Question Period: Bill C-22—Potential Amendments

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Parliament from across the Ottawa River, Ottawa

Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, my question is also for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, Bill C-22 proposes some partial repeals of mandatory minimum penalties but not in circumstances involving allegations of organized crime. The Ontario Human Rights Commission and others have documented that members of racialized communities facing particular conditions, such as economic marginalization and heavy policing, are at risk of being racially profiled and labelled as gang members or organized crime associates based on discriminatory, non-legal criteria such as tattoos, accessories, information provided by third parties, self-admission or actual association or alleged associations within social networks.

My question is: Is the government open to amending Bill C-22 to ensure it meets its objective of addressing systemic racism and mass incarceration?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and to you and other colleagues for your interest in this important bill. The government knows that systemic racism is a reality for far too many in our criminal justice system, and measures in Bill C-22 are an important step forward to addressing these systemic issues relating to existing sentencing policies.

My understanding is that the bill does, in fact, remove at least one mandatory minimum penalty for an offence related to a criminal organization under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is a crime of possession for the purposes of trafficking. With regard to the handful of Criminal Code mandatory minimum penalties for offences relating to a criminal organization, such as possession of an explosive, discharging a firearm and certain aggravated sexual assaults, the government appreciates that rooting out systemic racism and discrimination cannot be accomplished with one measure. Bill C-22 is part of a broader initiative aimed at creating a fair and more just criminal justice system for all Canadians.

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