When we think about government legislation as it relates to impaired driving, it usually focuses on testing for impairment, or the prosecution of offenders, or the penalties imposed on those convicted. Right now though,
there is legislation before Parliament which will improve support for victims of all crimes, including victims of impaired driving.

For far too long, victims had no voice within the criminal justice system. That began to change several years ago, and this new legislation would help to further recognize the needs of victims and the need for offenders to be more accountable to those they affect with their actions.

The Increasing Offender's Accountability for Victims Act (Bill C-37) will increase the victim fine surcharge imposed on those convicted of Criminal Code offences and make the surcharge mandatory.

In 1989, federal legislation was passed to impose a victim fine surcharge. It was intended to be a form of financial accountability for the offenders to the victims they created, and the money collected was intended to fund provincial and territorial programs to assist victims as they tried to cope with and recover from their experiences.

The surcharge amount was 15% of any fine imposed on the convicted offender.

Even though the surcharge was not mandatory, the spirit of the legislation was that the surcharge was to be imposed unless there was realistic, significant and undue financial hardship. Unfortunately, that has not been the practice. Judges are not imposing the surcharges that often. As a result, offenders were not being held accountable in this small financial way, nor were the programs and services required for victims being adequately supported.

The new bill proposes two key amendments: make the victim surcharge fine imposed on those convicted of
Criminal Code offences mandatory; and double the surcharge to 30% of any fine imposed. If no fine is imposed, the legislation will set a minimum surcharge of $100 for summary conviction offences and $200 for indictable offences. Those amounts are double the former minimum charges.

MADD Canada has strongly supported this legislation. In fact, we have encouraged the government to go even further on behalf of victims and address some of the other challenges within the current network of provincial and territorial victim services programs.

These programs, for example, are available only to those victims involved in the judicial system. So if an impaired driver who causes a death or injury dies himself in the crash, there are no court proceedings and therefore the victims created in that crash are not eligible for these provincial and territorial victims' programs.

Or, as is the case for many victims, perhaps the healing process doesn't really begin for them until the court case is over. When they reach out to get the services they need, these services are no longer available because of time restrictions. (This is one of the ways MADD Canada and other community organizations meet the needs of those victims who aren't eligible for those provincial and territorial programs.)

MADD Canada has encouraged the government to ensure the additional money collected through the victim fine surcharge can be used to expand services for all victims of crime. There is no template for how victims deal with their grief and loss and so we need to ensure that services are there for them when they need them.

Denise Dubyk
National President

Source:  MADD Matters Newsletter Winter 2012


Last updated on: 2012-12-14 | Link to this post