Crime victims often feel that our legal system leaves them out in the cold. A law called the Crime Victims Compensation Act was created to ensure that victims receive the support they need, and financial compensation.
In Quebec, an organization called IVAC (Indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels) is responsible for handling compensation requests from crime victims. Also, victims can seek psychosocial support from the Centres d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels (CAVACs or crime victims assistance centres).
In this article, Éducaloi describes these support programs and explains how to file an application for compensation.
What types of injuries and damage are covered?
The IVAC program (Indemnisation des victimes d'actes criminels) was set up by the Quebec government to compensate victims of criminal acts for physical and psychological injuries. It does not compensate for damage to property. However, it does cover physical or psychological injury that results from a crime involving property, for example, an armed robbery.
The IVAC program is administered by a branch of the the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
Who is eligible for the IVAC program?
To be eligible for this program, the victim must usually have been injured or killed during a criminal act in Quebec.
A claim for compensation must normally be made within two years of the injury or death. For calculating this time limit, the clock begins to run once the victim becomes aware of the injury suffered and its connection to the crime. This time limit can be extended if the victim shows it was impossible to make a claim on time.
The injury must be physical or psychological. A claim can be made based on a lot of different kinds of criminal acts: assault, sexual assault, forcible confinement, kidnapping, theft, etc.
However, a person will not be eligible if she voluntarily put herself in a situation where the risk of injury was predictable, for example, by taking part in a criminal act. As an example, a person who plants a bomb would not be eligible.
How do you prove you suffered injuries because of a criminal act?
To prove an injury, the victim must attach to her claim the report of the professional she consulted. The report must describe the injuries she suffered during the criminal act. The victim must also give her permission for someone to consult the medical or psychosocial reports listed in the application for compensation.
You should know that victims don’t have to make a complaint to the police to be able to ask for compensation. But if the victim does decide to make a complaint, IVAC will ask the police for any relevant information.
How does the application process work?
If you are a victim seeking compensation, you should contact IVAC to get the application form.
If your claim is accepted, your file will be sent to a compensation officer. The officer will decide the type of compensation to which you are entitled. A rehabilitation counsellor might also examine your needs and suggest steps to help you return to your everyday activities. If necessary, the victim will have to meet with an IVAC doctor, who will determine when the injuries has stabilized or healed. This date will be used to determine when you can go back to work or, if you are unemployed, to your regular daily activities.
What kind of financial compensation can I get?
The most common kind of compensation is medical assistance. This assistance includes hospitalization, medical and surgical care, nursing care, medication and other pharmaceutical products, and prosthetic and orthopedic devices. Psychotherapy is also included.
IVAC also gives compensation for temporary or permanent injuries and disabilities. A temporary injury lasts for a limited period of time. For example, if you break your arm during a criminal act. Once the arm is healed, the temporary injury ends. A permanent injury means, for example, that you lose the use of your arm for the rest of your life.
For temporary injuries, IVAC gives monthly payments to replace work income.
For permanent injuries, IVAC gives lump sum compensation (a one-time payment of money). The amount is set according to CNESST rates.
IVAC also gives compensation if you end up with a disability that interferes with your ability to do your job. For example, you were a hairdresser before the crime, and now suffer from constant hand tremors that prevent you from working, IVAC will examine the financial consequences of your condition and offer you compensation.
Finally, IVAC can give compensation to help a child born as a result of a sexual assault.
Can relatives of victims get compensation and services?
If the victim of a crime dies, his dependants (a child, for example) can get financial compensation.
Also, close relatives can get psychotherapy services if the victim dies or disappears or if IVAC decides that this kind of support would be helpful to the relatives. “Close relatives” include the victim’s spouse or partner, brothers and sisters, parents (or people acting as parents), grandparents, children, children of the victim’s spouse or partner and the children of the spouse or partner of the victim’s mother or father.
Only one close relative of the victim can benefit from these services. If the victim survived the criminal act, it is the victim who chooses which relative will benefit.
But in the case of the death or disappearance of a victim under 18 years old, both parents can benefit from these services.
Relatives and dependants of the victim can also make use of the services offered by CAVAC. See the question “What services are offered by CAVAC?”
Finally, IVAC compensates people who might have paid to clean up a crime scene and for funeral expenses.
What services does IVAC offer victims?
IVAC provides help through health professionals, including psychosocial specialists, dentists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
IVAC also offers referrals to community resources or health and social services.
It also provides professional rehabilitation services to students and workers.
In addition, IVAC reimburses general expenses, including the following:
- hospital care, medication and other pharmaceutical products, and prosthetic or orthopedic devices
- travel or overnight stay expenses for receiving care or attending court, ambulance costs, and the cost of adapting a vehicle
- childcare expenses and personal home care expenses for victims who cannot care for themselves or do daily tasks
- cleaning, repair or replacement expenses for clothing worn during the crime, or furniture broken during the crime
- security expenses (changing locks, installing an alarm system, self-defence courses, a guard dog)
- in some cases, compensation for breaking a lease and moving
Does IVAC still give compensation if the person accused of the crime is found not guilty or I do not go to the police?
Yes. The person accused of the crime does not have to be found guilty for you to be entitled to compensation. It is enough that you give IVAC strong evidence that you were the victim of a criminal act.
An IVAC investigator might interview you to check that your claim is legitimate. The investigator might also question other people, for example, a doctor who can say that you are suffering from post-traumatic stress or are consulting her for psychological problems related to the events.
Can I challenge a decision made by IVAC?
Yes. To challenge a decision, you must contact IVAC within 30 days of receiving the decision or within 90 days in cases involving permanent disability.
You have to write a short letter explaining why you are challenging the decision. If you wish, you can also meet with an IVAC officer to explain your situation in person. An officer will review your file and make a decision within a reasonable timeframe.
If you are still not satisfied with the decision, you can appeal to the Tribunal administratif du Québec (TAT or administrative labour tribunal) within 60 days of the date you were notified of the decision.
What happens if the crime happened in the workplace?
If you were a victim of a criminal act that happened at work and you suffered injuries, you might be eligible for compensation under the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases. The CNESST is responsible for this law, which deals with workplace injuries.
The compensation available under this law includes care needed to recover from an injury, payment of compensation for lost salary or physical injuries, social, professional, or physical therapy, and compensation in case of death. For more information, contact the CNESST.
How can I get the IVAC application form?
There a few different ways:
- Pick it up in person at the IVAC head office at 1199 de Bleury in Montreal or at one of the regional CNESST offices.
- Phone the IVAC head office at (514) 906-3019 or 1-800-561-4822 to ask them to send you the form by mail.
- Phone the CAVAC nearest you to either get the form by mail or to make an appointment someone who will give you a form and help you fill it out.
- Download the form from the IVAC website.
What services are offered by Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVACs)?
IVAC handles compensation claims, while CAVAC offers psychosocial support.
Here are some of the services CVACs offer to crime victims, relatives of victims and witnesses of crimes:
- telephone support
- emotional and moral support
- basic information about the legal system and a victim’s rights and remedies
- support for dealing with other private and public organizations, including the courts
- information about appropriate legal, medical, social and community resources for victims
This help is available for both crimes involving physical injury and loss of property. It does not matter that the victim did not complain to the police. The services of CAVAC in each region of Quebec are free and confidential.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.