Elizabeth May introduces private member’s bill to abolish mandatory minimums

by Elizabeth May | May 5, 2016 11:01 am

(OTTAWA) May 5, 2016 - Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands), today introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons that aims to abolish most mandatory minimums in the criminal justice system.

“As we face crises of overcrowding in our prisons and overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black inmates, we need to re-examine the role that mandatory minimums play in perpetuating overincarceration and systemic discrimination,” Ms. May said. “The Supreme Court has found multiple times that mandatory minimums constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ This private member’s bill addresses the crisis imposed by mandatory minimum sentences. We cannot delay the conversation any longer.

“As Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has noted: ‘[Mandatory minimum sentences] function as a blunt instrument that may deprive courts of the ability to tailor proportionate sentences at the lower end of a sentencing range.’ And a recent report from the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that Aboriginal and Black incarceration grew by 50% and 69% respectively between 2005 and 2015. Clearly, this is a crisis that needs to be addressed,” Ms. May said.

Dimitri Lascaris, Green Party Justice Critic, said: “It is inhumane to subject a broad range of conduct to significant terms of imprisonment, even where the conduct does not merit severe punishment. Mandatory minimum sentences deprive courts of the discretion they ought to have to order punishments that fit the crime. Such sentences are particularly inappropriate in the drug context, where effective rehabilitation, and not prolonged imprisonment, is often the best way to address the conduct of the offender.”

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