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Mandatory Minimum Penalties

October 29, 2020

My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that, with respect to mandatory minimum sentences, people who are more likely to have broken the law after experiencing racism and systemic inequality — particularly younger people, people with mental illness and women who were traumatized and abused — are the types of accused for whom judges might be inclined to consider alternatives to the most severe mandatory minimum sentence in Canadian law, the mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

Alternatives to mandatory life sentences could also free up approximately $8 million that is currently spent on incarcerating some of the most marginalized — failing to respond to the individual and community circumstances in which crime exists, and creating more harm. Such resources could be better invested in supports like those called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls so that we can help address marginalization and therefore help prevent victimization and criminalization.

What is the timeline for implementing this Throne Speech’s promise to address systemic racism in sentencing? And will this include action to address all mandatory minimum penalties, including mandatory life sentences?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for your question. I’ve made inquiries. I cannot respond to the specific question about a timeline, and I regret that I don’t have that answer today. However, the government remains committed to achieving a modern and efficient criminal justice system that addresses the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and Black, racialized and marginalized Canadians. It also remains committed to advancing reform that will deal with inequities in our criminal justice system, while holding offenders to account and protecting victims of crime.

Finally, I’ve been further advised that the government continues its work with provincial and territorial partners — indeed, all actors in the criminal justice system — to ensure that justice is truly equal and fair.

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