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A Report to British Columbians from
Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh

September 1998

Contents:


Initiatives & Accomplishments:

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Taking tough action to reduce serious crime and protect the community

The Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh says:

"British Columbians want violent and repeat offenders in jail, some of them for life. That's why I've been lobbying the federal government to make changes so we can better track people convicted of serious crimes - including young offenders. It is one step we are taking to make our communities safer for everyone." 

"Advances in crime fighting technology; such as DNA testing, have significantly improved the justice system's ability to bring dangerous individuals to justice sooner."
 
 

"Ottawa is considering my proposal to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16. This means we can more easily apprehend the johns and pimps who exploit children."

"The percentage of unsolved homicides in British Columbia has historically been higher than the national average. Now, because of the new unsolved homicide unit, the passage of time will no longer protect those who think they've gotten away with their crimes."
 
 

"Too often, the misuse of firearms causes tragic accidents and deaths. We must reduce the number of guns in the community and keep them out of high-risk situations."

  • B.C. is a leader in making use of the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code so high-risk violent criminals can be imprisoned, indefinitely, if necessary.
  • We set up the B.C. auto theft task force - 12 police specialists who will work with police detachments in the Lower Mainland to help catch and punish offenders. This pilot project may be extended to other areas of the province in the future.
  • The Hate Crime Team, formed in April 1997, has received 336 reports of crimes motivated by hate, racism or bias from across B.C. Local police confirmed and investigated 231 of these reported incidents.
  • The B.C. Hate Crime toll-free victim information line was established in April 1997. It offers a confidential and anonymous way for victims and witnesses to report incidents of hate activity.
  • We provided $300,000 to buy a state-of-the art gene sequencer for the province's DNA lab. This will reduce the time required to carry out DNA analysis to five days from six weeks.
  • We provided $500,000 to launch Canada's first forensic dental lab at UBC. This lab uses the latest in dental forensics to assist police in solving serious crimes.
  • A joint forces homicide unit to investigate unsolved murders in B.C. was created in October 1996, and has already helped lay charges in 20 cases. The 20 senior police officers in the unit have access to all advanced police investigation techniques including DNA testing and a forensic dental lab. ($1.2 million start-up funds were provided)
  • The Provincial Prostitution Unit is recognized as a model across Canada and the United States in supporting the police and community to deal with prostitution and the sexual exploitation of youth. Since its creation in 1996, it has been involved in 43 arrests and charges against johns who sexually exploit youth. This compares with eight charges laid between 1988 and 1996.
  • We provided $60,000 in grants to 12 community action teams on prostitution to help them address youth sexual exploitation and local prostitution issues.
  • We have had highly successful weapons amnesties in 1997 and 1998. During the six-week amnesty this year, 2,203 firearms and 82,823 rounds of ammunition were turned in. Last year's amnesty yielded 1,732 firearms and 67,339 rounds of ammunition.
  • B.C.'s 1998 Drinking-Driving CounterAttack program is the longest and most comprehensive police roadcheck campaign in Canada with 120,000 hours of police enforcement.
  • We are Canada's leader in using camera enforcement technology for road safety. Our provincewide photo radar program, in place for two years, is reducing speeds at high crash/high speed locations.
  • In 1997, 29 fewer people were killed on our roads and 1,500 fewer people injured as compared with 1996, thanks to our wide-ranging road safety activities.

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Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh continues to be a strong voice urging the federal government to take action to protect Canadians by:

 "Changes in the federal laws are needed so that all Canadians feel welcome and safe, regardless of their ethnic origin."
  •  Setting up a national registry of high-risk, violent and sex offenders - especially pedophiles - to give justice system staff and the public accurate and timely information.
  • Improving the proposed federal DNA legislation so police can take DNA samples without a warrant from those accused of major crimes at the time charges are laid.
  • Facilitating transfer of more cases involving young violent offenders to adult court.
  • Removing technical barriers so statements young people make to persons in authority are more readily admissible in court.
  • The Attorney General has asked the federal government to protect more groups with hate crime provisions, to make distributing hate propaganda a crime, to establish a national definition of hate literature and to look for ways to prevent the use of the internet as a medium for hate crime and child pornography.
  • B.C. encouraged the federal government to toughen the Criminal Code so police and prosecutors can use electronic surveillance to crack down on johns who sexually exploit youth. In addition, youth testifying against adults who have exploited them can be protected now through the use of screens in court or videotaped evidence.


