Ontario is still owed millions under a law the Supreme Court called unconstitutional. A homeless man is asking a judge to clear his debts

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An Ottawa judge is being asked next week to make an order wiping clean millions of dollars of unpaid mandatory victim surcharge fines two-and-a-half years after Canada’s highest court struck down the related legislation.

“We want to put the final nail in the coffin of this wrongheaded policy,” says defence lawyer Michael Spratt, who will make the arguments Tuesday.

The judge will also hear arguments on why or why not all the surcharge funds collected in Ontario since 2013 should be returned to offenders.

Ontario receives revenue from court-imposed federal victim surcharges for convictions under the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drug and Substances Act and the Cannabis Act. The money is deposited into the Victims’ Justice Fund, which is used to fund a broad range of programs that support the needs of victims of crime.

However, in December 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the federal mandatory victim surcharge, ruling it was a form of cruel and unusual punishment because the fine disproportionately impacted some of society’s most marginalized people.

But the court left “open the question of what to do with the tens and thousands of outstanding fines that are hanging like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of people who can never afford to pay them off and will be impacted by these discharged fines for the rest of their lives,” Spratt said in an interview.

 

Read Betsey Powell’s full article: Toronto Star