On April 17-18, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear four cases challenging the mandatory victim surcharge under the Charter. The cases will decide whether the mandatory victim surcharge violates the Charter rights of poor people who are convicted of crimes because it is “cruel and unusual” (s. 12 of the Charter) and/or violates the “principles of fundamental justice” (s. 7 of the Charter).
Every person who is convicted of a criminal offence in Canada is required to pay a “victim surcharge” regardless of whether or not they can afford to pay the fine. This mandatory fine can be very difficult for people living in poverty. Failure to pay the fine can have very serious consequences, including going to jail. Even though getting an extension of time to pay is possible, the reality is that many will never be able to pay. They face a lifetime of criminalization – because they can never finish their sentences, they are never able to eliminate their criminal record. Those who are not poor and can afford to pay do not face these same hardships.
Social assistance rates across Canada and in Ontario are very low. As a result, people receiving social assistance can be very harshly affected by the mandatory victim surcharge.
Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change and the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) are intervening in the four cases as a coalition. Avvy Go from the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and Shalini Konanur from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) are both co-counselling with ISAC in this important case.
We will be there on April 17-18 to argue that the mandatory victim surcharge is unconstitutional because of its unequal impacts on people living in poverty, particularly historically disadvantaged groups such as women, persons with disabilities, racialized communities and Indigenous persons.
To read our legal arguments, click here: Interveners Factum – ISAC – Colour-of-Poverty-Colour-of-Change – Mandatory Victim Surcharge
To watch a recording of the webcast, go to the Supreme Court website and look for the webcast for “Alex Boudreault v. Her Majesty the Queen, et al.” (Court File 37427): https://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/sum-som-eng.aspx?cas=37427