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Stopping violence against women and children

 "Violence against women in relationships is one of the most serious problems confronting society. It is not 
a domestic or personal problem. It is a crime. It cannot be tolerated for any reason."

 
 

"Children are the future of this province. We must deliver programs and services that help ensure they grow up in a safe and nurturing environment, and we must take action when we suspect or discover that they are being neglected or abused."

  • Our protection order registry, a central database of court orders, has been strengthened to ensure police have immediate and accurate information that can help protect women from violence.
  • People with protection orders can now call toll-free, seven days a week, 24 hours a day to confirm that their order has been registered. They can also ask to be notified when a sentenced offender named in an order will be released from a provincial or federal jail in B.C., or will be released into B.C. under supervision from a federal jail outside the province.
  • The protection order registry and police databases must be checked every time a firearm authorization, permit, licence or certificate is requested.
  • The Attorney General launched an innovative partnership with private corporations to give women at high risk of relationship violence cell phones preprogrammed to dial 911. The project was piloted in Vancouver and further expansion is being considered.
  • We were the first jurisdiction in Canada to require that every person working with children in a provincially funded or provincially licensed facility have a criminal record check.
  • We established the Children's Commission, an independent agency committed to protecting the rights of children. It has the authority to investigate the death of any child in B.C. and also oversees the child and family serving system of government to promote fairness, accessibility and responsiveness to the needs of children under the 
    age of 19.


 
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Serving the needs of victims

 "Victims of crime have a right to be informed about the status of their case and to be involved in the delivery of justice. That's why B.C. has the most extensive network of victim service programs in Canada, and the most comprehensive victim rights legislation. By providing assistance to people when they most need it, these programs can help heal and empower victims and their families."
  • We have expanded the province's network of victim services programs. There now are more than 150 programs across B.C., in addition to the province-wide toll-free Victim Assistance Line.
  • The 15-per-cent victim surcharge on fines for all provincial offences has provided more than $3 million in additional funding for more than 100 existing and eight new programs.
  • Training for and implementation of the Victims of Crime Act continues, giving victims specific rights to information and involvement throughout the justice process.
  • B.C.'s Parole Board has set up a process to allow victims to make 
    impact statements in person, and the Attorney General has urged the federal government to do the same.

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Restorative justice for low-risk offenders

 "It's just not enough for an offender to go to court and be given a few months' probation or a fine for a minor crime. It's much harder for that person to face their victims, accept responsibility for their actions and make amends to those they've harmed. In many ways, it's swifter justice and it's tougher justice."
  • Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm caused by a criminal act and on involving the victim and the community affected. It is being implemented in a wide variety of programs, strategies and processes throughout the criminal justice system.
  • Community accountability programs (such as family group conferences and circle remedies) and alternative measures programs are based on restorative justice principles. These programs help the justice system deal more effectively with low-risk offenders and allow the traditional court system to focus its resources on high-risk offenders.
  • British Columbia is giving more emphasis to restorative justice because we believe it is an effective way to heal our communities today and to prevent crime in the future.
    • Agreements reached through community accountability and alternative measures programs may require that the offender:
      complete a specified number of hours of community service
    • receive counselling, or drug or alcohol treatment 
    • apologize and restore property to the victim.
  • To help communities set up local community accountability programs, we have provided a $1-million grant fund, a full-time provincial co-ordinator, a team of experienced advisors and a detailed information kit. To date, 13 communities have received funding. 

