Ottawa, Ontario – The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system meets the highest standards of equity and fairness, holds offenders to account, shows compassion to victims, and upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In keeping with this commitment, today the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation to amend the federal victim surcharge provisions in the Criminal Code that unfairly burden the less fortunate.
The federal victim surcharge is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on offenders at the time of sentencing, cumulatively for each offence. Money collected from offenders is used by provinces and territories to help fund programs and services for victims of crime.
In 2013, as part of the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act, judges lost the discretion to waive the federal victim surcharge for offenders who are truly unable to pay. As a result, the surcharge is currently imposed on all offenders, for all offences, regardless of their true capacity to pay or individual circumstances. This has led to multiple Charter challenges.
The proposed changes would return to judges the discretion to waive the federal victim surcharge if an offender is truly not able to pay. However, to ensure that offenders are held to account, the federal victim surcharge would continue to apply to all other offenders, and the surcharge amounts would not change. The funds collected will continue to help support the delivery of services to victims in the province or territory where the offence occurred, as a complement to the federal Victims Fund.
The proposed amendments would uphold the objectives of the surcharge while freeing the courts of Charter challenges, redirecting focus onto holding serious criminals to account, and eliminating the administrative costs associated with collecting money from people who simply do not have the means to pay.
“These changes directly address the many Charter challenges the victim surcharge has faced because of the way it affects the most marginalized people. With these changes, the surcharge would continue to help support victim services and help hold offenders accountable to victims of crime in a way that takes into consideration the individual circumstances of offenders and that is in keeping with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” – The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
- Money collected from offenders through the victim surcharge would continue to help fund programs and services for victims of crime.
- As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensuring that services to victims of crime are properly funded, the federal Victims Fund aims to give victims of crime a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. In 2016-2017, more than $21 million was made available to provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations to increase awareness and knowledge of victim issues, legislation, and services available, as well as to develop and deliver victim programs, services, and assistance to meet gaps in services for victims of crime.
- On August 3, the Government also announced $16.17 million over four years for the creation of Family Information Liaison Units in each province and territory and to increase funding for victims services to provide culturally-appropriate victim services for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and survivors of violence.
Department of Justice Canada