Repeal of mandatory minimum sentences questioned

More judicial discretion

One of the first terms I became familiar with when first elected as a Member of Parliament, was the “Ottawa bubble”.

What exactly is the “Ottawa bubble”? It can have a variety of different meanings.

From my own view, it describes how the culture and perspectives on Parliament Hill are often very different from what exists in many Canadian communities.

An example of this are the current record high gasoline prices.

For many Canadians who are forced to commute for a variety of different reasons, the added costs are, in some cases, adding hundreds of extra dollars to their monthly fuel bill.

From families already struggling with higher grocery bills and other inflationary cost increases, along with the rise in interest rates, I have heard reports that some households are out more than an extra $500 per month—money they cannot afford.

When we (the Conservative Opposition) noted the federal government was cashing in with GST on gas and diesel as fuel prices rise, we proposed to temporarily suspend the GST on fuel sales. But our motion was defeated as the Liberal/NDP partnership literally laughed at us while voting against this motion.

There was little recognition from the prime minister about the effects that rising gas prices are having on families and commuters.

Another example of the “Ottawa Bubble” in action pertains to crime.

I hear immense frustration from many communities upset by chronic offenders who continue to commit crimes only to be released back into the communities where they re-offend.

That was one of the reasons why we have mandatory minimum penalties for crimes at the federal level to ensure, for certain types of crimes, there was a mandatory penalty that had to be applied.

However, recently the Trudeau Liberal government introduced Bill C-5 that proposes to repeal 14 different mandatory minimum penalties under the Criminal Code.

What are some of these offences proposed to be repealed? Examples include using a firearm or imitation firearm in the commission of offence, possession of a firearm or weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized and possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition.

It is also proposed to repeal mandatory minimum sentences on discharging firearms with intent, discharging firearms recklesslessly, robbery with a firearm and extortion with a firearm (if not part of a criminal organization).

To be clear, Bill C-5 does not suggest there should not be penalties for these offences but rather that penalties for these offences should be entirely at the discretion of a judge, to allow for more “flexibility.”.

The Liberals point to the fact that between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, Indigenous and black offenders were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by an minimum mandatory penalty.

In 2020, despite representing just 5% of the Canadian adult population, Indigenous adults accounted for 30% of federally incarcerated inmates. The proportion of Indigenous offenders admitted with an offence punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty has almost doubled between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, to 26% from 14%.

The Liberals have stated the intent of this bill is to “target” the data that shows the higher level of these incarceration rates.

My question this week:

Do you support repealing mandatory minimum sentences in favour of more judicial discretion in sentencing?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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