Criminal Injuries Compensation: Social Security Provincial Programs, 1983


123 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-660-51861-9




Reviewed by Peter J. McCormick

Peter J. McCormick was Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta.


At one time, there was little distinction between criminal and civil procedures, both being concerned with identifying both wrong-doer and wrong-sufferer and arriving at adequate compensation. The birth of the criminal justice system as it operates within the Anglo-American systems is precisely the focus of the proceedings away from the wrong suffered by a specific victim and toward an assessment of the culpability of the alleged perpetrator, the wrong now being alleged against society itself with the specific individual victim becoming little more than a bystander. From such a perspective, it is intriguing that in a variety of ways the wheel is once again coming full circle, one example of this tendency being the suggestion that the victims should have some input into the sentencing process.

A second such example is the notion that death or injury resulting from a criminal act should be addressed, not simply by the trial and punishment of the wrong-doer, but also by some degree of financial compensation, this coming not directly from the wrong-doer (although lawsuits for such damages have always been and remain a possibility) but rather from the society that has interposed itself into the process. This slender bilingual statistical and descriptive compendium demonstrates the real but limited extent to which this notion has been translated into practice in Canada.

The first provincial legislation providing compensation for victims of crime was proclaimed in 1967 (predictably enough in the province of Saskatchewan), and as of 1982 every provincial and territorial jurisdiction in Canada except that of Prince Edward Island had established such a program. Federal government involvement began in 1973, with the creation of a cost-sharing program in which all active jurisdictions are now participating.

However, as this publication quickly makes clear, this in no way implies any great degree of uniformity in the nature, extent, or operation of criminal compensation programs in Canada. The national average of $0.60 per capita, for instance, obscures the fact that only more generous funding in British Columbia and (especially) Quebec pulls the figure up. Equally intriguing is the variety of ways in which the programs are administered, some by the relevant Department of Justice, some by specially created Criminal Compensation Boards, and some by the Workers Compensation Boards of the appropriate jurisdiction.

The book is both fascinating and frustrating. It is fascinating for the wealth of information and the detailed statistics that are provided for criminal compensation programs, ranging from number of applicants per year in each jurisdiction to statistical profiles of recipients. But it is frustrating in that the information is not deployed to support an argument or reach a conclusion. Of necessity, a work such as this is less a finished product than a mass of raw material, and in this capacity it is both informative and intriguing.



“Criminal Injuries Compensation: Social Security Provincial Programs, 1983,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,