The Supreme Court stated that an indigent person cannot be incarcerated for not having paid a fine or surcharge. In such cases, under section 734.7 of the Criminal Code, the offender must go before the judge and ask for an extension of the period given to pay the fine.
In Quebec, that period is 45 days. It's certainly covered by the Criminal Code. In practice, people are supposed to go back before the judge and ask for an additional period of two months. If they don't pay the fine, they go back two months later and ask for an additional two months. The judge cannot ask that an indigent person be incarcerated. That was the Supreme Court ruling, and judges respect that decision.
If the person goes before the judge and asks for more time, in theory, he or she will never go to jail. However, in practice people do not go before the judge, either because they are negligent, or because they are afraid, or do not know where to turn. Those who are homeless and have no income will not go before the judge. If the judge does not receive an extension request, he will issue a committal warrant. Can it be said that a warrant of committal meets the objective of the victim fine surcharge? With all due respect, the answer to that is no.
Canadian society will in the end have to pay for the additional incarceration, and the victim surcharge will never be paid. That is one of the consequences. In theory, the person can go before the judge and ask for more time to pay. This was also the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal in the Chaussé case, and the court in fact said that defendants could ask for extensions for the rest of their lives. Indeed, people can ask for extensions, but who does so? No one.
There is also the matter of the suspension of drivers' licences or other licences because one has not paid a surcharge. One cannot ask for a pardon until the surcharge has been paid.
The law is also applied in civil matters, such as in the Boudreault case. That gentleman had been released and had been asked to post bail. He provided money to the court to meet that condition. When he committed further offences, he was again incarcerated. When Mr. Boudreault was convicted, the civil court clerk of the Montreal courthouse simply took some of the bail money to pay part of the surcharge. The person who had posted the money, his mother, lost her money because the court clerk took money from the bail money to pay the surcharge, since Mr. Boudreault was incarcerated and had not paid it.