid in the positive reconciliation of grief and foster the physical and emotional health of parents and their surviving children.
The Compassionate Friends’ secondary purpose is to provide information and education about the grief of bereaved parents and their surviving children. The objective is to help those in their community, including family, friends, co-workers, employers and professionals to be supportive.
Go to The Compassionate Friends of Canada for further information.
Association of the Families of Persons Murdered or Disappeared (AFPAD)
Founded in 2004 by victims’ families for victims’ families, AFPAD is a Québec association that supports, accompanies, advises and defends the interests of families concerned by the cause.
The creation of AFPAD arose from the needs of victims’ families to meet, exchange information and support each other through their ordeal and to influence judicial changes to insure a better protection of the Québec population.
AFPAD is a non-profit organization whose main mission is to overcome the isolation to which victims’ families are subjected by developing links of solidarity between them and establishing bridges towards the necessary resources so they can access the information and tools necessary to reconstruct their lives.
AFPAD offers its members a range of services and constantly looks for new activities that could answer their information and communication needs.
Meeting with families following an incident:
- Helping face the Media;
- Contacting and assisting them after an incident;
- Explaining the judicial process to families;
- Explaining new legislation.
Accompanying and comforting families:
- Monthly Lunch and Learn activities in the majority of the Québec’s regions;
- Thematic meetings with families (Québec and Montréal);
- Help Line and professional references;
- Discussion Forum, Facebook.
- In Court at the beginning of a new stage of the judicial proceedings;
- Legal support with the institutions;
- Letter writing help with testimonials.
Accompaniment in judicial files:
- Unresolved murders;
- Criminal disappearances.
Go to the Association of the Families of Persons Murdered or Disappeared for further information.
The BC Victims of Homicide (BCVOH)
BCVOH is an initiative of the British Columbia Bereavement Helpline that aims to provide support and strength to the families and friends of individuals who have survived the loss of a loved one by homicide. BCVOH networks with various government and non-government organizations to offer support to relatives and friends of homicide victims in the form of safe, free peer-support groups. The BCVOH offers information and resources for caregivers helping victims of homicide.
BCVOH’s mission is:
To provide knowledge and tools to victims of crime in order to support their grief and help them navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system. To provide guidance on how to deal with frequent inquiries from the media and the public. To validate the needs and feelings of victims by offering concern, compassion and acknowledgement in the safety of our groups, which we believe to be a crucial step towards their recovery. By encouraging participation, we hope the intensity of their grief is alleviated. Along with this, we invite all victims to participate in programs to raise public awareness about this significant issue.
Go to the BC Victims of Homicide for further information.
The BC Bereavement Helpline (BCBH)
BCBH is the umbrella organization and is a leader in providing education, support and advocacy for the bereaved, their caregivers and professionals. The Helpline has assisted over 40,000 callers since its inception in 1986 and is a lifeline for callers in BC to receive immediate telephone information and referral support by connecting callers to over 300 not-for-profit groups in 82 communities.
Go to the BC Bereavement Helpline for further information.
Manitoba Organization For Victim Assistance Inc. (MOVA)
MOVA is a non-profit corporation and a registered charity which has been in existence since 2000. The organization consists of people who have experienced the loss of a loved one to murder and empathic people who have witnessed the effects on family and have a desire to help. As victims helping victims, MOVA endeavours to provide a support system through court support, phone support and group sharing sessions. MOVA also tries to make the public aware of the Victims’ Bill of Rights in Manitoba and the experience of family survivors of homicide as they travel through the court system and probation.
MOVA recognizes the long term financial and emotional costs for victims and society and continue to relay those needs through meaningful dialogue with the Justice Department.
Go to the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance for further information.
The Canadian Crime Victim Foundation (CCVF)
CCVF was founded by Joe and Lozanne Wamback after the near fatal violent assault on their 15 year old son Jonathan.
To promote and increase the knowledge of:
- the Canadian and the United Nations Statements and Principles of Justice for victims of crime;
- the impact of victimization and special needs of crime victims.
