Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act (Bill C-37)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it certainly is important to provide support for victims. There are many programs that I have advocated for in the past.

A victim surcharge makes sense, but I worry about the removal of judges’ discretion to waive this surcharge when they can see that the person before them would suffer undue harm. The current legislation which is being changed says that where there is undue hardship on the person being convicted or on their dependents or family, for which I think there will be more sympathy, in that case the judge would have the discretion to say that he or she would not apply the surcharge.

That is the question I would ask my friend. Even if there is community service made available, what happens to dependents of that convicted criminal in cases where the payments to the victims would mean that the family would face undue hardship?

Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay: Mr. Speaker, that is the whole idea behind the fine option program. Where a judge has the discretion to determine that there is undue hardship on offenders or their depends, if a judge finds that to be the case, then the offenders will be given the opportunity to work for credits to benefit the community in order to substitute for payment.

There is an amount established. The amount equals a certain number of hours that would be put into that community service, and that is for the benefit of all.

I think that answers my friend’s question, that this is contemplated. If the judge feels the offenders can afford the fine, the surcharge will be imposed. If they cannot, then there is that other option.