November 18, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canada Department of Justice
The Honorable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, issued the following statement today:
“Bill C-5 received royal assent yesterday, reforming sentences under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Law. These sentencing reforms will help address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, blacks, racialized Canadians, and members of marginalized communities in the criminal justice system. I am grateful for the support of MPs in both the House of Commons and the Senate.
“Systemic racism is a reality for many in Canada’s criminal justice system. We have heard from the public, the courts, and criminal justice experts, and we have seen the evidence of the disproportionate representation of Native Americans, Black people, Canadians of color, and members of marginalized communities as both offenders and victims.
“With this law, we have repealed the mandatory minimum sentences that have contributed most to the over-incarceration of Native Americans, Blacks, and racialized Canadians. These reforms will guarantee a fairer and more effective justice system for all, while maintaining public safety.
“These reforms also offer courts greater use of suspended sentencing and provide the necessary judicial discretion to impose sentences that reflect the seriousness of the crime and maintain public safety, while also addressing the obvious and harmful overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, Black , racialized Canadians. and members of marginalized communities in the criminal justice system.
“In addition, in keeping with the Government’s public health focused approach to simple drug possession, this new legislation allows for greater use of early diversion programs. This means that a person can get the help he needs to address the underlying problems and prevent recidivism. This is particularly important in the context of the opioid crisis, which is having devastating effects on individuals, families and communities across Canada.
“These evidence-based reforms address systemic racism and discrimination in our criminal justice system and keep communities safe by reducing the risk of recidivism. Our approach promotes fair and equitable outcomes for Indigenous Peoples, Black people, Canadians of color, and members of the marginalized community, while continuing to punish serious crime and protect public safety.”
- These reforms repeal all mandatory minimum sentences previously under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Lawas well as for 14 crimes under the Criminal Code.
- The data shows that between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, black and other-racial offenders were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offense punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence (MMP). It also shows that the proportion of indigenous offenders admitted with an offense punishable by an MMP has increased significantly over the past 10 years. (Source: Correctional Service of Canada).
- Between 2010-2011 and 2019-2020, drug offenses accounted for 54% of all offenses punishable by an MMP for which offenders were admitted to federal custody. (Source: Correctional Service of Canada)
- In 2020-21, despite representing 5% of the Canadian adult population, Indigenous adults accounted for 32% of inmates incarcerated by the federal government. (Sources: Office of the Correctional Investigator, Population Statistics and Demographics from Statistics Canada).
- In 2020-2021, black inmates accounted for 9% of the federal offender population in custody, but only 4% of the Canadian population. (Sources: Office of the Correctional Investigator, Population Statistics and Demographics Statistics Canada).
- According to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, Canadians with a mental or substance use disorder are nine times more likely to come into contact with the police for problems with their emotions, mental health or substance use, and four times more likely to be arrested than Canadians. without a mental or substance use problem.