Harper unveils victims' rights bill

Watch: The Conservative government promises it will transform the way victims are treated by the justice system, putting forward a bill promising to put victims’ rights ahead of the accused. Shirlee Engel reports.

OTTAWA – The Conservative government’s long-awaited victims’ rights bill would force people to testify in court against a spouse.

The legislation – tabled in the Commons on Thursday – would change the Canada Evidence Act, which allows spouses to refuse to testify except in certain specific cases such as sexual assaults or crimes against youngsters.

The changes are part of a sweeping government bill that codifies the rights of victims, makes it easier for vulnerable witnesses to testify and requires that victims be given more information about cases.

WATCH: Murder victim’s mother concerned that bill doesn’t address how prosecutors deal with victims’ cases

For instance, victims can request a copy of a bail order, a probation order or the details of a conditional release.

The federal Conservatives have long complained that too much emphasis is placed on the rights of the accused, giving short shrift to the people affected by the crimes.

“Victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect,” says the preamble to Bill C-32, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

WATCH: Mother of assault victim concerned about bill of rights may be more of a political play than having any real impact

It says victims have a right to be told when a criminal is deported or paroled and what parole restrictions may apply.

“It is important that victim’s rights be considered throughout the criminal justice system,” the preamble said.

Victims will also have the right to have the courts consider making a restitution order in all cases and to have such orders registered as a civil court judgment against the offender if the money isn’t paid.

READ MORE: 16×9: What happens when a killer is found not criminally responsible?

Extended: Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveils Victims’ Rights bill

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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