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Early intervention and prevention

"Police, teachers and community agencies have told me that positive, early intervention is the best crime prevention. B.C. continues to lead the country in innovative child and youth programs providing positive alternatives to crime and opportunities to develop conflict resolution and life skills."
  • B.C. was first in Canada to set up a province-wide toll-free youth violence and crime prevention line. The Youth Against Violence line (1-800-680-4264) gives young people a safe, confidential way to get information and to report and prevent crimes. The line has received more than 24,000 calls since it was established in 1993.
  • We established Youth Action Teams in more than 70 communities in B.C. More than 700 youth are involved in peer mentoring, positive role modeling, conflict resolution, problem solving and community leadership.
  • We funded the highly successful Nights Alive program in 49 communities across the province. This community-based program promotes positive social and recreational activities as an alternative to crime. Youth learn new skills by working with police and community partners to start up their own late-night recreational activities.
  • The British Columbia Youth Police Network has linked 150 specially trained officers with youth, schools and parents to develop youth violence prevention strategies in more than 135 urban and rural communities.
  • The All Together Now! program helps youth in elementary schools develop crime prevention skills. The 'My Hero Passport' project, which encourages young people to develop positive role models, is the latest addition to this popular program.
  • Youth drama groups such as 841-KOZ, TC02 and TROO are busier than ever travelling the province discussing strategies to deal with youth crime, sexual exploitation, racism and hate crimes. In the past year, the groups gave 3,650 workshops reaching more than 282,000 youth and community members.
  • Schools, youth groups and police throughout B.C. are using tools and resources such as the TROO (Total Respect of Others) Action Packs and Taking A Stand: Youth Crime and Violence Prevention Tool Kits to help communities promote diversity and respect for others.
  • The provincial Safe School Centre - the first of its kind in Canada - opened in December 1997 to provide information, resource materials and examples of best practices and strategies to address a range of safe school and community issues.
  • We are providing $500,000 as well as resources and advice for 
    community crime prevention projects including storefront police offices.

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Timely, affordable resolution of civil and family disputes

 "We have been working to encourage alternatives to traditional court processes which can be more effective, efficient and affordable to all participants."
  • We have introduced provincial child support guidelines to ensure fairer, more consistent support awards and to make it easier for parents to avoid costly litigation.
  • Our Parenting After Separation program, now in more than 50 communities, helps separating couples explore options to minimize the impact of separation and divorce on children. Plans are under way to offer the program in Punjabi and Cantonese.
  • We are implementing new enforcement measures for child support such as garnisheeing defaulters, pensions and company assets or charging an annual default fee. These are faster, more effective and less costly to the province than going to court.
  • The Dispute Resolution Office, which promotes new ways of resolving civil disputes, is establishing a roster of mediators who meet standard criteria for education and experience, and is developing a plain language guide to mediation.
  • We are encouraging alternatives to court with pilot projects that offer free mediation services at some B.C. courthouses and that test mandatory mediation for all construction disputes.
  • A Notice to Mediate process allows those involved in motor vehicle collision cases to compel the other parties to attempt a mediated settlement.
  • The use of cameras and monitors in Provincial and B.C. Supreme Courts allow lawyers, witnesses and litigants to participate in civil court proceedings from locations hundreds of miles away. 


 
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Protecting the interests of consumers

 "We are committed to protecting the rights of all British Columbians, and to ensuring that those who make their living by preying on some of our most vulnerable citizens are brought to justice."
  • We have introduced stronger legislation so consumers have better protection from deceptive and unconscionable business practices and wrongdoers face heavier penalties.
  • The Attorney General has introduced changes to the Trade Practice Act which double fines from $5,000 to $10,000 for business operators who deceive or mislead consumers-with higher fines for repeat offenders.
  • B.C. has taken the lead in working with other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions to shut down fraudulent businesses on both sides of the border, particularly those using telemarketing.
  • New protection for debtors gives them a better chance to re-establish themselves so they can begin to contribute again to their community. 

Updated: April 12, 2000

 
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