Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to change the rules concerning victim surcharges.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Oct. 16, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Oct. 16, 2012 Passed That this question be now put.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that I do not have a lot of time, but I want to quickly reiterate two key things.

First, there is the fact that the victim surcharge will be doubled for all offenders without exception. Sometimes, certain specific cases need to be considered separately. Second—and I think that this bears repeating for some of the members of the House—the NDP is opposed to restricting the autonomy and freedom of judges to determine whether a surcharge is necessary on a case by case basis.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, under section 737 of the Criminal Code, a judge may impose a victim surcharge on a person found guilty of a criminal offence. Specifically, this is an amount of money that accompanies any other punishment and is determined by the lower of the following amounts: 15% of any fine imposed, or, if no fine is imposed, $50 in the case of an offence punishable by summary conviction and $100 in the case of an offence punishable by indictment. Furthermore, the Criminal Code allows the judge the discretionary power not only to order an offender to pay an amount exceeding that amount “if the court...is satisfied that the offender is able to pay“, but also to make sure that the offender is able to pay the surcharge.

Our criminal legislation goes further in allowing the offender the opportunity to establish that the additional payment of the victim surcharge would cause undue hardship. The judge can then exempt the offender from the victim surcharge.

The victim surcharge is imposed in addition to any other punishment for an offender convicted or discharged of a Criminal Code offence or an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is a sanction that is principally directed at the offender's assets. The money is paid to the provinces and territories so that they can fund assistance to victims of crime.

Given that the victim surcharge is a penalty, it must be effective and it must reflect the traditional objectives expected of penalties: to dissuade, to deter, to provide redress and reparation, and to rehabilitate. In other words, Canadian legislation has, in a way, assigned three classic functions to the penalties provided for in the Criminal Code: those functions are prevention, reparation and redress.

The NDP supports Bill C-37, the intent of which is to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with victim surcharges in order to double the amount that offenders will be required to pay when they are sentenced, and to make the surcharge mandatory for all offenders.

More specifically, under Bill C-37, the surcharge would increase to 30% of any fine imposed, or, if no fine is imposed, it would go from $50 to $100 for a summary conviction offence. It would also go from $100 to $200 in the case of an offence punishable by indictment.

Bill C-37 makes other amendments to the Criminal Code by repealing the provision that gives the court the flexibility to waive the victim surcharge if offenders establish that paying it would cause them or their dependents undue and unreasonable hardship.

The bill preserves the discretionary power that judges have under the current legislation to increase the amount of the victim surcharge if they believe that the circumstances warrant it and the offender has the ability to pay.

Bill C-37 takes into account the fact that some members of the community may not be able to pay the surcharge because of difficult social conditions, so it gives them an alternative: participating in a provincial fine option program, where such programs exist.

Fine option programs allow the offender to pay a fine by earning credits for work done in the province or territory where the crime was committed.

The purpose of the proposed increase set out in Bill C-37 is to have a more meaningful impact on the personal wealth of potential criminals by connecting their actions to the costs incurred by the government in helping victims cope with the consequences of the terrible acts they commit.

The NDP supported several of the recommendations made by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, including this one, and is also in favour of enhanced funding for programs for victims of crime.

Indirectly, this bill will satisfy a number of the recommendations made by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, who for years has been arguing in favour of an automatic surcharge and better funding for programs for victims of crime.

Crime puts a major strain on government resources. It also puts a strain on the limited resources of Canadian taxpayers.

In 2003, crime cost about $70 billion. Victims of crime bore $47 billion or 70% of that total cost.

In 2004, studies estimated the compensation paid to victims for pain and suffering at $36 billion. That amount does not include the compensation that a significant number of eligible victims do not claim because they are not familiar with the legislation.

On a number of occasions, the Elizabeth Fry Society has also expressed its deep concerns about the bill and about the impact of additional fines on disadvantaged people who cannot afford to pay.

The John Howard Society said that it does not necessarily have a problem with the fines, but that it is afraid that, under this system, fines might end up being disproportionate to the crimes.

