Crime Victim Assistance Program (4:III)

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The Crime Victim Assistance Act [CVAA] is the primary piece of legislation that governs the Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP).

Although the CVAA and the Criminal Injury Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c 85 [CICA] are both in force, it is expected that the CICA will ultimately be repealed. The transitional provisions of the CVAA allow previously adjudicated claims under the old Act to be transferred to the new Act for ongoing administration and for any further reviews.

It is important to remember that, unlike under the old Act, a person cannot be awarded damages for pain, suffering, mental trauma, etc. under the CVAA – although a person can be awarded a variety of benefits, such as counselling, medical expenses, and other services or expenses. The CVAP replaces the Criminal Injury Compensation Program. The Victim Services and Crime Prevention Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General administers this program.

The CVAP has been developed in response to the changing needs of victims and others impacted by violent crime. Benefits are available to victims of crime, their immediate family members, and those who meet the legislation’s definition of “witness”. One should note that the Program is not based on a compensation model, but rather is based on a financial assistance model. This provides eligible claimants with financial support as well as additional services and assistance to aid in their recovery from the physical and psychological effects of their victimization, and to offset the costs of the victimization.

Under the CVAA, a victim can still:

  • initiate civil proceedings on their own
  • make a claim under the Act

If a victim wishes to initiate civil proceedings after making an application under the CVAA, the CVAP Director must receive a copy of the notice of civil claim within 10 days of service on the defendant (CVAA, s 15(1)). After paying fees and disbursements, any money awarded to the victim in the civil proceedings must go toward paying back the money they received under the CVAA.

The fact that an accused has not been criminally charged or has been acquitted of criminal charges is not a bar to commencing civil proceedings as the legal issues and the standard of proof are different. The difficulty with recovering anything directly from the accused is that there is seldom anything to be collected.

Moreover, the procedure for making an application for assistance under the CVAA is less complicated than initiating a civil action.

1. The CVAA Does Not Apply to All Offences

The CVAA applies to offences involving violence, as opposed to property-related offences. The list of offences for which the CVAA applies is set out in the Schedule of Offences that can be found in Schedule 1 of the Crime Victim Assistance (General) Regulations. The CVAA does not apply where the injury or death of the victim occurred:

  • in relation to an offence that occurred on or before July 1, 1972 (this is when the CICA came into effect);
  • as the result of a motor vehicle offence, other than an assault using the motor vehicle;
  • out of, and in the course of their employment; for which compensation is payable through workers' compensation; or
  • outside of British Columbia. For resources for those outside of British Columbia, please refer to the resources listed on page 4-12.

The CVAA does not apply when the applicant is a party to the prescribed offence.

2. Who is Eligible and What They May Receive

3. Application for Benefits

The application forms are available from the CVAP (contact information is at the beginning of the chapter under Resources) or from any police department, victim service program, and many community agencies. They are also available on the Victim Services page of the Ministry of Justice website.

The CVAP staff will then obtain a police report of the incident (if the matter was reported to the police) and other supporting documents. When describing what happened on the application form, an applicant should give a general but clear statement of the event, and then make reference to the police report for additional details. They should include on the application:

  • the date the report was made to the police as well as the police report number if a police report has been made (although a police report is highly advisable it is not mandatory)
  • if a police report was not made, information should be provided as to why the incident was not reported and if possible, names of any witnesses, persons to whom a disclosure was made or to whom the incident was reported should be provided
  • information about what occurred
  • information about any physical or psychological injuries they may have received
  • names of any doctors, counsellors, or anyone else that has been seen as a result of the injuries
  • original receipts for expenses incurred as a result of the injuries. If the applicant has access to funding from other sources in relation to these expenses (e.g. extended health coverage, personal disability insurance, etc.) the original receipts should be sent to this funding source first and then CVAP will consider paying any remaining outstanding balance.

Minors can submit an application on their own and do not require a parent or guardian to apply on their behalf. However, applications for minors may also be submitted by their parent or guardian. A parent or guardian is not required because some parents or guardians may be supportive of the offender or feel that there is a stigma associated with the victimization. In addition, some children do not want to have their parents know of the offence. In cases where the offender is the victim’s parent, the Ministry of Children and Family Development may take custody of the victim. In this case, a representative of the Ministry can make an application on behalf of the child.

Depending on the case, the applicant may be interviewed by the adjudicator. In rare circumstances, the applicant may be examined by the Program’s consulting medical practitioner if there are questions about the long-term nature of the physical injuries sustained.

The Program will gather additional supporting information from a variety of sources such as medical, hospital, dental, employer reports, and information from CPP, Ministry of Social Development, or other sources relevant to the particular claim.

The decision regarding eligibility and entitlement to benefits involves a two-step process in which the adjudicator first determines whether the person is an eligible applicant and then determines what benefits, if any, will be provided. The decision will be made in writing and will set out the factors considered in making the determination.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 7, 2020.
© Copyright 2023, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.