Navigating the criminal justice system

The Family Support Advocate at The Bison Child & Youth Advocacy Centre offers support services to child and youth victims and witnesses during criminal court process.

We know that child and youth witnesses face a number of obstacles when asked to testify in court, including complex questions that may be beyond the child’s cognitive developmental stage, as well as having to testify about events, conversations, or interactions that may have been distressing for the child. These barriers increase the anxiety that children face and may cause further trauma. As a result, legislative amendments in Canada over the years have sought to minimize this anxiety and to alleviate some of the difficulty that children face when providing testimony.

The court may agree to the use of Testimonial Aids for the child/youth witness. Options may include closed-circuit television (CCTV), remote testimony from The Bison Centre, witness screen, a support person may be present during the delivery of testimony and the appointment of a lawyer to conduct the cross-examination of a witness when the accused is self-represented. Other Criminal Code provisions which assist vulnerable witnesses allow the judge to exclude the public from the courtroom, impose a ban on publication of identifying information, and allow the use of video recorded evidence.

Through The Bison Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, a Family Support Advocate will:

  • Share information about the court process and provide regular court updates
  • Help victims prepare for court proceedings
  • Accompany witnesses to court proceedings, when appropriate
  • Explain the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights
  • Ensure that victims have the opportunity to submit Victim Impact Statements
  • Explain the Victims of Crime Assistance Program and Restitution Program for Victims of Crime

The Family Support Advocates at The Bison Child & Youth Advocacy Centre will keep the family informed, and are able to answer questions about the judicial process.

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