The NDP is in favour of Bill C-37 as far as the benefits mentioned earlier go. However, they have some concerns about the bill and hope that the necessary improvements will be made once it is studied in committee.

In the meantime, I would like to talk about the proposal to remove judicial discretion under Bill C-37. That is unacceptable since the discretionary power is very much part of a judge's role. Removing it from judges means undermining the independent nature of the judiciary, which allows judges to hear all sides of the story and to take a stand based on what they know and according to their conscience.

Judges have sovereignty to weigh the facts before them and to make a ruling one way or another. We have a problem with removing judicial discretion when it comes to the surcharge.

The NDP recognizes the paramount importance of the autonomy of judges and will not be able to support the amendment that proposes to restrict judicial discretion. Judges must have that power to be able to perform their duties free from pressures of any kind.

We in the NDP also have some reservations about the proposal to remove the undue hardship clause, considering the negative impact this could have on low-income people. The same is true for the proposal to double the amount. For people who have low incomes, the bill should include a provision to allow judges to waive the surcharge. The law cannot blindly punish people. It must take into account the particular circumstances of the victim, otherwise it would be unfair.

The Conservatives and the NDP have different views of justice. This bill is based on one of the Conservatives' campaign promises in the last election, that they would double the amount paid to victims and make the surcharge mandatory in all cases, with no exceptions, in order to make offenders more accountable to victims of crime.

The NDP, which is appealing for a justice system that is more conscious of the specific needs of young offenders and the need to rehabilitate criminals, opposes any justice reforms that appear to be motivated by a law and order ideology and that do not take into account the specific circumstances of each offender.

I cannot conclude my speech without pointing out the overlap that exists between BIll C-37 and private member's Bill C-350, which also aims to make offenders more accountable to victims. How will these two bill affect one another?

The NDP supports victims of crime and their families and respects the recommendations of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Although we support the principle of Bill C-37, the NDP would like it to be debated further in order to improve it overall.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the fact that members of the New Democratic Party say that they support the Liberals' efforts and thoughts in regard to the importance of judicial discretion.

When I have asked why the NDP members would vote to send the bill to committee, the response has tended to be that that is where it should go. Even though Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, was strongly supported by provincial jurisdictions, including the NDP in Saskatchewan, the federal NDP voted against that bill going to committee. It is an issue of consistency and that is what I am looking to the member for. As the Liberals and the New Democrats voted against sending that bill to committee, it is a bit of a surprise that those members would not join us on this bill. Instead they have chosen to join the Conservatives in supporting this particular bill going to committee even though we seem to share the same concerns about judicial independence. I for one am a very strong advocate for listening to what the victims and others have to say.

If the government were to change the principle of the bill, then it would deserve the support of an opposition party. Would the member not agree?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I would simply like to remind the member that the NDP believes in democratic debate. We think that changes can be made in committee, because dialogue and discussion take place there and because debate is possible there, which is why we intend to support this bill, so it can go to committee.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to preface my question with, “Really?” Bill C-10 was Bill C-10 and Bill C-37 is Bill C-37. I am not sure where my hon. colleague is drawing the link that just because we stood up against Bill C-10 from the beginning, we should do the same thing for Bill C-37. There are elements in Bill C-37 that deserve being looked at in committee. There are elements in Bill C-37 that need to be changed, in particular the point on judicial discretion.

Could my hon. colleague enlighten us a little more on the importance of taking a good look at a bill, trying to change the things that do not work and enhancing the things that do work, which is what we are trying to do with Bill C-37?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

Obviously, ensuring that democratic debate can continue in committee is very important to parliamentarians. We have opportunities to go back to certain things and propose amendments. These discussions are vital because they make it possible to influence in some way the changes made to legislation.

I believe that we must insist on the fact that democratic debate does not exclusive to the House. It occurs in our committees, and these meetings are needed in order to influence and propose amendments to proposed legislation.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated my colleague's last comments, and her entire speech for that matter.

These bills make it possible to meet with groups who want to be heard by parliamentarians. In that context, would voting against the bill prevent a number of groups that represent victims from having a say on such an important matter?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my college for his excellent question.

