Nova Scotians negotiating lesser COVID-19 fines
HALIFAX -- While new COVID-19 fines and charges are being issued during the pandemic’s second wave, tickets from the first wave are making their way through Nova Scotia courts.
In certain cases, tickets are being torn up. In other situations, settlements are being reached to take some of the sting out of the $1,000 fines.
“You can kind of ‘work off’ your fine with community service,” said Fiona Traynor, a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid in Halifax.
Part of Traynor’s job is helping to defend people accused of violating public health orders during COVID-19.
“Sometimes, the court will be agreeable to negotiating on lowering the actual fine, the $1,000 fine,” she said. “However, what isn’t negotiable seems to be the surcharges attached to the summary offence tickets.”
That surcharge typically costs $125.
A total of 603 tickets have been issued in Nova Scotia under the Health Protection Act between March 28 and Dec. 3, and about 30 per cent have gone to court. Of what has already gone to court, about 30 per cent of tickets have been dismissed or withdrawn.
Approximately 100 additional tickets have been issued in Nova Scotia under the Emergency Measures Act during the pandemic.
In June, a Canadian Civil Liberties Association report found most COVID-19 fines from the first wave were handed out in Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
Per-capita, Nova Scotia had the second-highest ticketing-rate in Canada, according to the CCLA report.
“It’s clear that many people were being fined for things that didn’t appear to be illegal,” said Abby Deshman, a lawyer who serves as the director of the CCLA’s criminal justice program.
“The underlying order appeared to be confusing,” she said. “There were racialized people, people in same-sex relationships, who felt they were unfairly targeted or discriminated against.”
Traynor is encouraged the court system is “looking at people’s individual circumstances and their ability to pay $1,000, which is a considerable amount of money for anybody, especially during this pandemic.”