Ministerial Question Period: Mandatory Minimum Penalties

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Minister Lametti, with Bill C-5, the government is moving away from mandatory minimum penalties for some crimes, as a reflection of those mandatory minimum penalties disproportionately affecting Indigenous and racialized populations. This is part of the federal government’s efforts to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

However, as we know, this bill was not conceived to address the economic and social factors that create the conditions that lead to overrepresentation of those groups in the system in the first place. Can you tell us what will be done by the federal government — and within your department specifically — to address those root causes?

Hon. David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: Thank you, senator. That’s an important question, and one that has often been lost in the debate on Bill C-5.

We have undertaken the development of an Indigenous justice strategy. Again, this process has been launched, if you will, and much of it will be determined and shaped by Indigenous peoples across Canada. That process is moving. We’ve also launched the development of a Black justice strategy, in which we will be working with experts and community leadership groups across Canada in order to address the root causes that you have cited.

For Indigenous people, we have funded greater investments in Gladue reports on sentencing — the pre-sentencing reports — to get better coverage and better quality across Canada for Gladue reports. With respect to Black and racialized peoples, we have also begun the pilot project: Impact of Race and Culture Assessments, or IRCAs. These function like Gladue reports. It is an idea that originated in Nova Scotia but was seized upon by experts in Toronto, so those are the two jurisdictions where the pilot project is beginning.

In the meantime — until we elaborate upon those larger strategies with the collaboration and consultation of those communities in question — we are looking at other measures to try to help address the root causes of overincarceration and try to weed out systemic discrimination.

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