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R. v. Boudreault

The BCCLA intervened in this important case, in which the victim surcharge (s. 737 of the Criminal Code) was successfully struck down.  The surcharge was introduced in 1988 with the intention of providing financial assistance to victims of crime, and since then, has applied to every person found guilty of any crime in Canada.  The amount of the surcharge has fluctuated over the years, but since 2013 has required payment of $100 for every summary conviction offence, $200 for every indictable offence, or 30% of any fine imposed, commonly resulting in surcharges of many hundreds of dollars.  In 2013, a change to the law made the surcharge automatic, meaning that even low-income offenders who couldn’t afford to pay were subject to the fine, and faced jail time in default.

In Boudreault, a majority of the Supreme Court found that the surcharge constituted cruel and unusual punishment, violating s. 12 Charter rightsJustice Sheila Martin, writing for the majority, found that the surcharge ignored important principles of sentencing, namely, proportionality and rehabilitation, while also working against the efforts of Parliament to address the problem of overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons.

As of December 14, 2018, the surcharge is no longer in effect.

A link to the decision can be found here.