OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 12/13/12 -- Today, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, welcomed the passing in the House of Commons of Bill C-37, the Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act. The legislation would make offenders more accountable by doubling the victim surcharge that offenders must pay, and ensuring that the surcharge is applied to all offenders.
Bill C-37 will now move to the Senate.
"I am pleased that the Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act passed in the House of Commons yesterday, and I call on all of my colleagues in the Senate to support victims of crime by moving quickly to adopt this important piece of legislation," said Minister Nicholson. "Bill C-37 will ensure that victim services in provinces and territories receive the funding they need."
Under the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the victim surcharge would be 30 per cent of any fine imposed or, where no fine is imposed, $100 for a summary conviction offence and $200 for an indictable offence. The surcharge, which is imposed on offenders at the time of sentencing, is collected and retained by the provincial or territorial government where an offender is sentenced, and is used to help fund services for victims of crime.
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 surcharge mandatory for all offenders and would allow those who cannot pay to discharge the victim surcharge by participating in a fine option program or alternative mechanisms.
The Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act was introduced on April 24, 2012.
These proposed changes to the victim surcharge build on the Government's priorities of holding offenders accountable, and of ensuring that victims of crime have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. The Government of Canada has allocated more than $90 million over the past six years for initiatives that benefit victims of crime.
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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 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.
Julie Di Mambro
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
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