Tinker: The Answer, for now

Edward Tinker was convicted of uttering threats and breach. He decided to challenge the constitutional validity of the victim surcharge, a mandatory order to be imposed under section 737 of the Code. Tinker challenged the surcharge under sections 7 and 12 of the Charter. At the first instance motion, Beninger J drew the following conclusions: 2014 ONCJ 208.

First, that the surcharge is a form of punishment [@para16]. In so concluding, Beninger J adopted the analysis by Schnall J in R v Flaro, 2014 ONCJ 2.

Second, that the surcharge impacts on security of the person. In coming to this conclusion, Beninger J rejected the Crown’s position that granting time to pay relieves against this impact [@paras20-21].

Third, that the surcharge infringes on security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice; it is “arbitrary, overreaching, and grossly disproportionate” [@para34]. In coming to that conclusion, Beninger J reviewed the law on section 7, relying primarily on Canada (Attorney General) v Bedford, 2013 SCC 72. Notably, in relation to gross disproportionality, Beninger J set out the test from R v Nur, 2013 ONCA 677 (a test set out in that case under the section 12 analysis).

The Crown appealed: 2015 ONSC 2284.

On appeal, Glass J rejected the conclusions that the surcharge was punishment and held that it did not violate the principles of fundamental justice in section 7.

First, Glass J held that the surcharge is not punishment. Glass J held that the surcharge was not a sanction in its own right, “[r]ather, the surcharge is a sum of money that goes into a pool of resources to help victims of crime. Just as there are requirements for providing DNA samples upon conviction of offences and they are not sanctions, so do victim surcharges become requirements without being penalties” [@para29].

Second, Glass J held that the surcharge is not grossly disproportionate. In doing so, Glass J noted that the ability to grant time to pay was an appropriate response to the present inability to pay: see R v Wu, 2003 SCC 73. Glass J concluded:

The case before me is a far cry from being grossly disproportionate for the persons involved and further when applied to reasonable hypotheticals.  With each Defendant, the conviction is made on summary conviction leading to a consideration of a surcharge of $100 each. The persons involved are not well-to-do persons. They have an economic life style that is very humble. However, there is a means of granting them significant time to pay the surcharges. The Crown has indicated a willingness to allow 2 years for payment. I  might add that if there were some of the surcharges still outstanding at the end of 2 years, the person could apply for another extension. The same reasoning for the individual Defendants would apply to others in general in our society. [@para33].

Third, Glass J held that the surcharge was not “too broad a sweep against persons” or an inherently “bad law” as defined in Bedford.

Tinker is the first appellate decision on the constitutional validity of the surcharge. Its impact is significant. It has resolved, for now, much debate in the provincial court over this issue: see for example the discussion in R v Frail, 2014 ONCJ 744. It is difficult to conceive of any sustainable argument that would distinguish its binding authority: see generally R v Malmo-Levine, 2003 SCC 74. Some arguments may be conceived. Those arguments are likely to fail.