November 21, 2013
The Honourable Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC) is a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that the voice of the victims is heard. Established in 1993, we work with victims and survivors of serious crime. We are writing to you in regards to recent media reports stating judges are openly rebelling against the Conservative government law that doubled the Victim Fine Surcharge and made it mandatory.
As you know, several newspapers are reporting that judges are rebelling against the wishes of Parliament by giving offenders up to 60 years to pay the fine or not ordering it at all. The judges have also found other loopholes to minimize the mandatory victim surcharge, which is $100 for summary conviction offences and $200 for indictable offences, by handing out fines instead. In one Ottawa case, a judge handed out a $1 fine on top of probation, resulting in a victim fine surcharge of 30 cents. The law says the victim fine surcharge is 30 per cent of any fine. We feel these actions are extremely disrespectful to victims, not to mention having the effect of hindering the proper funding of victim services.
The CRCVC applauds your public statement that judges are failing in their responsibility to “uphold the law” and are glad to hear that you are looking carefully at decisions your office feels undermine the very clear intent of the law. We are looking forward to the promise the government made to include provisions to address this issue in the forthcoming federal Victims Bill of Rights.
Our organization strongly supports the legislation making the Victim Fine Surcharge mandatory. Both judges and defence lawyers are directly responsible for this legislation since they consistently waived or sought the fine to be waived without bothering to assess whether there was truly an inability to pay. The VFS is an important way for an offender to make direct reparation for some of the harm caused and monies go toward funding services and supports victims and survivors need in order to recover and heal.
On October 16, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the 2nd session of the 41st Parliament and outline the Government’s agenda. The government remains concerned with offering supporting to victims and punishing criminals. The following is an excerpt from the speech:
“Our Government believes that the justice system exists to protect law-abiding citizens and our communities. For too long, the voices of victims have been silenced, while the system coddled criminals. Our Government has worked to re-establish Canada as a country where those who break the law are punished for their actions; where penalties match the severity of crimes committed; where the rights of victims come before the rights of criminals.
The government also plans to address forced marriage. ”Sadly, millions of women and girls continue to be brutalized by violence, including through the inhumane practice of early and forced marriage. This barbarism is unacceptable to Canadians. Our Government will take steps to ensure that it does not occur on our soil.”
The CRCVC is most anxious for the introduction of the Victims Bill of Rights, which we hope will help to bring more balance to the justice system. The rights of victims are a unique issue, separate from the fair trial rights of accused persons or the sentencing/conviction of offenders and the management of their sentence. The human rights of victims have been infringed when crime is committed against them, thus they deserve rights to information, services and support to help them recover and restore their lives. They deserve the right to complain when their rights are not met and to have some sort of advocate or ombudsman who will enforce their rights and work to ensure the rights provided by the federal government are implemented and monitored across Canada. This is an enormous undertaking and we remain hopeful that the proposed VBR will set a standard for victims in Canada that is the envy of other nations.