Ministerial Question Period: Mandatory Minimum Penalties

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Maman statue, Ottawa

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Welcome to the Senate, minister.

As part of the study of Bill C-5, which proposes to abolish 20 or so minor offences that have been identified as having disproportionate repercussions on Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and marginalized Canadians, we heard from witnesses who suggested that we add an amendment for the other penalties for which minimum penalties would continue to apply. This means that there would be some built-in discretion given to the courts to hand down a penalty that could veer from the minimum penalty that would continue to apply in these cases. What do you think of this suggestion, minister?

Hon. David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: Thank you, senator. That is a very important question.

First of all, the offences targeted are offenses for which Indigenous peoples, racialized individuals and members of the Black community are overrepresented. Whenever possible, we have chosen offences that disproportionately affect those communities. Those are the offences being targeted here.

At the same time, we want to build trust in the system. After more than 10 years of tough-on-crime rhetoric from the Harper government and its strategy that was a complete failure, a certain segment of the population still needs to be convinced. By passing this legislation, we will build trust, because the sky is not going to fall, and Indigenous people and members of the Black community will be less disproportionately affected in our justice system. This will help resolve the situation in the justice system, to some extent.

That’s where we are right now.

Third, if we want to tackle the root causes of systemic racism, why should we give judges who look like you or me additional discretion? It would be better not to give—

The Hon. the Speaker: Minister, I’m sorry, but your time has expired.

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