Nunavut MLA: about half of all fines go unpaid
“There’s no mechanism in place to collect these”
When it comes to paying fines, it seems Nunavummiut are a little slow at getting out their cheque books.
At the Nunavut Legislative Assembly Sept. 6, South Baffin MLA Fred Schell questioned justice minister Daniel Shewchuk about the amount of unpaid fines in the territory.
“It’s been brought to my attention that about 50 per cent of the fines that are issued by the Nunavut court system are never collected. And there’s no mechanism in place to collect these,” Schell said during question period.
That fact went undisputed by Shewchuk.
“It is a problem. We know it’s a problem. I’ve instructed my department to look into developing legislation that is more common throughout other jurisdictions to deal with this issue,” Shewchuk said.
Shewchuk said in 2010 there were $220,000 in fines levied in court, and only half of those have been paid.
“It’s very difficult for the territory. We do not have the legislation in place to collect those fines,” Shewchuk said.
Shewchuk said many of those are federal and municipal fines, and each jurisdiction is responsible for collection of the fines.
But it’s still “a challenge we need to move forward on,” he said.
Schell went on to say that RCMP officers have said they don’t like giving out fines now, and suggested Shewchuk rectify the issue “as soon as possible.”
“I’ve been informed by some RCMP that they aren’t even issuing any fines anymore because the odds of collecting is very slim,” Schell said.
“And also with the new liquor act […] they’re planning on increasing the fines for bootlegging. Which obviously won’t have an effect if the bootleggers don’t have to pay the fines,” he said.
Shewchuk, however, is dubious about claims that RCMP don’t hand out fines as much.
“I couldn’t see why the RCMP wouldn’t give out fines,” Shewchuk told Nunatsiaq News after the session.
Although Shewchuk didn’t have the numbers on how many people still owe money for fines, he said the amount of money issued in fines in 2010 — $220,000 — could be comparable to amounts imposed in other years too.
“We’re fortunate to collect half of it. We’ll continue to try to collect what is owed out there. We absolutely seriously need to look at legislative tools to give us authority to do what we need to do,” Shewchuk said.
But he said people are just having a hard time paying the fines.
“The fines are levied, but a lot of people can’t afford it probably,” Shewchuk said.
“To me, if new legislation is developed, you would need to look at alternative ways — whether it’s community service in lieu of fines, or other alternative ways of being worked off or paid.”