Court discretion on federal victim surcharges

On October 21, 2016, the Government of Canada introduced legislation that would amend the federal victim surcharge provisions in order to give courts discretion to waive a victim surcharge when an offender has demonstrated that they are unable to pay and to allow an exception to the ratio of one surcharge per offence in relation to certain administration of justice offences.

Inability to pay the victim surcharge

With the proposed legislation, the victim surcharge would continue to be automatically applied at sentencing however, an application could be made to have the surcharge waived if it would cause undue hardship to the offender. Undue hardship relates to the financial inability to pay the surcharge for reasons such as unemployment, homelessness and significant financial obligations to dependants. Imprisonment of the offender does not on its own result in undue hardship for the purposes of the waiver.

Multiple surcharges for certain administration of justice offences

The proposed amendments would also allow courts to reduce the number of surcharges for failures to appear in court or breaches of the condition of a police release or a court order (such as bail conditions), if the total sum of those surcharges would be disproportionate under the circumstances. This reduction would not apply to breaches that cause harm to a victim.

Continuing to ensure support for victims

Under the proposed legislation, the amounts of the victim surcharge would not change and the victim surcharge would still be automatically applied at sentencing. The victim surcharge would continue to provide funding to victims services while holding offenders accountable to victims of crime. The Government of Canada would work with provinces and territories to address any loss of funds that may result from the proposed amendments.