Obviously, hearing from witnesses is crucial and vital to a healthy democracy. It is important and necessary for committees to hear from as many groups as possible, or even from individuals, people who present their viewpoints and suggestions for improvements, which we, as parliamentarians, must consider. That is very important.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2012 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to express my congratulations to you on your recent elevation to the Speaker's chair in the Deputy Speaker role. Your acknowledged expertise in Parliament, with winning the Maclean's/Dominion Institute Awards as Canada's “Most Knowledgeable” Parliamentarian three times in a row, puts you in a position of considerable support from the entire House for the work that you will do. I hope it all goes very successfully for you. I am sure you will work very well with our Speaker and the Acting Speakers to make the House more reasonable and acceptable to Canadians. I think that is the goal of all of us here. It is a wonderful goal and something for which we should be pushing very hard.

On Bill C-37, first, I would like to deal with the issue of why the NDP would support a bill that would ostensibly take away some discretion from judges and put it into the hands of legislation.

We have to look at the past six months in Parliament to see that many of the bills we wanted to discuss in committee were rammed through. We did not really spend much time on important legislation, legislation that will now have an impact.

Thinking back to Bill C-38, we heard from some witnesses who said that they were in favour of the provisions in the bill on the environment, but that it needed some changes. These people liked the legislation, but thought it required amendment to make the bill better. However, there were no amendments at all to that huge omnibus bill and it was rammed through Parliament. Every Canadian may feel the impact of legislation that is not properly constructed and given due attention.

In this Parliament, the ability to bring something like this forward to committee is an excellent opportunity. There are people who should be heard. Judges need to be heard.

Over previous years, judges have used their discretion quite often not to put a victim surcharge in place. We need to understand why those judges made that decision and why they judged that it was the correct thing to do. We need to understand what it was should that discretion over the victim surcharge be maintained. Upon hearing their opinion, we may get closer to what the bill can accomplish.

We talked a bit about the fine option program. That exists in the Northwest Territories, which I represent, and that program works very well. Not only does it provide low-income Canadians with an option to deal with the added financial responsibility after a criminal charge has been given to them, along with all the other problems it causes in their lives, but in the small communities I represent it really brings people back into the community. It allows them to show that they are willing to work with the community again, that they have attributes and a good side, which can be displayed with these fine option programs.

Over and over we see people under the fine options program taking care of seniors by cleaning their driveways, mowing their lawns or doing all kinds of nice work that brings them back into the community in a real fashion. There are other options that have people out on the land. There may be a variety of activities. They are not costed that well because the cost is not the important part of that program.

The important part of that program is the rehabilitation it provides. If this bill in any way encourages the other provinces and territories to take on a fine option program to match up with this, because the increased fines will be so difficult for many low income people to deal with, that may be a good outcome of the bill. It will encourage those other provinces and territories to get onside with the fine option program, something that works well.

On the other side of it, victims services in the Northwest Territories are probably in the millions of dollars a year. Yet, if we look at the total number of charges and convictions and the amount of money that is raised, we can see that this surcharge is only a small part of what society puts into victims services. It has to be.

It is really not about the money. It is about creating an atmosphere where people understand that what they have done has hurt others and they have an opportunity to remedy that through a financial contribution, which may take something off it, but there is also this fine option program where they actually have to interact with the community. The community understands they under a fine option and they understand they are working off some problem that they created. That is very useful for the justice system.

I do not want to see the provincial or territorial fine option program turn out to be something that does not deliver to the victims. Offenders could end up in the fine option program working off their time, but where is the money for the victims? Do they have to wait until the time is worked off? That might be an amendment we could look at to ensure that if victims' compensation is to be delivered that, it is done in a timely fashion to the victims who have an opportunity to get some services or support for whatever has beset them through the crime that has occurred. The victims should have some opportunity to get that as soon as possible.

There are some issues there that would require a careful look at this. The position of the judges needs to be understood more fully. Canadian judges, by and large, across the country represent a very large and significant volume of justice, understanding and experience with handling criminal cases. Canada has an enormous record of making criminals out of our citizens. The judges are there for all of that.

