Saskatoon

No longer allowing community service in lieu of paying traffic tickets could hurt Sask. non-profits

New rules about who can and who can't pay off fines by working community service hours could do serious damage to local non-profits, according the heads Saskatoon Food Bank and the Friendship Inn.

New rules on who can work off fines could impact Friendship Inn, Saskatoon Food Bank

Saskatoon's Friendship Inn relies on upwards of 10 workers a day who are paying off parking or traffic fines. (Adrian Cheung/CBC News)

New rules about who can and who can't pay off fines by working community service hours could do serious damage to local non-profits, according the heads Saskatoon Food Bank and the Friendship Inn. 

As part of this spring's tight provincial budget, the Saskatchewan government announced plans to disqualify most people from working off fines by logging community service hours.

I don't think it's reasonable for people to take advantage of the program simply to avoid paying a fine.- Gord Wyant, Saskatchewan justice minister

Instead, they would have to fork over cash for the fines. 

The government might make exceptions for those who are deemed truly unable to pay, the justice minister said.

"It's looking very grim at this point as to how we are going to deliver the service that we deliver. We have up to 10 people a day who come and do their fine options," Sandra Stack, head of the Friendship Inn, told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. 

Sandra Stack with the Friendship Inn says changes to the fine options programs could hurt the soup kitchen. (James Hopkin/CBC)

Government says people weren't finishing work 

The government said forcing people to pay fines instead of working them off will bring in more than a million dollars in extra revenue.

According to the justice minister, it will also prevent people from abusing the system.

Gord Wyant said this week that government data shows only 44 per cent of those who apply to work off fines actually complete that work. 

"I don't think it's reasonable for people to take advantage of the program simply to avoid paying a fine," Wyant said. 

Saskatoon Food Bank's executive director Laurie O'Connor said she doesn't have exact numbers on how many people are there working off fines. But she said many people who do start working there in the fine options program go on to volunteer later. 

Laurie O'Connor is the executive director with the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre. (James Hopkin/CBC)

"It's a way for people to build skills. ... You come to Friendship Inn or food bank to work those hours off; you see what it's like to work in our agencies ... you can actually put that on your resumé after," O'Connor said.

The rule changes come into effect in July. 

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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