To provide educational support to:
- police, social services, medical services;
- the volunteer community at large, to proactively address the special needs of the victims in the development and delivery of victim services;
- participate in the development of programs and services for the assistance of crime victims both at the provincial and federal levels of government as well as assist and participate in government investigative committees;
- assist in providing equal educational opportunities to victims of violent crime.
Go to the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation for further information.
There are, also, a number of excellent federal government support programs for victims of crime.
Public Safety Canada’s National Office for Victims (NOV)
The NOV contributes to Public Safety Canada’s mission of building a safe and resilient Canada by acting as a central resource that:
- offers information and support on federal corrections issues;
- promotes awareness of services through the development and dissemination of information products to victims, victim service providers and the general public;
- operates a toll-free line that victims may call from anywhere in Canada or the United States;
- provides referrals to CSC and PBC for specific enquiries;
- ensures that a victim’s perspective is reflected in national policy development; and,
- leads stakeholder discussions and facilitates exchanges of information amongst federal/provincial/territorial government agencies, as well as municipal agencies and non-governmental victim-serving groups.
Go to Public Safety Canada’s National Office for Victims for further information.
The Department of Justice Canada’s Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI)
PVCI is the lead federal organization working for victims of crime within the federal government.
The six main functions of PCVI consist of:
- law reform and policy development;
- leadership among federal/provincial/territorial governments;
- providing public education to all Canadians and outreach to victim serving organizations;
- leading international activities that will benefit victims of crime;
- building knowledge within the criminal justice system on the issues that face victims of crime;
Providing financial assistance and project funding through the victims fund, including:
- project funding to support initiatives that address the impacts of victimization, raise awareness or enhance/develop victim services;
- financial assistance for registered victims and their support people to attend parole board hearings.
- financial assistance to Canadians who have been seriously victimized abroad (specified serious offences);
- funding for provinces and territories to implement victim-related legislation, provide services to victims and set up financial assistance programs within their jurisdictions;
- funding for the development or the expansion of Child Advocacy Centres; and,
- funding for the development of culturally relevant victim services for families of missing or murdered Aboriginal women.
The Fund is available to give victims a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. This funding is invaluable; especially, to victim service organizations throughout Canada.
Please note: The Policy Centre for Victim Issues does not provide criminal injuries compensation to victims of crime. This type of funding is administered at the provincial and territorial levels.
Go to The Policy Centre for Victims Issues for further information.
Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC)
CSC is responsible for exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control of offenders having received sentences for imprisonment of two years or more, while actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens.
Victim Service Units
- register victims, so they can receive information about offenders who harmed them;
- provide information to victims as outlined in section 26 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, including the offender’s name, sentence length and other information about the offender;
- notify registered victims when an offender who is eligible to apply for a Judicial Review does not do so within the allotted time frame; and,
- provide links to other services and resources.
Restorative Justice Division
- provides victim-offender mediation services to victims of crime through the Restorative Opportunities Program.
Go to Correctional Service Canada for further information concerning victim services.
Parole Board of Canada (PBC)
The PBC is an independent administrative tribunal that makes parole decisions.
Regional Communications Officers
- register victims, so they can receive information about offenders who harmed them;
- provide information to victims, such as the offender’s parole eligibility or hearing dates, as outlined in section 142 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act;
- answer victims’ questions about the parole decision-making process;
- send registered victims copies of Board release decisions, if requested;
- attend parole hearings with victims; and,
- connect victims to other services and resources.
PBC and CSC co-host Regional Victim Advisory Committee meetings aimed at giving victims an opportunity to discuss relevant issues.
Go to the Parole Board of Canada for further information concerning victim services.
That brings to a conclusion my insight into the Impact of Murder on the Family Unit. I trust you have a better understanding of what a life-changing event murder has on a family. I hope what you have learned will have a positive influence on how you deal with survivors of homicide victims in the future. Their needs are many and complex. They are experiencing one of the worst tragedies a human being could ever imagine. Please be considerate. How you deal with a survivor of a homicide victim will undoubtedly have a major impact on the rest of their lives and perhaps yours as well.
Be the change you wish to see in the world