Bringing this bill forward and taking a look at what it actually means is the sensible thing to do right now. It is a good thing for Parliament to do as well. I do not want to go through the exercise we went through last June when the government rammed through the omnibus bill with no consideration of the finer points of any of those legislation changes. The sheer stupidity of that will play out in Canada for many years to come.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I welcome you back after our recess over the summer. This is the first time I have had an opportunity to rise in the House and speak since we came back and I hope everyone had a good summer. I know that we were all busy in our ridings taking care of constituents and constituency business. I certainly was and it was very good to connect with people because we are so often here in Ottawa in the House. We are nevertheless glad to be back in the House debating various pieces of legislation again.

As was just pointed out, Bill C-37, proposes to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code on victim surcharges, namely section 737 in the Criminal Code. It would double the amount that offenders must pay when they are sentenced. It would also make the surcharge mandatory for all offenders.

By way of background, we know that a victim surcharge is an additional sanction imposed at the time of sentencing on offenders who are found guilty. It is collected by provincial and territorial governments and is used to provide programs and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime was committed.

Obviously that is a very important service provided and I am sure we are all aware of situations where people or their family members have suffered as a result of their being a victim of crime. It is very important to have the support services and programs in place. This kind of program is something that is very important in our society.

We know that the bill being debated at second reading proposes to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to the amount of the victim surcharge, which the bill would in fact double. The proposed surcharge would be about 30%, or higher than the current 15%, of any fine imposed on the offender. Where no fine is imposed, it would be $100, again representing a doubling because it is currently $50 for summary conviction offences, and $200 for indictable offences, from the current $100.

That sounds reasonable and is something that we have supported in principle. However, we do have some concerns about the bill that some of my colleagues who have spoken previously have put forward. I wish to put them on the record as well.

One of our concerns is that the bill removes the ability of the court to waive a victim surcharge if the offender can show that paying the surcharge would result in undue hardship to either himself or herself, or to his or her dependants. This is now contained in subsection 737(5) and would be repealed by the bill.

The second concern we have is that while on the one hand judges would retain the discretion they have to increase the victim surcharge if they believe the circumstances so warrant, on the other hand their discretion would be removed as to whether or not there was some undue hardship. This is quite problematic and part of a pattern that we have seen in many of the so-called law and order bills the Conservative government has brought forward. The thrust of these bills, and certainly this one is now another example of this theme, has been to undermine the discretion of the court system, and judges in particular.

We have a lot of concerns about the bill. We believe that it needs to be studied at committee, particularly with regard to the decreased discretionary power of a judge to decide if paying a surcharge would cause undue hardship. Why do we believe that? It is because we believe very much in the importance of discretionary powers of a judge and the autonomy of judges within our judicial system. That will be restricted by the bill.

The withdrawal of the undue hardship clause and the provision seeking to double the surcharge could be problematic for low-income offenders. It would not always be the case, but certainly there are situations and experiences where this would be a consideration.

Therefore, it seems very puzzling that we have a government that would bring forward yet another bill that would seek to restrict the scope and discretion of what our judicial system can take into account at the level of the decisions that judges make and what information they can look at.

That has a lot of consequences. When we look at this particular bill in the context of all of the other bills we have dealt with that also have the same kind of purpose in restricting judicial discretion, then we can see that we are fundamentally changing what our judicial system is about and how it operates. As legislators, members of Parliament representing our constituents across the country in so many diverse ridings, this is actually something that we should be concerned about. It is very easy to look at legislation one by one and say it is not a big deal, that maybe we could live with it. However, when we begin to add it up and we see the incremental changes in a more comprehensive way, we begin to realize that there are some fundamental changes taking place.

That is something that concerns us. We believe there should be proper analysis. We should look not just at this piece of legislation but at all kinds of legislation to see what those impacts on the judicial system are.

