Current Problems

Justice (25-42)

Bill C-22 : An Act to amend the Criminal Code….”

February 18, 2021

Toronto Star – Bill C-22 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” although a step in the right direction does not go far enough, critics say. The fact that the bill does not remove mandatory minimums for more crimes and does not repeal simple drug possession from the Criminal Code was described by lawyers and advocates as a missed opportunity in an otherwise strong bill.

Senator Kim Pate who introduces legislation in the Senate that would allow judges to use their discretion to deviate from mandatory minimums, expressed disappointment that the government didn’t go further in eliminating more of those penalties. “Bill C-22 emphasizes the vital importance of alternatives to criminalization and imprisonment to redress systemic racism. It is regrettable that the government acknowledges these realities yet stopped short of taking the kinds of bold steps we need right now,” she said. Indigenous people make up 5% of the population yet account for 30% of those incarcerated in Canadian prisons.

Department of Justice: The Bill proposes the following specific reforms:

  • Repeal MMPs for certain offences to address the disproportionate impact on Indigenous and Black offenders, as well as those struggling with substance use and addiction. This would restore the ability of a judge to impose appropriate sentences that respond to the facts of the case before them, including the individual’s experience with systemic racism and the risk they pose to public safety. This moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach, which has not deterred crime but has resulted in unfair outcomes and a less effective criminal justice system, as well as longer and more complex trials.
  • Allow for greater use of conditional Sentence orders (CSOs) in cases where an offender faces a term of less than two years imprisonment and does not pose a threat to public safety. Under these circumstances, judges would have the option to order that the term be served in the community under strict conditions, including house arrest, curfew, and mandatory counselling or treatment for substance abuse. This change would allow for more effective rehabilitation and reintegration by enabling individuals to maintain their employment, or continue caring for children or family members in need. This approach has been proven to reduce recidivism.
  • Require police and prosecutors to consider other measures for simple possession of drugs such as diversion to addiction treatment programs, rather than laying charges or prosecuting individuals for simple possession of an illegal drug.
  • The proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act reinforce the Government’s commitment to treat substance use a health issue, and address the opioid crisis. It also aligns with calls heard from many in the law enforcement community and local leaders across the country.