As Montreal grapples with an upsurge in violence over the past two years, the NDP-backed Liberals have decided to eliminate minimum sentences for several firearms offences.
That one is not a follower of minimum sentences still passes. Everyone has their own ideology. But from there to justify this approach by the following wording, the arms fall to me: "To remedy the excessive incarceration rate of Aboriginal people, black Canadians and members of marginalized communities".
What is a minimum sentence for? It establishes the seriousness of an offence. With regard to a crime related to a firearm, it also allows the removal of a dangerous person from the street, since by the minimum sentence, the judge is obliged to give a longer period of incarceration.
What are the offenses targeted by this bill? Discharge of a firearm with intent, theft and extortion with a firearm as well as several others in connection with the possession, trafficking, importing and exporting of a firearm. This bill, which says it wants to fight against the overrepresentation of minorities in prisons, is based on the principle that there are crimes specific to Aboriginal peoples and ethnic minorities. This amounts to a racialization of these crimes, namely to attribute a form of criminality to ethnocultural or social groups.
However, it has never been demonstrated in criminology, in sociology or in any discipline in the human sciences, that a nation, a race or a people presents a specific and endemic form of criminality.
Two weights, two measures ?
Sentencing is based on the principle of proportionality. The judge must then take into account, in particular, aggravating factors (criminal record, membership of a criminal group, etc.) or mitigating factors (first offence, acknowledgment of guilt, etc.). This analysis should therefore not be linked to the ethnicity of the suspect, but rather to his criminal history and the circumstances of the offence.
However, since 1996, Liberal governments have thought about resolving the issue of this prison overrepresentation through sentencing. A total aberration! It's like I'm telling you that a Native, Black or Arab who discharges a gun with any intent would be more "excusable" than a White.
Overrepresentation of minorities
It is true that aboriginals and ethnic minorities, particularly blacks, are overrepresented in federal penitentiaries. However, the solution does not lie in a leveling of the Criminal Code. Moreover, the implementation of section 718.2 e) which obliges the judge to take into account the Aboriginality of the accused has not changed much in the incarceration rates of Aboriginal people.
Wouldn't it be more effective to act upstream, i.e. divert petty offenders, whatever their colour? In the meantime, it's the gang guys who died laughing!