Thu, December 23, 2004

Victims could get travel aid


THE FEDERAL government is crafting a program to help needy victims get to parole hearings. In a year-end interview, Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan told Sun Media she's committed to assisting victims' travel to hearings, often held in far-flung locations that make it financially tough to attend. She said the cost barrier is one of the "ongoing irritations" with Canadians who have been victimized by serious crimes like murder or sexual assault.

"One of the things I'd like to do is rectify that, and at least be able to provide some funding to those who would like to go to parole board hearings in circumstances where presently that's not possible," McLellan said.

A department official said details must still be worked out on eligibility criteria and fund limits.

But Deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay, a former Nova Scotia Crown prosecutor, said he will press McLellan to put her words into action in the coming budget.

Ottawa defence lawyer Heather Perkins-McVey worried that facilitating victims' attendance could turn a fact-based procedure into an emotionally charged event.