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RELEASE: BCCLA reacts to Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory victim surcharge law that results in poor people being imprisoned because they are poor

For immediate release

OTTAWA (14 Dec 2018) – This morning, Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, reacted to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R. v. Boudreault. The Court ruled that the mandatory victim surcharge is, for offenders who are too poor to be able to pay the surcharge, a cruel and unusual punishment that  violates section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Paterson stated: “This is a huge win for fairness in the criminal justice system. Forcing offenders to pay this surcharge even when they had no ability to pay meant that many people were going to jail simply because they are poor. The Court found that this is cruel and unusual punishment that outrages the standards of decency. Even people with a less serious conviction could be dogged for years by collection efforts and the threat of imprisonment due to the fact they could not pay the surcharge. The government violated the constitution in 2013 by removing the discretion of judges to waive the surcharge for offenders who are genuinely unable to pay, and the government was wrong to have defended the law in 2018 rather than simply fixing it in Parliament.”

BCCLA was an intervenor in the case and argued that a punishment that meets the high standard to be considered a cruel and unusual punishment should never be justified under section 1 of the Charter as a reasonable limit on Canadians’ rights within a free and democratic society. The Court held that it did not have to consider whether the violation of section 12 was justified, because the federal government made no argument on this point.

The Court’s decision is here: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/17416/index.do

BCCLA’s full argument in the case can be found here.
BCCLA is represented by Greg Allen of Hunter Litigation Chambers.