How to Make a Complaint to the Department of Justice Canada

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) defines a victim as an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, economic loss or property damage as a result of a crime committed in Canada. All victims may exercise their rights under the CVBR while they are in Canada. Canadian citizens or permanent residents may exercise these rights even if they are outside of Canada, as long as the crime took place in Canada.

A victim may file a complaint if they are of the opinion that their rights under the CVBR have been infringed or denied (i.e. not respected) by a federal agency or department during their interaction with the Canadian criminal justice system. For example, a victim may be of the opinion that their right to information was not respected because the information they requested from a federal office was not provided and may decide to file a complaint through that federal office’s complaint process.

The criminal justice system refers to the particular processes involved in the investigation and prosecution of offences in Canada, the corrections and conditional release process in Canada, and the proceedings of Canadian courts and Review Boards in respect of accused who are found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial.

The Department of Justice CVBR Complaints Policy

The Department of Justice CVBR Complaints Policy applies only to an alleged infringement or denial of rights provided under the CVBR by the Department of Justice Canada. The Department of Justice Canada is responsible for the following types of CVBR complaints:

  • Complaints concerning general information requested by the complainant about the criminal justice system, which relates to the right to information; and
  • Complaints concerning victim access to the Parole Board Fund to attend parole board hearings, which relates to the right to participation.

If your complaint does not relate to one of the above, it may not be related to the Department of Justice CVBR Complaints Policy.

Where the complaint relates to another federal department's CVBR complaint mechanism, it may be forwarded to that department if the complainant has indicated their consent to share on the complaint form.

The following are not accepted as complaints under the policy:

  • unsigned documents submitted as complaints;
  • access to information and privacy requests;
  • concerns expressed over the content or progress of legislation;
  • concerns expressed over judicial proceedings;
  • concerns expressed in respect of the justice system that do not fall under the mandate of the Department of Justice, including concerns related to policing or to the investigation or prosecution of a crime;
  • internal grievances from Justice employees, agents, or former staff members;
  • vexatious, frivolous or abusive submissions;
  • complaints filed by a person who does not have standing to file a complaint as the person:
    • does not meet the definition of victim in the CVBR; or
    • their circumstances do not meet the basic criteria of the CVBR;
  • complaints filed outside the ninety (90) days of the events giving rise to the complaint;
  • complaints regarding the Department of Justice Canadians Victimized Abroad program (with the exception of the rare case where investigations are conducted or charges are laid in Canada for the offence committed outside Canada); or
  • complaints regarding a crime committed outside Canada, which have no link to the Canadian criminal justice system.

Please note: Complaints must be made within ninety (90) days of the events giving rise to the complaint.

Step 1: Complaint Form

You will need to complete a complaint form to demonstrate that your complaint meets the basic criteria of the CVBR.

You will be asked to provide the following information in the form:

  • Your name;
  • Your contact information;
  • Start and end date of the alleged events;
  • Information demonstrating why you think you meet the definition of victim and the basic criteria of the CVBR; and
  • Details of the complaint, including all relevant information concerning the complaint or allegations.

A written response will be sent to you within three (3) business days to acknowledge receipt of the completed complaint form.

Please note: Complaints will not be accepted if they are delivered in-person to the Department of Justice Canada for security reasons.

Complaint Form

Step 2: Determining If the Complaint Meets the Basic Criteria of the CVBR

If the complaint does not meet the basic criteria of the CVBR, a written response will be sent to you within three (3) business days of the receipt of the completed complaint form to inform you that your complaint does not meet the criteria to be treated as a formal CVBR complaint.

If your complaint meets the basic criteria of the CVBR, a written response will be sent to you within three (3) business days of the receipt of the completed complaint form to inform you that your complaint meets the criteria to be treated as a formal CVBR complaint.

Step 3: Complaint Review Process

If your complaint meets the criteria to be treated as a formal CVBR complaint, it will enter the following complaint review process:

  • A copy of your complaint will be provided by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI) to the responsible Director General (DG) or equivalent of the section within the Department of Justice Canada.
  • The DG will investigate the complaint, including informing the implicated employee, if required, and will decide whether or not your rights under the CVBR were infringed or denied (i.e. not respected) and if a remedy is warranted.
  • If it is found that your rights were infringed or denied, the DG will determine the appropriate remedy.
  • The DG will inform the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister (SADM) Policy Sector of the results of the investigation.
  • The SADM Policy Sector will review the response, including any recommendations made to address a breach or infringement, and provide a written response to you. A copy of the response will be provided to PCVI.
  • Where possible, you will be provided with a written response from the SADM Policy Sector within twenty (20) business days of receiving your initial complaint, if no extensions are required.

The Department of Justice Canada may contact you to obtain further details of the events giving rise to the complaint, if necessary.

Remedies

Remedies may include, but are not limited to:

  • Letter of apology without prejudice;
  • Correction of public/website document;
  • Changes to existing practices and departmental policies based on systemic issues identified in the review process; and
  • Developing new procedures based on systemic issues identified in the review process of CVBR complaints.

Withdrawal of complaint

At any time, you can withdraw your complaint by giving written notice to the PCVI.

Step 4: Requesting Additional Review

If you are not satisfied with the response of the SADM Policy Sector, you may request that the complaint be reviewed by the Deputy Minister of Justice (DM).

  • Your request must be made within thirty (30) business days of the date of the written response of the SADM Policy Sector.
  • Where possible, you will be provided with a written response within twenty (20) business days of the DM receiving your request for review, if no extensions are required.
  • A copy of the DM response will be provided to the responsible DG, to the SADM Policy Sector and to the PCVI.
  • If you are not satisfied with the response of the DM, you may wish to contact the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to express your concerns.

The Ombudsman may be able to make recommendations to the Department about your complaint or the complaint process, provide you with information, or refer you to victim services.

Extension of time for investigation

The Department of Justice Canada may extend the time by additional periods of five (5) business days as necessary for the DG or equivalent, the SADM Policy Sector or the DM to complete the investigation. The reasons for extending the response time may include, but are not limited to:

  • the complexity of the investigation;
  • additional time is required to complete the investigation; or
  • additional time is required for the responsible DG or equivalent, the SADM Policy Sector or the DM to consult.

A written notice will be sent to you stating the reason for this extension. These extensions will only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Privacy

The Department of Justice Canada will protect the privacy of all complainants and employees named in a complaint in accordance with the Privacy Act. For more information, please see http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/terms-avis/index.html.

Contact Us

Mailing Address
Department of Justice Canada
Policy Centre for Victim Issues
284 Wellington Street,
Ottawa, Canada
K1A 0H8
Email Address
VictimsRights@justice.gc.ca
Droitsdesvictimes@justice.gc.ca
Fax number
613-952-1110
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