OTTAWA — The federal government has introduced a bill in the House of Commons that would repeal mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences and some gun-related crimes.
It would allow a judge to exercise discretion in imposing sentences that relate to the facts of the case, including considerations of the individual's experience with systemic racism and whether they pose a risk to public safety.
The legislation would allow for greater use of conditional sentences, including house arrest, counselling or treatment, for those who do not threaten public safety.
It also would require police and prosecutors to consider alternative measures for cases of simple drug possession, such as diverting individuals to treatment programs, instead of laying charges or prosecuting.
These reforms have been long called for by advocates, who have argued that current measures perpetuate systemic racism in Canada's justice system, leading to disproportionately higher rates of imprisonment for Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians, and those struggling with substance use and addiction.
The bill revives legislation previously tabled in February,did not receive parliamentary approval before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a federal election in August.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press