Compensatory work program

The compensatory work program has been in effect since 1 April 1983. It offers a legal alternative to imprisonment, mainly for people without financial means who are unable to pay a fine for an offence under a provincial law or regulation, a municipal by-law, the Criminal Code or any other federal Act.


Compensatory work consists of hours of unpaid work that a citizen who is unable to pay a fine performs voluntarily, to avoid going to prison. The work is performed for a non-profit organization or a municipality.

The number of hours worked is equivalent to the amount of the fine and any additional fees, as determined in the following table, which is prescribed by the Code of penal procedure.

Table: Determination of the equivalence between the amount of the sums due and the duration of compensatory work

For the portion of the sums due between: One hour of compensatory work is equivalent to:
$1 and $500 $10
$501 and $5 000 $20
$5 001 and $10 000 $40
$10 001 and $15 000 $60
$15 001 and $20 000 $80
$20 001 and $25 000 $100
$25 001 and $30 000 $120
$30 001 and $35 000 $140
$35 001 and $40 000 $160
$40 001 and $45 000 $180
$45 001 and $50 000 $200
$50 001 and plus $320


The equivalence between each hour of compensatory work and the amount it represents is progressive. For example, a person who owes $12,500 must perform 442 hours of compensatory work.

Table: Calculation of hours of work needed to repay an amount of $12,500

Heures travaillées Équivalence Montant remboursé Somme due
50 premières heures 10 $ l’heure 500 $ 12 000 $
225 heures suivantes 20 $ l’heure 4 500 $ 7 500 $
125 heures suivantes 40 $ l’heure 5 000 $ 2 500 $
Dernières 42 heures 60 $ l’heure 2 500 $ 0 $


Citizens who meet the criteria may be offered the opportunity to perform compensatory work by a collector of fines working for a provincial or municipal court.

To perform compensatory work, a citizen must be unable to pay the fine imposed by the court, despite the other legal provisions that apply: a minimum of 30 days to pay, additional time, payment by instalments, and seizure. The citizen may agree or refuse to perform compensatory work.

If the citizen agrees

A citizen who agrees to perform compensatory work to repay the amount of a fine must comply with various conditions.

The citizen must undertake, in writing, to be available to perform a pre-determined number of hours of work without pay. Once the undertaking has been signed, the citizen must meet with the representative of the reference organization indicated by the collector of fines.

Reference organization

The reference organization is a non-profit organization officially entrusted, by the Ministère de la Justice, with the administration of the compensatory work program in a region of Québec. It provides a connection between the Ministère, the citizen and the host organization for which the work will be performed.

A citizen who undertakes to perform compensatory work must, within 72 hours, go to or contact the reference organization indicated.

The representative of the reference organization is responsible for determining the nature of the work, and the way in which it will be performed. The representative establishes a “work plan” with the citizen, taking into account, as far as possible, the citizen’s knowledge, aptitudes and skills, and the needs of the host organization. The work plan specifies where, when and how the citizen will perform the compensatory work. In general, the work is performed during the week, during the organization’s normal working hours.

Work performed for a host organization

In general, compensatory work is performed for a non-profit social or community organization located as close as possible to the citizen’s home. In some cases, the compensatory work may be performed for a municipality.

At the agreed time, the citizen must go to the office of the host organization indicated in the work plan provided by the reference organization. The citizen must then perform the hours of work prescribed, to a satisfactory standard, while complying with all the obligations set out in the work plan.

A citizen who is unable to respect the undertaking made, or to comply with one of the obligations in the work plan, must immediately inform the representative of the host organization or the representative of the reference organization, who will take the necessary actions in response.

If the citizen fails to comply with the obligations in the work plan or refuses to cooperate suitably, the respondent for the host organization may terminate the work plan and inform the representative of the reference organization accordingly. The citizen may then be imprisoned.

Repayment possible at any time

A citizen who has undertaken to perform a number of hours of compensatory work may, at any time, stop working and pay the fine. An amount equivalent to the number of hours of work completed will be deducted from the amount of the fine payable, and the case will be closed.

Fine considered paid once the work has been completed

Once the work has been completed, the representative of the reference organization notifies the collector of fines that the citizen has completed the work plan. On the signing of the report by the collector, the defendant is released from payment of the sums due (article 339, Code of Penal Procedure).

If the citizen refuses

A citizen who fails to pay a fine, refuses to make instalment payments, and refuses an offer to perform compensatory work will be imprisoned.

When a citizen ignores or refuses an offer to perform compensatory work, a warrant is issued to bring the citizen before the collector of fines. A citizen who still refuses to perform compensatory work will be imprisoned.


A citizen who refuses an offer to perform compensatory work cannot change his or her decision, and must complete the number of days of detention that match the amount of the fine, plus three additional days for each offence for which the fine has not been paid.

When a citizen is imprisoned because of a repeated failure to perform compensatory work or a refusal to pay a fine, make instalment payments, or perform compensatory work, the debt created by the unpaid fine is not written off. The fine is still payable when the citizen leaves prison.

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