For example, the Elizabeth Fry Society is very concerned about the impact of these additional fines on, for example, aboriginal people and people who do not have the means to pay. The John Howard Society has also expressed concern that the fines could be disproportionate to the crimes committed. These are two very notable, hard-working, credible organizations in our society. They operate across the country. They know the system first-hand from the ground up. They deal with offenders as they come out of the system and are making a transition back into society. When we hear organizations like the Elizabeth Fry Society and the John Howard Society express their concerns based on their real experience in dealing with offenders in a community setting, this is something that we should take note of. It really worries me when Conservative members will just sweep that concern under the carpet and say it is of no consequence. Someone in this place has to take note of what the impacts and consequences are.

What I am trying to argue here is that the principle of sanctions against offenders is a good principle. It is something that we have supported. We have supported the ombudsperson's report on this matter. However, we have to look at the very fine details of this legislation and examine whether or not it has gone further than it needs to go and cause more negative impacts by removing the discretion we now have. This is something that we very much need to examine at the committee level.

Over the summer I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Medical Association's general council meeting in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. We heard an extraordinary speaker, Sir Michael Marmot, one the world's renowned experts and researchers in the social determinants of health. He made a quite remarkable presentation to all of the doctors assembled there as members of the CMA. He spoke about how our society has moved so far away from establishing some of the basic foundations of a healthy society, like a decent income, a good education and proper housing. He was speaking about these matters as they related to the health of our society, not just in terms of our personal health but also our overall health. I wanted to bring this into the debate today because to me it is very pertinent to what we are looking at in Bill C-37.

Again, what really worries me about the government we have in power right now, which hopefully will not be there for too long, is its emphasis on punitive measures addressing issues after the fact. As Sir Michael Marmot said, we need to go upstream. We need to be developing much stronger foundations for healthy communities and healthy people, ensuring that people have proper education and decent incomes. The evidence is overwhelming that all of these things ensure that a society is more sustainable, not just in terms of the environment but also in social terms.

When we ignore those questions and focus so much on fixing everything with a new piece of legislation, or changing the Criminal Code and saying that somehow that is going to fix issues and problems in our society, we are under a terrible illusion. I know the members across the way in the Conservative government cannot look beyond that. They are very focused and driven by that simplistic approach. I am very glad to say that we on this side of the House in the NDP have a much more progressive, complex and intelligent analysis of what we need to do to make safe and healthy communities.

In speaking to this legislation today, I know we are going to hear a barrage of questions and comments, if we get to them, because if we dare to question any of the Conservatives' law and order provisions then we are said to be favouring the criminals. It is such a simplistic, ridiculous debate that they try to engage in. We do as much as we can on this side to resist that kind of ridiculous, absurd debate.

We are here to look at legislation based on its merit and its consequences for our society overall. That is a matter of balancing the rights of victims. This is something we believe strongly in. Victims have rights. They have the right to be supported. They have the right to know that a judicial system will work for them and that prosecutions will be dealt with in due diligence. However, we also have to ensure that our judicial system is balanced and ensure that discretion is there so that people are not penalized unfairly.

I represent a community that has many low-income people. Many of my constituents have been through the judicial system and have had horrible experiences. They would have been better out of prison. They would have been better with programs that might have focused on restorative justice. They would have been better in programs where there was attention paid to youth at risk, so that youth would not even get into the criminal justice system. However, yet again we see a government that has moved away from that kind of approach and has focused on the need for yet another law and punitive measure.

In conclusion, my colleagues and I have voiced our support at second reading for the principles in this bill. We have reservations and concerns and will take our responsibility to ensure that if this bill goes to committee, we will examine it clause by clause. We will look at it very carefully. We will propose amendments, I have no doubt. Our justice critic is very able in doing that. Our aim is to ensure that this bill becomes one that would not cause problems or unintended consequences.

I have been pleased to speak to this bill today. I look forward to its going to committee and the amendments that I know we in the NDP will propose to improve it.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today, first of all, to wish all members from all political parties a warm welcome back for the fall 2012 session.

More importantly, I rise here today to speak to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. This bill proposes changes to the provisions of section 737 of the Criminal Code on victim surcharges. The change would double the amount offenders must pay when they receive their sentence, while, more importantly, making the surcharge mandatory for all offenders.

