The Conservatives introduced a bill Tuesday that would double the monetary penalty that convicted criminals pay to their victims.
Bill C-37, Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act, would amend the Criminal Code to increase the fee and it also would make the victim surcharge automatic in all cases with no chance for an exemption. An offender can currently ask a judge to waive the fee if it can be demonstrated that paying it would cause undue hardship to the offender or the offender's dependents.
If the bill passes, the victim surcharge would go up to $100 for a summary conviction and up to $200 for an indictable offence where no fines were imposed by the sentencing judge. Where a fine is imposed, the victim surcharge is 30 per cent of it.
"Our government is delivering on our promise to double the victim surcharge and make it mandatory in every case, without exception," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in a press release. "This legislation will ensure that victim support services receive the funding that they require and deserve."
The victim surcharge, created in 1989, is collected by the provinces and territories and used for support programs.
If the bill passes and the charge is made mandatory with no exceptions, the government says offenders who cannot pay it may be able to participate in a provincial fine option program, if one exists in the region. Those programs allow offenders to satisfy a financial penalty by earning credits for work performed in the area where the crime was committed.
The government introduced the bill this week as part of Victims of Crime Awareness Week.
"By doubling the victim surcharge and ensuring that it cannot be waived, our government is sending a signal that offenders must pay for the harm they cause to victims," Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu said in the government's statement.