|ETOBICOKE, April 24, 2012 – The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, joined by the Honourable Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, today announced the introduction of an act to amend the Criminal Code (victim surcharge). The amendment will make convicted offenders more accountable to victims of crime by doubling the victim surcharge that offenders must pay, and ensuring that the surcharge is automatically applied in all cases.
“Our government is delivering on our promise to double the victim surcharge and make it mandatory in every case, without exception,” said Minister Rob Nicholson. “This legislation will ensure that victim support services receive the funding that they require and deserve.”
Provincial and territorial victim services are funded in part by the federal victim surcharge, which is an additional penalty imposed on offenders at the time of sentencing. Under the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the surcharge would be 30 percent of any fine imposed or, where no fine is imposed, $100 on a summary conviction offence and $200 for an indictable offence.
Currently, offenders who can demonstrate undue hardship may request that the victim surcharge be waived. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would make the victim surcharge mandatory for all offenders.
“Canadians deserve a justice system that sentences offenders in a way that reflects the severity of their crime and respects victims of crime,” said the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Senator. “By doubling the victim surcharge and ensuring that it cannot be waived, our Government is sending a signal that offenders must pay for the harm they cause to victims.”
The introduction of this bill builds on the Government’s previous actions to support victims of crime and ensure that victims have a greater voice in the criminal justice system and more access to available services. In 2007, the Government announced the Federal Victims Strategy and committed $52 million over four years to respond to the needs of victims of crime. In Budget 2011, the Government renewed the Federal Victims Strategy with $26 million in funding and in Budget 2012, the Government committed to provide new funding to the Victims Fund. On April 23, Minister Nicholson announced additional funding to the Victims Fund in the amount of $7 million over five years.
Backgrounder: Victim Surcharge
A victim surcharge is an additional penalty imposed on convicted offenders at the time of sentencing.
It is collected and retained by the provincial and territorial governments, and used to help fund programs and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime occurred.
The bill proposes to amend the victim surcharge provisions in the Criminal Code to double the amount that an offender must pay when sentenced, and to ensure that the surcharge is applied in all cases.
The surcharge would be 30 percent of any fine imposed on the offender. Where no fine is imposed, the surcharge would be $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction and $200 for offences punishable by indictment. In addition, the judge would retain the discretion to impose an increased surcharge where the circumstances warrant and the offender has the ability to pay.
The victim surcharge was first enacted in 1989 and was called the victim fine surcharge. In 2000, two amendments were made to the surcharge provision, making the surcharge a fixed amount and making it mandatory unless it would cause undue hardship to the offender. The term “fine” was dropped to avoid the interpretation that it only applied in addition to fines. The amendments were intended to ensure that offenders were more accountable to victims. The victim surcharge has not been increased since 2000.
The increases to the victim surcharge in this bill are in keeping with the Government’s priority of ensuring that offenders are accountable to victims of crime. As the surcharge money is used by the government of the province or territory where the crime occurred to help fund services to victims of crime, raising the victim surcharge amounts will directly benefit victims of crime.
Currently, sentencing judges have the discretion to waive the victim surcharge when it can be demonstrated that its payment will cause undue hardship to the offender or his or her dependants. This bill would remove the waiver option to ensure that the victim surcharge is applied in all cases without exception. In cases where offenders are unable to pay the surcharge, they may be able to participate in a provincial fine option program, where such programs exist. This would allow an offender to satisfy a financial penalty ordered as part of a sentence by earning credits for work performed in the province or territory where the crime was committed.