We call upon the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to allow trial judges, upon giving reasons, to depart from mandatory minimum sentences and restrictions on the use of conditional sentences.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusDec. 31, 2020STALLED
Current StatusNov. 9, 2020STALLED

Why “Stalled”?

The mandate letter to current Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada David Lametti makes no mention of sentencing reform, including mandatory minimums, or the over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons that was one of the objectives identified on the previous Justice Minister’s mandate letter. (Global News. Jan. 18, 2020).

On Feb. 11, 2017 the previous Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould announced that the work has already begun to eliminate many of the Criminal Code’s mandatory minimum sentences and is “dissecting every mandatory penalty on the books”. Three years later, nothing has happened

Significant Deletion on Federal Government response

Deleted reference to “comprehensive approach that includes legislative, program and policy measures” and refers instead to the ongoing government review of the criminal justice system.

Legislative Progress of Bill S-251

Bill S-251: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (independence of the judiciary) and to make related amendments

  • May 29, 2018: Introduction and First reading in the Senate
  • Nov. 27, 2018: Second reading and referral to committee
  • June 21, 2019: Bill dies in the Senate with the dissolution of Parliament

Canadian Bar Association

Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016

The CBA opposes mandatory minimum sentences and believes removing judicial discretion to design sentences tailored to the individual case is an inappropriate “one – size – fits – all” approach to justice.  This has disproportionately impacted already disadvantaged populations, notably including Indigenous people. In August 2011, the CBA canvassed evidence – based arguments against mandatory minimum sentences and recommended that if these sentences are to remain in Canadian law, judges must have recourse to a legislated exemption when they believe injustice would result from applying the sentences

Call to action 32 highlights the need to return discretion to judges determining a criminal sentence to allow an appropriate balancing of all relevant facts, including those pertaining to being an Indigenous person.

Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is continuing its review of the criminal justice system including sentencing measures enacted over the past decade, as well measures to enhance the use of restorative justice and alternatives to incarceration, and will continue to consult with key partners, including Indigenous peoples, lawyers, academics, other criminal justice professionals in order to assemble the best available evidence and guidance on this important issue.

Significant deletion:

  • Deleted reference to “comprehensive approach that includes legislative, program and policy measures”.