Peter MacKay says judges will ‘see the wisdom’ behind mandatory victim surcharge

OTTAWA – Justice Minister Peter MacKay is deflecting criticism of a new, mandatory victim surcharge, saying judges opposed to the measure will eventually “see the wisdom” of making sure victims of crime receive proper help.

MacKay was responding Monday to reports that say judges in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have either refused to order criminals to pay the surcharge or found ways to make it impossible for authorities to collect the fee.

Some judges and justice critics have said the surcharge places an unfair burden on those who don’t have the means to pay.

MacKay said the money gathered from the surcharge is used to help victims with counselling and other services.

“I think you’ll see that over time judges will see the wisdom in putting victims in a better place and respecting their right to be compensated,” he said in an interview.

“A $200 to $300 compensation being applied in these cases, we believe, is proportionate. We believe it is also part of the administration of justice and it reflects society’s condemnation of those acts against the law, against society and against individuals.”

As well, the minister noted that most provinces still have the option of ordering impoverished criminals to perform community service to pay their debt to society.

Until October, sentencing judges had the discretion to waive the surcharge if payment would cause undue hardship to the offender. The amended legislation removed the waiver option and doubled the surcharge as part of the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime agenda.

The new law requires either a 30 per cent surcharge on any fine levied, or a flat fee of $100 or $200 — depending on the seriousness of the offence — if no fine is set.

In Ontario’s Waterloo region, provincial court Judge Colin Westman described the surcharge as an unrealistic and arbitrary “tax on broken souls.”

Anthony Moustacalis, president of the Toronto-based Criminal Lawyers Association, said enforcing the mandatory surcharge will cost more than the fee will bring in.

If a criminal can’t pay up after a certain amount of time, the presiding judge has to dispatch an officer to haul the offender back to court to make arrangements for payment, he said.

“Politics aside, it’s just not a cost-effective way to collect money from somebody who doesn’t have it,” Moustacalis said.

“If you’re on welfare, or you’re mentally ill or have a disability, you’re not going to be able to pay this. So why not figure that out at the beginning rather than drag someone in at the cost of $1,000.”

Moustacalis said it’s no secret that poverty and crime go hand in hand. In Ontario, for example, 55 per cent of those charged with a criminal offence qualify for legal aid. Under provincial rules, a single person with no dependents must earn less than $10,800 annually to be eligible, he said.

As for MacKay’s assertion that the surcharge is used to help victims, Moustacalis said the money is actually funnelled into Ontario’s general revenues.

“It doesn’t get earmarked,” he said, adding that most provinces already have effective laws to go after the proceeds of crime.

“There are a lot of tools to get more money from criminals and tax evaders, but they don’t use them,” he said. “This (surcharge) is an attempt to get money from people who don’t have it. … That tells you it’s just a political statement.”




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Peter MacKay says judges will ‘see the wisdom’ behind mandatory victim surcharge

  1. Once again, CRAP goes after the low-hanging fruit.

  2. John McKay, the harbinger of wisdom. Poor thing is demented!

    • WTF? John McKay is the Liberal critic for the environment and isn’t mentioned or quoted anywhere in this item. Nice sideswipe.

  3. Come on Mackay let’s get that law and order agenda in action. Why are you coddling these law breaking judges? Charge em. Put em away.
    That’s just what we need to show the world, and those liberal, socialists bleeding heart do gooders in Canada: We’re a country that’s throwing it’s judges in jail.

  4. “In Ontario, for example, 55 per cent of those charged with a criminal offence qualify for legal aid. Under provincial rules, a single person with no dependents must earn less than $10,800 annually to be eligible” The Harper Government tough on crime policy is approximatley 55% or mostly cognitive dissonance. This is a conscious effort to maintain ignorance of poverty and the causal relationship to crime. In this case the Harper Government is not even applying logic to their policy. Logic is a leap of faith for the Harper Government. Compassion is a fictional concept outside their perview.

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