Statement by Minister Lametti on Royal Assent of legislation that addresses systemic racism and discrimination in the criminal justice system
November 18, 2022 - Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Justice Canada
The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today issued the following statement:
“Bill C-5 received Royal Assent yesterday, reforming sentencing under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These sentencing reforms will help address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people, Black persons, racialized Canadians, and members of marginalized communities in the criminal justice system. I am grateful for the support of Parliamentarians in both the House of Commons and the Senate.
“Systemic racism is a reality for too many in Canada’s criminal justice system. We have heard from the public, the courts, and criminal justice experts, and seen the evidence of the disproportionate representation of Indigenous people, Black persons, racialized Canadians, and members of marginalized communities, both as offenders and as victims.
“With this law, we have repealed the mandatory minimum penalties that have most contributed to the overincarceration of Indigenous people, Black persons and racialized Canadians. These reforms will ensure a fairer, more effective justice system for all, while maintaining public safety.
“These reforms also offer the courts greater use of conditional sentences and provide for the judicial discretion needed to impose sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offence and maintain public safety, while addressing the obvious and damaging overrepresentation of Indigenous people, Black persons, racialized Canadians, and members of marginalized communities in the criminal justice system.
“Also, in keeping with the Government’s public health-centred approach to simple drug possession, this new legislation allows for greater use of early diversion programs. This means that an individual can get the help they need to address underlying issues and avoid reoffending. 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 re-offending. Our approach promotes fair and just outcomes for Indigenous people, Black persons, racialized Canadians, and members of marginalized community, while continuing to punish serious criminal offences and protecting public safety.”
- These reforms repeal all mandatory minimum penalties previously under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as well as for 14 offences under the Criminal Code.
- Data shows that, between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, Black and other racialized offenders were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty (MMP). It also shows that the proportion of Indigenous offenders admitted with an offence punishable by an MMP has significantly increased over the past 10 years. (Source: Correctional Service of Canada).
- Between 2010-2011 and 2019-2020, drug offences comprised 54% of all offences 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 federally incarcerated inmates. (Sources: Office of the Correctional Investigator, Statistics Canada’s Population and Demography Statistics).
- In 2020-2021, Black inmates represented 9% of the in-custody federal offender population, but only 4% of the Canadian population. (Sources: Office of the Correctional Investigator, Statistics Canada’s Population and Demography Statistics).
- 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 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.
- Rooting out systemic racism is key to a fair and effective justice system
- Addressing systemic racism in Canada’s criminal justice system while maintaining public safety: Proposed legislative amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
- Bill C-5: Mandatory Minimum Penalties to be repealed
- Mandatory Minimum Penalties and the Courts
- Bill C-5: Promoting Health Responses to Simple Drug Possession
- Addressing Systemic Racism: Budget 2021, Budget 2022 and Fall Economic Statement 2020 support for Criminal Justice Reform
- A Stronger and More Resilient Canada (Speech from the Throne, September 2020)
- Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022
- Restorative Justice
- Directive from the Director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada regarding the prosecution of possession of controlled substances contrary to s. 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
- Budget 2022
- Budget 2021
- Fall Economic Statement 2020
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
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