A private member’s bill to “prevent the unjust enrichment through proceeds of crime” passed second reading in the Ontario legislature Oct. 21. Sponsored by Cam Jackson, Conservative MPP for Burlington South, it is the first of its kind in Canada.

Jackson is concerned that criminals, while paying their “debt to society,” can be making millions granting interview rights and making book, tv, movie contracts.

Bill 85 would require “that money that would be payable to an accused, convicted or admitted criminal or a member or former member of that person’s family for the sale of his or her recollections or for interviews or public appearances instead be paid to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. The board is required to use the funds to satisfy any judgments obtained by victims of the crime.”

Jackson said his bill “is not about censorship. There will be no infringement on freedom of expression. Criminals can express themselves, they just can’t profit from it.”

There is fear that the bill, even if I becomes law, could be challenged by Charter lawyers but Jackson urged the house to pass it now so that community concern for victims would be expressed in legislation. Then the Supreme Court might defer to the will of the legislature if there was a court challenge.

Some victims’ families feel that allowing criminals to profit from their crimes promotes crime. “The fact that people want to profit from someone else’s tragedy is disgusting. But the fact that the criminals themselves can profit from crime is an outrage…it promotes crime.” write the parents of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in a joint letter.

Mrs. Donna French said, “When criminals have the right to profit, this gives them a bonus. Warped minds take this into consideration. What kind of message does this send out to criminals?”

“A person capable of committing a vicious crime is not normal. It [profit] is a motivation for the crime,” said Laura Sousa whose 13 year old daughter, Leah, was murdered. “The criminal says to himself , ‘I can do this. I can make this even uglier, uglier than the previous killer.’”

Mrs. Sousa is a single parent supporting a young son. Because of the trauma her health is poor and she is unable to work. She lost not only her daughter but also her home. She received only $18,000 from the Compensation Board.

Profits seized by the Attorney General would be used to cover victims’ funeral costs. Cam Jackson said, “A lot of the support we think is there, isn’t. the victims are networking and supporting each other,” to pay for family counselling and to cover wages lost due to grief and court appearances.

“All the programmes, funding and services are focused on the defendant. There is little offered to the victim and it is haphazard and underfunded. Priscilla de Villers told the assembly last August at the bill’s first reading. Debbie Mahaffy has not received a cent yet, not even for funeral costs for her slain daughter, Leslie.

Attorney General Marion Boyd said in recent committee hearings that her government could not support a Victim’s Bill of Rights because of underfunding. Wendy Calder, Chair of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board said there is a backlog of 6,000 victim applications before the board.

Scott Newark, President of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime is working closely with Cam Jackson to develop a federal bill. Jackson himself has been working for victims’ rights for over a decade. Only Ontario and Alberta have no provincial Victims’ Rights Bills.

In the United States, the Crime victims fund established in 1984, takes money from the profits made by criminals for the sale of movie rights and book rights. It generated $185 million dollars by 1989—solely from the criminals themselves. By comparison, in 1991 $12 million dollars was given out by the Ontario Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, but less than $50,000 was from criminals, most of it was taxpayer driven.

Bill 85is tied to sentencing. Criminals after serving their time will be able to profit from their recollections. Victims’ families would like more stringent sentencing. The bill will not be retroactive.

Bill 85 passed second reading on a bipartisan vote and has been referred to the Social Concerns Development Committee for review.