The cost of civic duty

Kim Watkins has vowed never to report thuggery, or any other crime, to police ever again. Civic duty simply costs too much, she said.

Kim Watkins has vowed never to report thuggery, or any other crime, to police ever again.

Civic duty simply costs too much, she said.

After being called from her Dawson Creek, BC, home to testify at a Yukon court case, she’s out of pocket almost $300, said Watkins, who used to live in Whitehorse.

“On April 30, I came out of work, I was working at Shoppers Drug Mart in the Post Office (on Main Street) at the time, and there was I guess what you would call a wrestling match going on, on the sidewalk.

“I had to trip over them to get to my car. I did get around them and went to the police station and reported it, because I would have felt guilty if I hadn’t,” she said.

After giving her statement to police she was told that would likely be the end of her civic duty, because she was told such matters rarely go to court, said Watkins.

“Wouldn’t you know it, in August I’m on holiday in Williams Lake and I phoned home to check my messages and there was a message from an RCMP officer who said ‘Kim, it’s going to court, we have a subpoena and we need you to come home,’” she said.

“I get up there and it gets adjourned. I was a little ticked off because my holidays got interrupted.”

In mid-September, a few weeks after her first call to court, the same week she moved to Dawson Creek and started a new job, she was again subpoenaed to appear in Yukon court for the assault, she said.

“I flew to the Yukon again, they paid for the flight and the hotel.”

However, neither her employer nor the court compensated her for the two-days’ wages she lost as a result of giving testimony, she said.

“I got back down here and I wrote to the witness program and I said, ‘Look, I lost about $300 in wages coming up there.’

“Hello, this is $300. I’m not making big bucks the court people are making; I’m one of those people on a small wage.

“It makes you not want to report a crime because it costs you money.”

Canadian citizens have a civic duty to appear in court when they’re called, even if they don’t get compensated for lost wages, said Shauna Curtain, director of court services for the Yukon government.

“As a general witness, they are actually subpoenaed to court in criminal matters, so that means there’s a legal obligation for them to attend.

“The bottom line is if you were a witness to a crime, you have a civil obligation to bear witness.

“Everybody has a piece of making society orderly, and this is a way for Joe Average, or anyone, to contribute to the process of justice.”

The government does pick up the tab for airfare and accommodations for witnesses coming in from out of town, and jurors also receive a daily fee for the duty they perform though are also not reimbursed for lost wages, said Curtain.

“Jurors also receive compensation, I think it’s $45 a day, unless the judge orders otherwise.”

Some people can claim financial hardship for the jury duty and may get excused for that reason, she added.

While average people witnessing a crime don’t receive wage compensation, professional witnesses and translators are paid, said Curtain.

Medical professionals, who appear as expert witnesses, can bill their going rate for appearing in court, according to the Territorial Court Act.

Other professional witnesses, again acting as expert witnesses, receive $100 an hour and translators receive $35 if they’re pros and $15 if they’re amateurs, according to the act.

“In special cases for services performed in connection with the administration of justice, where no provision is made or where the amount allowed, on account of extraordinary circumstances connected with the case, seems inadequate, the director of Court Services may allow such sums as seem just and reasonable,” according to the act.