The Federal Bill to Reduce Mandatory Minimum Sentences Is Missing a Few Crucial Words

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Federal Bill, Mandatory Minimum Sentence, Sentencing, Bill C-5, Canada, Overrepresentation, Incarceration, Indigenous people, Black Canadians, Gladue Reports


In Bill C-5, the federal government has reintroduced legislation to eliminate 20 mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges more discretion to impose conditional sentences (that is, strict house arrest instead of jail). Justice Minister David Lametti has been clear about the bill’s purpose: to tackle the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and Black Canadians in our prisons. “These statistics, this record, is shameful,” he said.

It’s good legislation that will make the criminal justice system more fair. But it’s worth noting that, for a bill that is ostensibly about racial justice, every single provision in this bill is entirely race neutral. One small change would make the bill far more likely to achieve its stated aim: expanding the language in Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code so that sentencing judges always have the background information needed to impose appropriate sentences on Black defendants.