Backgrounder: Victim Surcharge

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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.

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Government of Canada
April 2012