First of all, it is important to explain exactly what a victim surcharge is. It is an additional sanction imposed when an offender who has been found guilty is sentenced. The surcharge is collected and kept by provincial and territorial governments and serves to fund programs and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime was committed.

Bill C-37 proposes to double the amount of the victim surcharge from 15% to 30% of any fine imposed on the offender. The amount would also double for offenders who are not fined. Therefore, the surcharge for an offence punishable by summary conviction would increase from $50 to $100, and for an offence punishable by indictment, from $100 to $200.

Bill C-37 also eliminates the possibility of having a court waive the surcharge if the offender proves that it causes, or would cause, undue hardship. However, judges would have the option, or the discretion, to order the payment of a higher surcharge if they believed it was warranted under the circumstances and if the offender had the means to pay the victim surcharge.

In cases where offenders are unable to pay the surcharge, under Bill C-37 they may be able to participate in a provincial fine option program, where such programs exist.

This type of program would allow offenders to pay off their fines by earning credits for work done in the province or territory where the criminal offence was committed. That is a summary of Bill C-37.

Now, what is the NDP position on this bill? As you certainly are aware, the NDP supported several of the recommendations of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, especially the recommendation that gave rise to Bill C-37. We obviously support better funding for programs for victims of crime.

However, we have some reservations. Some minor changes are needed to improve this bill. That is why we are supporting the bill in order to be able to discuss these amendments in committee.

What are these changes? We mainly have concerns about reducing the discretion of judges to the point that they would no longer be able to decide if payment of a victim surcharge would constitute undue hardship. We are strong supporters of the discretion of the Canadian judiciary and we believe that their autonomy is being curtailed by this bill.

The other major reservation concerns the fine option program mentioned earlier in my speech. Eliminating the paragraph on “undue hardship” and introducing a provision to double the amount of the surcharge will inevitably result in more offenders using the program in question.

There are no objections to this in the provinces where this type of program exists. However, in the provinces where this type of program does not exist, this would create a much more complicated situation. There would be an imbalance that would prevent the provisions of the bill from being equal across the country.

We think that we should discuss solutions, programs and appropriate measures in committee to create some uniformity, which would make this bill applicable with the same measures, same justifications and, in particular, same rules across the country, instead of having to proceed on a case by case basis.

A number of Canadian organizations agree with us and we believe that hearing from them in committee or, at the very least, bringing their opinions into the debate, would only benefit the bill. Among the organizations that have expressed concerns is the Elizabeth Fry Society, which is concerned about the effect of additional surcharges on low-income Aboriginals, who will certainly not have the means to pay them. There is also the John Howard Society, which is not bothered by the monetary penalties, but which is concerned that with this system, the surcharges will be disproportionate to the crimes committed.

In conclusion, we will support this bill at second reading, so that it can be examined more carefully in committee. However, Bill C-37 needs a number of adjustments in order to be complete. A number of people have questions, so we urge our colleagues to act in good faith when the bill gets to committee and, especially, for once, to listen to Canadians.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the discussion on Bill C-37. Having worked in probation and parole services for about 13 years, I recognize the impact this has on those people with low incomes.

By removing the discretionary powers of the judges, could my colleague enlighten me on the concerns this would create with respect to low-income people, especially the fact that a majority of first nations people would actually be impacted by this as well? Could my colleague can enlighten me as to the impact this would have on those who have very little money to begin with?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we take away the discretionary power of judges, surely the most disadvantaged will be the hardest hit, especially aboriginals because they very often do not have programs in their communities. In addition to having to pay the surcharge, which the judge cannot reduce, they will not be able to do community work. In the end, they will be the ones to pay the price. Where will they find the money? I have no idea.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles for his speech.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a correctional officer. He interacted with inmates at a detention centre and said that they too have a future. When a surcharge is imposed on a convicted individual and that person's personal situation is not taken into account, are we not extinguishing hope? I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, for the individuals who must pay a fine when they do not have the means, imposing a surcharge is almost like criminalizing them, in some situations. Where will they find the money? We know very well that some of them will have to turn to petty theft to pay the fine.