Millions unspent in federal fund for parents of murdered or missing children

Millions of dollars in federal cash earmarked for the parents of missing or murdered children have gone unspent -- a clear sign that the program is in need of repair, says the federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

OTTAWA — Millions of dollars in federal cash earmarked for the parents of missing or murdered children have gone unspent — a clear sign that the program is in need of repair, says the federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

Federal documents show just $166,320 has actually gone to families in each of the last two fiscal years — less than one per cent of the $20 million budgeted for the program over that time.

Sue O’Sullivan, the victims of crime ombudsman, plans to review the program to find out why money isn’t going to families who could use the financial help after dealing with a tragedy.

The money is delivered through the employment insurance system and can be taken by either parent, or shared by both.

“Canadians pay into this program and it’s to be there for you when you cannot work and certainly victimization is one of the reasons and circumstances that you may not be able to work,” O’Sullivan said Wednesday.

The three-year-old program, set up by the previous Conservative government, provides $350 a week, before tax, for up to 35 weeks to parents of children under the age of 18 who have been killed or have gone missing as a result of a criminal act.

The government has estimated that it needs to budget $10 million annually for the program.

Briefing material provided to Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos suggests officials overestimated the number of families that would need the program, with application numbers being “significantly lower than originally forecasted.”

The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show officials are reviewing how much they budget for the program.

“As a parent, I can’t imagine the pain families and loved ones must go through when they lose a child to violent crime,” Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said in a statement.

“There is always more to do to support victims of crime, and I will continue to work with my cabinet colleagues to provide that support.”

Victims groups say there are a number of reasons for the lack of uptake: the scope of the program is too narrow, excluding families with children over 18 who are murdered, for instance. O’Sullivan pointed to crime statistics that show few children under age 18 are murdered annually.

Homicide figures from Statistics Canada show that between 2010 and 2014, an average of 51 children were victims of homicide each year — about nine per cent of all homicides in Canada during that time. The highest rates were for people aged 18 to 24, followed by those aged 25 to 34.

The government also limits payments under the program to within one year of the incident.

Heidi Illingworth, executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, said eligible families should be able to receive payments over two years and break up the payment schedule if necessary.

“For example, take a year immediately, perhaps, and then take more time when the trial comes,” Illingworth said. “Sometimes the trial can be (three to five) years after the homicide.”

There is also a general lack of awareness about the program, said Joseph Wamback, founder of the Canadian Crime Victims Foundation.

“We need to make every victims agency service in Canada aware of it,” Wamback said.

“How long would that take? Twenty minutes? Through an email blast?”

Just Posted

Alberta’s biathlon women sweep the podium

Alberta biathletes take four medals, including silver in men’s race, on Sunday

Red Deer songwriter draws on winter, childhood to write Games closing ceremonies song

Kayla Williams is excited to perform ‘Something Right’ March 2 at the Centrium.

House in Calgary destroyed in fire following apparent explosion, officials say

CALGARY — A house was destroyed when a fire broke out following… Continue reading

Historic win for Team Nunavut at Canada Winter Games

Four years in the making boiled down to a collection of firsts… Continue reading

Historic win for Team Nunavut at Canada Winter Games

Four years in the making boiled down to a collection of firsts… Continue reading

Chicago police: Jussie Smollett assault case has ‘shifted’

Chicago police said Saturday the investigation into the assault reported by Jussie… Continue reading

Still-active human rights case speaks to lasting homophobia in Canada: activists

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Just over 14 years ago, the government of… Continue reading

Alberta missionaries among the Canadians heading home from riot-stricken Haiti

MONTREAL — A Canadian couple who had to leave Haiti due to… Continue reading

Man charged in daughter’s death in hospital with self-inflicted gunshot wound: police

Police say a man charged with first-degree murder in the death of… Continue reading

Cabinet expected to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

OTTAWA — Canada’s energy regulator will tell the federal government this week… Continue reading

South African activists try to protect endangered pangolins

JOHANNESBURG — As World Pangolin Day is marked around the globe, Saturday,… Continue reading

Fourteen ‘dream’ homes ordered evacuated as sinkholes open in Sechelt, B.C.

Greg and Gerry Latham spent Friday morning scrambling to pack up family… Continue reading

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual assault: British newspaper

LONDON — A British newspaper says police in London are investigating an… Continue reading

Most Read