Vol. 147, No. 22 — October 23, 2013
SI/2013-112 October 23, 2013
INCREASING OFFENDERS’ ACCOUNTABILITY FOR VICTIMS ACT
Order Fixing October 24, 2013 as the Day on which the Act Comes into Force
P.C. 2013-1061 October 9, 2013
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, pursuant to section 5 of the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act, chapter 11 of the Statutes of Canada, 2013, fixes October 24, 2013 as the day on which that Act comes into force.
(This note is not part of the Order.)
This Order fixes October 24, 2013, as the date of the coming into force of An Act to amend the Criminal Code,also known as the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act, assented to on June 19, 2013 (S.C. 2013, c. 11). This Order is made pursuant to section 5 of this Act.
The Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act (the Act), formerly referred to as Bill C-37, amends the federal victim surcharge provisions of the Criminal Code in three ways. Firstly, upon the coming into force of the Act, the surcharge will go from 15% to 30% of any fine imposed on the offender or, where no fine is imposed, from $50 to $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction and from $100 to $200 for offences punishable by indictment. Secondly, the Act ensures that the surcharge is automatically applied in all cases by eliminating the court’s current ability to waive the surcharge in cases of undue hardship. Thirdly, the Act provides that offenders who are unable to pay the victim surcharge will be able to discharge the amount owing by earning credits for work performed through provincial/territorial fine option programs, where they exist.
The changes to the victim surcharge in the Act are in keeping with the Government’s priority of ensuring that offenders are accountable to victims of crime. As the surcharge revenue is used by the province or territory where the crime occurred to fund services for victims of crime, raising the victim surcharge amounts will directly benefit victims of crime. The Actis a result of the commitment made in the March 3, 2010, Speech from the Throne where the Government promised to introduce legislation “to make the victim surcharge mandatory to better fund victim services.”
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 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 amount of the victim surcharge has not been increased since 2000.
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. The Act removes the waiver option to ensure that the victim surcharge is applied consistently in all cases without exception. In cases where offenders are unable to pay the surcharge, they may be able to participate in a provincial or territorial fine option program, where such programs exist.
Provinces and territories, although supportive of measures to increase revenues for victim services, have expressed concerns about potential unknown additional costs to their fine option programs if these programs are now open to offenders who are unable to pay the victim surcharge.
The Government has engaged in ongoing dialogue with the provinces and territories on how to improve the functioning of the victim surcharge provision in the Criminal Code since it was last amended in 2000. Specifically, the Government has collaborated with provincial and territorial colleagues through the Federal/ Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Victims of Crime which meets twice annually. This collaboration has led to several research projects on the victim surcharge including research in New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories. These consultations and the results of the research projects have informed Government on the approach taken in the Act; however, provinces and territories were not consulted about the specific reforms that are brought into force through the Act.
Policy Centre for Victim Issues
Department of Justice Canada