Letter to Minister MacKay regarding the Victim Fine Surcharge

November 21, 2013

The Honourable Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H8

Dear Minister:

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.

Heidi Illingworth
Executive Director

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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