The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
House of Commons, Ottawa
Re: Bill S-251
We are writing in support of Bill S-251, sponsored by the Honourable Senator Kim Pate.
The Canadian Criminal Justice Association has long opposed the enactment of mandatory minimum sentences and the ease with which they have multiplied as criminal sanctions over the years. We also oppose mandatory victim surcharges required irrespective of the ability of the offender to pay. It is our contention that judges are, and should be selected for their ability to determine the most appropriate and proportional sanctions, once a conviction has been entered. Taking into account all the evidence presented in court provides the sentencing judge with the knowledge to arrive at the most appropriate sentence. To do otherwise and to simply apply a mandatory minimum punishment indeed tends to ignore all the circumstances of the offence and offender.
S-251 intends to alleviate the disproportionate impact of mandatory minimum sentencing practices upon Indigenous populations, which are increasingly and grossly over-represented among prison and penitentiary inmates. In addition, we have noted a continuing increase in the total number of women being incarcerated, partly related to mandatory minimum sentences. Further, mandatory sentencing practices undoubtedly contribute to the problem of delay in the system and this impacts all Canadians and disproportionately impacts Canada’s most vulnerable.
While retreating from mandatory minimum sentences may politically appear to be “soft on crime”, this may not, in fact, be the impression of the majority of Canadians. Canadians have a generally favourable image of judges, their impartiality and their judgement. Returning greater discretion to them, with the need for accompanying reasons as stipulated in the Bill, cannot but increase the reputation of the Canadian criminal justice system.
While S-251 is a private member’s bill, we encourage the government to adopt and support it.
c.c. The Honourable Senator Kim Pate