Mandatory minimum sentences have been a controversial part of sentencing in Canada. They provide a judge with a starting point from which they have to sentence individuals convicted of a crime, regardless of the circumstances of the offence. Many mandatory minimum sentences have been criticized by those involved in the justice system, given that they take away discretion from judges and can sometimes lead to unfair outcomes. Some mandatory minimums have also been found to be unconstitutional: in R v. Nur, the Supreme Court found that the 3 year mandatory minimum sentence associated with the possession of a prohibited firearm was not consistent with the Charter, given that it could affect people who are not morally blameworthy or dangerous to the public.
With the federal election only days away, I had lofty aspirations of providing a concise overview of the parties' platforms with respect to the criminal justice system. However, the campaign has not touched on these issues very much, and it is only the Conservatives who have focused on safety and crime. In reading through the Conservative party's platform on "Safe Streets", the following paragraph caught my eye:
This week I found myself sitting across from a client at the cellblock in the courthouse, preparing for a guilty plea. He is Inuit, having lived in Ottawa for over a decade. He has long criminal record, mostly made up of petty thefts and breaches of probation. He has struggled with alcohol for most of his life. Sadly, his story his not uncommon.