Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board... Callous Bureaucrats made the pain worse - victims

"They were cold and callous. They showed no understanding or empathy," Devine said of the people she dealt with last summer when she asked for emergency cash to bury her 33-year-old daughter, Deborah, who had been strangled and set on fire.
"You're already going through the seven stages of hell and all they were doing was adding to it, instead of trying to help."
Devine is legally blind; she and her husband, Tom, live off his pension in Rodney, Ont. The $4,500 funeral expenses wiped out their savings so completely they couldn't buy groceries.
She explained this to 12 different people over the course of the 10 weeks she was forced to fill out form after form before the board agreed to pay.
The Devines are still in debt because of the delay.
"I was really disgusted with them," she said.

So was Almeida, a London truck driver, who lost his job and couldn't support his 9-year-old son after his daughter, Naiomi, was murdered in 2001.
At his compensation hearing, he said he was asked: "How are you a victim?"

"What kind of a question is that? My 5-year-old was just raped and murdered, and yet, (they asked) how am I victim and was I injured in anyway. And then they turned around and said if my daughter would have survived we would have been granted more money."

These were the few of the stories the Province Ombudsman heard during the course of his Investigations of Complaints against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, an independent body mandated to provide financial compensation to Victims of violent crimes.

In a report released yesterday, Ontario's Ombudsman, André Marin, paints a picture of a "rule-obsessed, paper-shuffling" vindictive bureaucracy.

Ontario crime victims wait, on average, three years for compensation, while victims in most other provinces wait only a couple months.

The avalanche of required forms "that would give a tax lawyer pause" is part of Ontario's system that purposefully delays processing claims to cope with chronic under-funding, Marin said.

"(The board) is operating a $40 million operation on a $20 million budget and it's found ways as part of its coping mechanism... to delay, deny and obfuscate," Marin said.

Attorney General Michael Bryant vowed yesterday to take immediate action on Marin's 17 recommendations, including increasing the board's budget while the province does a complete overhaul of the system.

The Attorney General already has knowledge of the problem of his ministry as he was already informed by his staff of the Board Practices of Delaying Financial Claims, Insensitive Staffs and lack of Government funding.

"For many, their encounter with this government agency has only added to the trauma they have suffered at the hands of a criminal," Marin said.
Marin's recommendations for change include increasing the board's budget so it can pay compensation claims more quickly and ensure staff treat victims with "a more human touch."

"The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has been for the last decade the government's dirty little secret," Marin said.

"Neither this government, nor any of its predecessors, can plead ignorance," added the Ombudsman.


Note: André Marin was formerly head of Provincial Special Investigation Unit. An independent body investigating injuries or fatalities arising from Police Officers action. And also former Military Ombudsman..